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    Season Eight Episode Reviews: Horse Play

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Comic Review: Fiendship is Magic #1 (Sombra) · 2:06am Apr 2nd, 2015

Welcome, boils and ghouls!

...Sorry, these things are usually done during October. Anyway, for the entire month of April, IDW is putting their usual two MLP series on hold. In their place is a five-part weekly miniseries, Fiendship is Magic, with each issue dedicated to one of FiM's big baddies. For our first outing, we have Jeremy Whitley, Brenda Hickey, and Heather Breckel giving...pretty much a semblance of character to one of FiM's lowest-tier villains: King Sombra.

Twilight and Cadance have ventured back into the hidden catacombs of the Crystal Palace in search of more information about King Sombra, just in case he wasn't fully exploded and came back for revenge. They discover the fallen overlord's study, which also has a convenient journal detailing his entire life story. And our failed Sauron expy...started like as a foal discovered in the frozen wastes north of the Empire, with no memory of who he was or where he came from, or even the ability to read or speak anything besides, "Sombra." He was taken into an orphanage, where he was a quick learner but otherwise shunned and mocked by the other foals. His only friend was Radiant Hope, a similar outcast who was obsessed with becoming a princess and seeing the Crystal Heart at the Crystal Fair. Unfortunately for Sombra, he's struck by a mysterious ailment every time the Crystal Fair is held, and the one time he looks upon the heart, it shows Radiant Hope a vision of herself as a princess...and him as a monster made of smoke and shadows. There's definitely something different about Sombra, but can he overcome his differences with the help of Radiant Hope and live in peace?

Seeing as we've seen how things went down in "The Crystal Empire," the answer is a resounding, "No."

Sombra is the weakest FiM antagonist to date in terms of character. When he was introduced in Season Three, he had no backstory outside of being a generic evil overlord that enslaved an entire empire, was reduced to smoke by Celestia and Luna, and came back along with the Crystal Empire a thousand years later. During said episode, he did nothing but hover around, talk excitedly about crystals, and get blown up thanks to Spike's epic catch and Shining Armor throwing Cadance like a javelin. ANY characterization would be welcome, and this issue definitely delivers. Young Sombra is obviously "off" compared to the other foals; besides the lack of any memory, he also notes that he has to overcome just how wrong it feels to speak the same language as the crystal ponies. But nevertheless, he's still a kid that's really excited about that Crystal Fair his best friend loves, oblivious to the fact that it's intention is to power the weapon that nearly destroys him every year. For all his wrongness, he still tries to overcome the fate prophesied by the Crystal Heart, only to fail and become the monster he once feared.

Filling out the cast are Radiant Hope and Princess Amore. Radiant Hope is your standard hyperactive, free-spirited girl that wants to be a princess, although we never see if that dream comes true. Her special talent turns out to be the ability to heal anything, and thankfully for the setting, healing magic is established to be uncommon, and extraordinarily rare to the extent that Radiant Hope demonstrates. Unfortunately, this is what causes Sombra's final despair (Radiant Hope being possibly accepted to study in Canterlot - we never see what the letter said exactly - means she won't be able to save him when the next Crystal Fair comes along), and their friendship - and love - ends in tears. Princess Amore, on the other hand, is barely in the story, and mostly serves to tell Sombra that he can still be good without actually offering any direct assistance. Like Celestia in a way, but unlike the Princess of the Sun, things really do not work out for her, as she's turned to crystal, shattered, and her remains spread across every corner of the world so that she can never be revived. (The only reason for that last part is that Hasbro thought a princess character, even a minor one, being murdered was too much.)

As for what Sombra is...turns out he's literally smoke and shadows from the beginning. I guess what Celestia and Luna did was destroy his outer pony form, although we still saw that reform at the end of his two-parter. There's an entire army of similar beings buried underneath the Crystal Empire, and the reason he took over was to have the crystal ponies dig them up for him. They fail only because, in a last show of decency, Sombra let Radiant Hope live, which meant she was able to warn Celestia and Luna, and both Alicorns were a vastly superior force than Sombra was at that point. This kind of wonks with the timeline, as the crystal ponies in "The Crystal Empire" were mentally broken in every possible way and this implies Sombra may have been in charge for only a few days, but there's no mention of how long it took Radiant Hope to get back to the sisters to warn them of Sombra's actions. Either way, the Empire is zapped away for a thousand years as a final middle finger to Radiant Hope (who was outside the city when it happened and had to watch everything she ever knew vanish) and the crystal ponies, and we already know how things ended.

...Oh, and Sombra's horn shows up at the end, implying he may still return. Maybe for a future storyline? Heck, the issue is practically setting up another four-part arc, what with the buried Sombra-likes, whatever happened to Radiant Hope, and Amore's scattered remains.

This issue is something we haven't seen in the comics: a tragedy. There's very little comedy, and everything regarding Sombra's fall is told completely straight. There's no happily-ever-after, either; Sombra is very much beyond any sort of redemption by the end, having fully accepted the Dark Side, and Cadance is quick to point out that any sympathy Twilight feels over Sombra not getting to go to the Crystal Fair is misplaced. The issue does not excuse Sombra's actions by giving him a tragic backstory, but instead uses said story to explain and show how someone can struggle to fight against destiny and ultimately lose.

This was a damn good issue, and a wonderful start to this special month.

Next week, we learn the history of Tirek.

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Comments ( 10 )

I myself enjoyed the issues and was pleased to see Sombra being fleshed out as a character, or as much that could be done in a single issue. And it does bring up an interesting point on redemption; the path to redemption can only be taken by those who want it.

I for one loved it. The things I would do for a follow-up arc in the main series...

Great to see a comic review that didn't involve you being miserable for once. Meaning that it's nice to see positivity. These reviews are basically what make or break a comic purchase for me.
I hope we get interesting issues like this for the rest of the month as well.


I need to get back into these comics; I have been poor for the past few months and unable to invest in them. That must change.


Part of the reason I'm bummed I hit such a writer's block with the reviews for FiM #29 and FF #15. Both were pretty good issues in their own right.

...That synopsis...

Sombra is now pony Xahanort.

Thanks for the review:pinkiehappy::derpytongue2::moustache:

So, instead of an unicorn overlord capable of turning into a cloud of darkness is the other way around? Interesting.

The best thing about this issue is that apart from the minor detail of the time of sombra ruling the empire, it fits well with the canon of the show.

Now if the show could only make this fully canon...

Yeah... from what I've heard of this one, Sombra's backstory kinda sucks. He's not a character, more of a plot device. It's not even 'tragic'. It's kinda like Anakin Skywalker from the PT.

I've been hearing good things about this one. (meaning comments in the EQD thread were mostly positive.)

2934963 yeah same here.

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