Let's Review: MLP Generations (2024)

Let's Review: MLP Generations (1)

It promised to be a meeting across ages. The ponies from one of the most popular franchise entries meeting their predecessors.

What we got was something different than expected, with plenty of highs and lows. Let's look back at this storyline and see who had the best development and who was forgotten.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (2)

Sometimes it's hard to separate expectation from reception. Before this comic came out I was looking forward to seeing how the G1 and G4 cast would interact and how the Witches of the Volcano of Gloom would threaten Ponyville.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (3)

The ultimate evil: No pizza money!

I was expecting several of the plot points we witnessed, and though they're not inherently bad it is easy to feel like this series failed to deliver on several key points. Let's start with the most contentious aspects.

Not Living Up to the Title
I appreciate the comments on these posts and the comic alert posts. It gives me a chance to consider additional insights and gauge the general reception. Including an insight from Trinary, who noted that the biggest aspect to the Generations comic are the characters of Grackle and Dyre. The daughters of G1's Reeka and Draggle, these two enjoy the largest character arc and growth throughout the story. As the new generation, their struggle is to break away from their mothers' abusive treatment and confinement within the Volcano.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (4)

That is one tough floaty!

That is something to talk about and celebrate later, but it doesn't account for the long wait for the promised meeting. The teasers promised a meeting of ponies, the covers reinforced it. Given the unevent release schedule for each issue, the wait for the G1 ponies to show up felt exceptional. That final panel from issue #3 was the finish line for a long and frustrating path. So much time had been given to establishing the villains, informing the Mane Six and Starlight of the threat, and forging a link to this distant land there was little time left for the two groups to interact. In truth, this really is a story about the new Generation of Witches guest-starring My Little Pony.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (5)

With punk hair that could smother worlds!

Yet that's not the aspect that got the biggest backlash.

Stop Me if You've Seen This Already
When issue #1 rolled out, I enjoyed the fidelity to Friendship is Magic's look. The settings had been faithfully duplicated, and that's no small feat with detaild areas like the School of Friendship. They were actually too faithful, as Staright was still in her counseling office even though she had taken over the role as Headmare. Yet the style on display closely matched the show. Too closely in some cases.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (6)

Isn't that Trixie's office now?

With each new issue, it became clear that artist Michela Cacciatore was relying very heavily on existing media. This led to a question: is it heavily based on previous images or is it flat-out tracing? And you might rightly ask, "Silver–you verbose vulture–does the difference matter when the end result is so clear?" You could make a game of identifying the poses and matching them to an episode or even a publication. Yet when I do a comparison between the original image and this duplication, there are small differences.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (7)

Noe the differences in the forelegs, the shape of the belly,

an the curve in Pinkie's mane.

This is the key difference for me: small variances like the length of the legs or the curve of the bellies suggest that Cacciatore is drawing these free-handed rather than flat-out tracing. Tracing can be a means towards improving artwork, getting a better understanding of shape and form, and eventually graduating to your own style. If Cacciatore is doing this duplication free-handed, then she's already a step beyond tracing and might yet improve. That said, this is something one should do for practice, not a final publication. It's understandable that fans react poorly toward duplicated images because we're offering our support in service of something new. Retreading images does gather that kind of enthusiasm.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (8)

It's a good pose, but that doesn't justify duplication.

I want to see the artist give their best shot.

It also doesn't help that many times the expressions used did not synch well with the dialog. Characters would express levels of anger or confidence that seemed at odds with the script's mood. Thus the reader is left with a feeling that too much has been recylced and it didn't convey the right message.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (9)

Starlight is a very aggressive praise-giver.

That's not to say that Cacciatore completely relies on what has come before. The artwork stands out on its own when depicting Grackle and Dyre, or showing some rather terrifying pranks or beasts. Much like Andy Price, I get the sense that Cacciatore is a fan of horror and takes some delight in adding a little grotesquerie to Equestria.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (10)

The only thing scarier than this prank

is the lawsuit that followed after.

What made this all doubly-confusing was that I could not recognizing any poses in the final issue. There were a few that might have been based on what came before, but it all seemed to be a bit more original. As if Cacciatore had been saving her greatest effort for the finale. Likely I will never know the factors, motives, and decisions that shaped the artwork for this series. If I can give any advice to hopeful artists, it's that people respond to effort. Even if drawing a subject like pastel equines is outside your comfort zone, people will support a genuine attempt at something new over duplicating the familiar.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (11)

The lowest point in the artwork.

They didn't even add Twilight's wings.

The Two Witches
The most consistent conflict throughout this story is between Grackle, Dyre, and their distant parents. The format for four issues featured the audience witnessing growing interactions withing Ponyville, then switching over to the teen witches trying to make the most of their confinement while their mothers send passive-aggressive messages from a witch gathering. Keeping to the theme of the cycle of abuse, the parents' harassment drives their children to take out their anger on their own servants, which inevitably finds its way to the ponies.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (12)

Why are they dressed for a baseball game?

Of the two, Grackle is the more emotive and the best expression of this conflict. She can transition between ridiculous anime poses, dotting attention on her pet Trench, and firey meltdowns all while feeling genuine. I would argue that she is the best character in this story as she most embodies in the overall conflict and its resolution. I don't know if her design is meant to reflect this emotion. She is the larger of the two and has softer features. She's still trying to look like a rebelious punk yet is not afraid to show her sensitivity. Rather than being weak, I think this makes her the stronger of the pair.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (13)

That's so scary I don't even feel comfortable

snarking about this image.

Dyre holds her emotions in and prefers to express herself through physicality. The largest part of her hidden feelings comes in the care she shows Trench, though again the artwork doesn't always emphasize this bond. Dyre is at her best performing actions in the background as a emphasis to Grackle's emoting. It's unfortunate that we never get to really peek beneath her "bad girl" shell and really understand how she reacts to her mother and aunt's abuse. Dyre is too good at keep things buried.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (14)

It's very telling that her hair shields most of her expression.

The problem with demonstrating this conflict is that it interrupts the larger story. As we witness tensions grow within Ponyville, we then have put on a hard break and check back with the Witches in the Volcano. Grackle and Dyre are far more entertaining when they slip their confines and become enamored with Ponyville. In so many ways, I think this story could have been streamlined and enjoy more time if we'd done away with the Smooze-birthed S'monies and kept the focus on just these two. Speaking of the S'monies...

The, um... S'monies
Our second-tier villains are the Smooze-birthed ponies, Shadow Stalker, Black Belle, and Violet Shiver. These newly-created beings start their arc with the typical "Friendship is so lame" attitude only to soften to the very thing they were sent to destroy.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (15)

Mouseketeer role call!

Much like Grackle, Violet Shiver is the most expressive as she warms up to Pinkie Pie's compliments and expresses the most regret. Unlike Grackle, this doesn't lead to a show of strength. Instead, it becomes a note of tragedy as the Smooze-empowered decorations possess Shiver and make her a mouthpiece. The audience then faces the tension of whether or not a being birthed from the Smooze can survive the final conflict.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (16)

This is great artwork. More like this, please!

Black Belle is a closer link to Dyre in that her best is expressed through action. She gradually wins over students like Ocellus and Sandbar and in turn finds herself enjoyin g their company and enthusiasm. Thus we see how much she's acclamated to Equestria when she joins the battle against the Smooze to free her "precious, stupid" students.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (17)

There isn't enough Visine in the world...

The weakest link in this trio is Shadow Storm, who does next to nothing as an independent. If Shiver and Belle are proxies for Grackle and Dyre, then Shadow is a protective force that looks out for the Witches' safety; a concept with which they're unfamiliar. His most noteworthy act is knocking the two out of harm's way. Given the grief both have sent the S'monies' way, this is an exceptional display of courage and generosity. Much like his teammates, Shadow does exemplify that even an absolute like the Smooze cannot remain unaffected for long. Place a being of pure good or pure evil in the world, and count how long it takes before that same being starts to compromise.

The Smooze
For our sixth and ultimate villain, we have party ornaments infused with the G1 Smooze's malice. I appreciate that writer Casey Gilly acknowledged that the Friendship is Magic Smooze is a much different entity than its G1 counterpart. It's at the final issue that we finally get a villain who is irredeemable. A monster that embodies all the negativity we've witnessed up to this point. If not for the risk of destorying Violet Shiver, I would be expecting a chance to see the various ponies assault and destroy its components.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (18)

Celestia would call this exciting.

She's crazy like that.

Instead, this entity is the final push to get Grackle and Dyre to acknowledge their feelings and reject the negativity their parents instilled. Defeating the Smooze means defeating the abuse that has held both witches back. It's a satisfying payoff but once again it feels like the ponies are ancillary to the story.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (19)

Think of this as an extremely aggressive therapy session.

The Mane Six Plus Extras
Twilight and crew are in a reactive role for much of the story. At first they are responding to the increased hostility within the classrooms, followed soon after by the rising violence in Ponyville. It's only through Zecora's return that they start the recognize the true threat and begin to be proactive.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (20)

I do love some explody Zecora antics.

Yet even then their actions don't make much sense. Starting with harnessing the Rainbow of Light's power, Twilight fashions individual items to remove the Smooze's influence. Half of them I understand, but others are just confusing. What will Pinkie do when she runs out of cupcakes, and how will Angel Bunny's armor serve? Is she going to throw him at the possessed ponies? If so, I want to see that! These powers ultimately prove futile against the larger Smooze threat, which takes place at the very party they insisted on having.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (21)

Some of these are form over function.

Though ironically, not Rarity's.

Ultimately, the Mane Six's greatest contributions come in the form of Twilight's research to realize the threat, and Pinkie's kind words which begin to sway Violet Shiver. The rest of the team is stuck in a reactive role to unfolding events, making them less distinct. Though they are still more visible than their G1 counterparts.

The G1 Ponies
Another commentor, Peace Petal, informed me that the ponies we witnessed in this story were not the lead characters for the G1 cartoon. Rather, they are extras and some are more prominent in My Little Pony Tales. My memory isn't too reliable on G1 so I have little reason to doubt this. However, I recall that the lead cast for the show shifted several times. In the end it seems moot because you could substitute several characters and not change the story's flow at all.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (22)

Hello, placeholders!

There are brief moments of individuality, like Surprise's 90's-lingo storytelling, but mostly the G1 ponies act as a whole with very little to distinguish themselves. The funniest joke between the two generations is the omnipresence of an Applejack, yet this is never explored. As a group, they are subservient to Twilight's plans and the only group tension is when she forces them to be test subjects for the Smooze cleansing. Even their efforts to reconcile with the Witches come after the Smooze is defeated. This is a true let-down as Gilly could have had an open invitation to express and develop the characters as she liked. I don't think anyone would call out giving G1 more appeal.

The Forgotten
Last but not least, let us pause to remember characters who were unceremoniously dropped throughout this story. Starting with Sunburst. He was there at the very beginning, welcoming the S'monies. We never saw him again. There are other elements, like Sandbar's hoof tatoos honoring the new teachers, that didn't carry between issues. Though small elements, their absence speaks out as the story becomes less and less about the promised crossover. We're suddenly seeking anything that keeps the pony element consistent and little continuity breachces mean more in that absence.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (23)

Just keep smiling, Sunburst. It'll all be over soon.

A far greater absence is Trench. I was so disappointed by the fourth issue I failed to talk about how Opal finally got to be the heroine and defeated this spy. Trench served as a bridge between the two storylines and fostered miscommunication within the villain's ranks. Like so many G1 enemies like the Decepticons or Cobra, internal strife did a great deal to sabotage their goals. Yet after being thrashed, Trench lies forgotten. He does not accompany the Witches to Ponyville and thus we assume he remains within the Volcano of Gloom. This story has not done enough to warrant a sequel, yet I wonder if Reeka and Draggle would use him as a hostage to force a confrontation with their daughters.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (24)

The one time I'm rooting for this feral feline!

The biggest forgotten character goes to Starlight. This story began with her seeking new teachers to lighten the burden on the other ponies. She was the chief instigator and the one who sought answers at first. Once Twilight and Zecora entered the scene, Starlight's efforts became more support for Twilight and expressing confidence in her. By the final issue, she is only present for the test of the new weapons and then disappears for the final confrontation.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (25)

She doesn't feel at all responsible for this situation?

At least atone for your terribly boring charts!

Given fans' fears of Starlight taking over the show, I find some unintentional humor in this setup. Yet Starlight has never enjoyed a great showing in the comics and this started as a chance to see her grow as Headmare. In the end, it's Twilight who welcomes the trio to stay on as teachers, which really isn't her role. She may be princess of the land, but Starlight should have a say in the School's staffing. Sadly, Starlight might never get a chance to see a story through.

Whose Story?
Looking back at all this, it isn't just the "Generations" title that feels misleading. I've said that G1 was often defined by its more prominent villains who acted against the Ponies as a whole. This story does much the same while making the villains at different tiers more sympathetic. The characterization and interaction for our protagonists is only surface-level, making this story ultimately unsatisfying.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (26)

The comics do seem to love Ocellus.

Had the title been "Witches vs My Little Pony", I tihnk the expectations and the ultimate payoff would be better recevied. I get the sense that Casey Gilly was set on developing these new characters and didn't have much concern for the already-established. It's an interesting story to use to discuss the cycle of abuse and how it might be broken, but that mostly lies in the hands of two characters out of a full ensemble.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (27)

What an interesting imagination!

I don't know what the future holds for MLP as it remains an IDW title while others will transfer. I am sorry to know that we won't get a third MLP/Transformers crossover. Hoping for some mini-series that will give focus to character growth beyond the show. For this story, the parts I enjoy cannot overcome the disappointment in both art and story. This creative team would thrive well on their own, original work but within the MLP franchise I fear they made a bad first impression.

Let's Review: MLP Generations (28)


I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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Let's Review: MLP Generations (2024)


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