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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) Issue 34 to 37

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The King has returned! Long live the King!

Siege of the Crystal Empire

Story by Jeremy Whitley, Art by Andy Price

A cloaked pony travels about Equestria, convincing the Flim Flam brothers, Iron Will, and Lightning Dust to join her for some nefarious activity at the upcoming Crystal Faire in hopes to get back to the Mane 6 for humiliating them.

At the Faire, these four cause some ruckus that are caught by the Mane 6, but things get hairy when AJ discovers a squadron of changelings in Flim Flam brothers' machine. Further, Queen Chrysalis appears and challenges Twilight Sparkle to a battle of magic. The distraction gives Iron Will enough time to grab the Crystal Heart. However, thanks to the Mane 6, Shining Armor, Princess Cadance, and other crystal ponies, they main characters are able to easily put an end to the villains' plans and capturing them. However, when they go to recover the Crystal Heart, they find Iron Will's bag has been switched. Chrysalis reveals this has all been a distraction for a larger purpose, and they race to the undefended palace.


Inside, the hooded pony, with the Crystal Heart, enters the dark chambers under the throne room. Inside Sombra's study, she reveals herself as Radiant Hope, the mare that had originally befriended Sombra before he turned evil, and was forced from the Crystal Empire before it was sealed away a thousand years ago. She finds Sombra's horn there, and the spirit of Sombra strong and resentful of her, but she states she is there for a purpose, having spent the centuries improving her healing magic. With a powerful burst, she is able to restore Sombra to his physical pony self. Sombra questions why Hope had returned, and she explains that after the disappearance of the Crystal Empire, she could not forget about him, and on returning to look for clues, discovered the Umbrum. The Umbrum invited her into their realm, who claimed to be the pixies that only she could see as a filly. They insisted Sombra was their champion and helped to teach her how to free him.


Aware that Hope has the Crystal Heart, Sombra races to the surface; Cadance witnesses this and quickly sends a message for help. Shining Armor tries to stop Sombra alone but is easily deflected, and Sombra releases the other villains, forcing the Mane 6 to battle them again. This time, the Mane 6 lack the upper hand, and aided by Sombra, they are quickly defeated and captured. Chrysalis thinks their victory is complete but Sombra knows help is on the way, and is not surprised when Princesses Celestia and Luna show up. They face Sombra and Chrysalis in battle, until Radiant Hope steps in and prevents them from hurting Sombra again, much to Celestia's shock. The pause gives Sombra the opportunity to unleash a powerful magic spell - the same one that turned Princess Amore into crystal. The Princesses are turned to stone much to Hope's horror.

Through Queen Chrysalis thinks they are free to take over the Crystal Empire, King Sombra reveals this was only one step of a plan to free the Umbrum. On hearing that name Queen Chrysalis panics, having encountered the Umbrum many centuries before, and tries to warn Sombra off this plan, as they won't let any love for her changeling army to feed off. Sombra refuses and returns to his study. Queen Chrysalis taunts the Mane 6 once again before abandoning the other antagonists, not wanting to be around when the Umbrum are freed. Meanwhile, the Mane 6 figure out how to help use the magic of friendship to free the spell blocking Twilight's magic from working, allowing them to get free.

Meanwhile, Hope realizes Sombra seems much more different than before, and Cadance, hiding in the castle, tries to comfort her. Hope insists the Umbrum are good and offers to take Cadance to their realm, where she had stayed for the last thousand years, their magic helping her to stay young. There, they meet the fairy-like creatures including Rabia, one that Hope had befriended, and they offer to take them to the Prison of Shadows. Rabia takes her to her cell to introduce them to her daughter, but too late they realize their fairy-like appearance is a front, as Cadance's magic reveals their true monstrous form, and the Umbrum quickly turn on the two. They reveal that they had created Sombra as a pony as to allow him to pass the barrier that prevents them from leaving, and that they were using Hope to be free and take over Equestria. Cadance and Hope make their escape back to the real world and then back into Sombra's study. Hope tries to warn Sombra from releasing the Umbrum from what she has just learned when Twilight and the others arrive. Twilight tries to stop Sombra with a powerful burst of magic, but Hope jumps in the way and absorbs the shot, severely injuring her. Sombra, furious at this, reveals that he's already unlocked the means to free the Umbrum, and releases the seal that lets them into the castle.

The Umbrum quickly secure the Crystal Empire, though not before Twilight's friends escape. The Umbrum set to tie up loose ends, having Sombra turn Shining Armor to stone like he did to Celestia and Luna, and then prepare to do the same to Twilight and Cadance, effectively removing the Royal Family from the Umbrum's path of conquest, though Twilight suggests doing it outside, near the pedestal for the Crystal Heart, in public view of the Crystal Ponies. As they are prepared, Sombra speaks to Hope and realizes she's bitterly angry with him, having forgone her destiny of being a princess, despite having him back, and tries to convince him to stop this.

They join the Umbrum outside, when the other Mane 6, gathering their various allies, launch an attack on the Umbrum. In the confusion, Hope suggests that instead of turning the remaining Princesses to stone, they shatter the Crystal Heart which she carries. The Umbrum agree, and give it to Sombra to destroy. When he looks at it, he doesn't see the same reflection as he had years ago, and realizes that he can change. Instead of destroying the Heart, he puts it back in place. The Heart's magic draws the Umbrum back to their realm and seals them away again, while also restoring Celestia and Luna to flesh and blood. As it happened before, the Heart also begins to draw Sombra as well, but he comes to a happy realization and shares his last moments with Hope. Hope tries desperately to restore him, and suddenly her power is joined by the four Princesses. The five of them are able to rid the Umbrum magic from Sombra, leaving him as a normal unicorn. Princess Celestia forgives him for what he's done since he saw the light and saved Equestria. Together, he and Radiant Hope set off to collect all the pieces of Princess Amore that he scattered around Equestria a thousand years ago as to return her to normal too.

These issues provide examples of:

  • Aborted Arc:
    • The Villain Team-Up angle is dropped instantly part way through Issue 36 and none of the characters besides Sombra and Radiant are never seen or heard from again.
    • The opening narration mentions the Umbrum's prison as being home to more than just them, being essentially The Alcatraz for the Empire. This is never mentioned again and the Umbrum are the only beings seen in the Shadow Prison.
  • All-Powerful Bystander: Discord's apparently too lazy to do anything more than make Fluttershy's animals huge for the final battle.
  • Animalistic Abomination: The Umbrum, in their true forms.
  • The Ageless: Radiant Hope didn't age during the centuries she spent with the Umbrum in their prison.
  • Artistic License – Biology: In some panels of this arc, characters such as Shining Armor and Radiant Hope run like rabbits instead of horses — hanging in midair with their forelegs extending straight back between their hindlegs.
  • Art Shift: The Umbrum and everything in the dimension they're imprisoned in are drawn with loose linework and watercolor shading, unlike the cel-style artwork used for the rest of the characters and backgrounds.
  • Attack Backfire: When Sombra controls the Crystal Heart during the final battle, the Cutie Mark Crusaders have their catapulted apples launched right back at them.
  • Back from the Dead: Though alluded to by Fiendship #1, King Sombra who was for all purposes killed in the episode "The Crystal Empire" is back.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Implied to be what Sombra was feeling when he looked into the Crystal Heart for the second time. After the initial high of being "king" again is wearing off, and seeing what Hope had given up to be with him, he's terrified to lose Hope again just for vengeful thoughts against a world that never gave him a chance.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Queen Chrysalis does NOT appreciate comments about her age...
    • Sombra is actually being rather calm, if grouchy, and thinking about what Radiant Hope is telling him until she mentions there's a princess around, at which point he flies into a rage and runs off to attack the perceived threat.
    • When Chrysalis pulls a harsh You Fool! on Hope for trusting the Umbrum — Sombra looks dangerously close to ensuring that the Queen shares the same fate as Amore, Celestia, and Luna for screwing with Hope (indicating he still thinks of her as his Morality Pet). Also when she's accidentally injured by Twilight, he becomes outraged and releases the Umbrum from their prison.
  • Big Bad: Rabia, Sombra's mother, who's responsible for everything that happens in the story as part of her plan to release the Umbrum.
  • Body Horror: The Umbrum, once their true forms are revealed, look like phantom horses in advanced state of decomposition. Their figures are scrawny and skeletal, and their lips seem to have rotten away, leaving their teeth perpetually bare. They are also drawn in distinctly different style, adding up to Uncanny Valley factor and making them look even more out of place in land of pastel ponies.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu:
    • Radiant Hope was so broken after helping stop Sombra, losing everything she cared about, that she inadvertently walked into the clutches of the Umbrum, who made her their Unwitting Pawn.
    • King Sombra was so weakened after petrifying Celestia and Luna he was unable to do likewise to Twilight Sparkle, who would continue to oppose him. To be fair, though, he was enduring Resurrection Sickness at the time.
  • Call-Back:
    • The story arc is based on the history of King Sombra and Radiant Hope established in Fiendship Is Magic #1 (which was also penned by Whitley). It also follows up on Fiendship Is Magic #5 as Queen Chrysalis and her army of changelings are once again an active threat, and calls back to the Iron Will/Fluttershy Friends Forever comic.
    • King Sombra's restored self, revealed on the final page of issue #34, takes the same exact pose as the good King Sombra when the Mane 6 first meet him in the Reflections arc.
    • The Flim Flam's cider machine reappears.
    • This isn't the first time Pinkie's carelessness resulted in Rarity paying the price for it.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The show would eventually see the return of King Sombra as a villain in Season 9, the events being incompatible with this arc.
  • The Chessmaster: Radiant Hope engineered everything that happened so she could grab the Crystal Heart and get down to Sombra's hidden chamber unopposed.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • On a sign outside of Iron Will's office is a notice that a seminar from Well-To-Do (from Issues 27-28) has been cancelled.
    • When Sombra is turned into a normal unicorn in the finale, the alicorn princesses witnessing this are shocked and surprised... except Celestia, who is just smiling fondly. Undoubtedly because Sombra's new look resembles her lost lover from mirror universe.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Hot Topic covers show a villainous lineup of not only the actual villains, but also Discord, Trixie and Gilda. Discord is still on the side of the good guys, and neither Trixie nor Gilda appear at all.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Sombra's reaction after Twilight overloads his Power Nullifier crystals on her, via The Power of Friendship? Just slap another set on her.
  • Darker and Edgier: Easily the darkest story of of the main MLP comics (not counting the Fiendship is Magic mini-series) with the only thing really coming close is the Reflections arc but even then that had an air of silliness to it till the climax. Hardly anything about Sombra is played for laughs and the third part of the story is where it really starts veering into this.
  • Dartboard of Hate: Lightning Dust has one of Rainbow Dash.
  • Deal with the Devil: Iron Will, Flim, Flam, and Lightning Dust all make one with Radiant Hope in exchange for helping her. The former to get his intimidation factor back, the later three to dispose of their respective enemies.
    • Radiant Hope made one with Queen Chrysalis, promising her free reign of Equestria in exchange for helping her revive Sombra. It's implied Hope intended to backstab her, but Chrysalis fled before anything more could come of it once she realized the Umbrum were involved.
  • Demoted to Dragon: While the Umbrum call Sombra Emperor, it's clear his mother Rabia is the one who's actually in charge.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Hope admits she should have seen Chrysalis betraying her coming. While she did intend to deal with Chrysalis, it's also shown she had no idea how long it'd actually take to be able to free the Umbrum to do so (as she didn't even know how long it'd take Sombra to uncover the door to the Umbrum's prison). She also took no steps at all to prevent Sombra from causing havoc upon revival, even though even the story the Umbrum fed her said he was 'corrupted', and in fact stole the one thing that could actually keep him in check. In fact, every bad thing that happens in the story is ultimately due to her not thinking through the consequences of her actions. Her Taking the Bullet for Sombra was also this: Sombra is much stronger and more durable than she is, and just shrugged off a similarly powered beam with no problems, meaning all she accomplished was convincing Sombra to release the Umbrum.
  • Did You Actually Believe...?: While not said by the Umbrum themselves, Chrysalis tells Hope this in regards to the Umbrum's sob stories.
  • Dirty Coward: Flim, Flam, Iron Will, and Lightning Dust only have second guesses and decide to oppose Sombra when they find out that Umbrum are going to escape and they'll be their first targets.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: King Sombra at his peak was a Reality Warper. Here, he's weakened due to his recent revival.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Lightning Dust does this with root beer.
  • Dull Surprise: Radiant Hope's expressions, with only a few exceptions, consist of staring at things and occasional slightly open mouthed surprise.
  • Early Adaptation Weirdness:
    • Sombra lacks the Bond Villain Stupidity and Smug Snake aspects of his Season 9 portrayal. Instead — he retains his original No-Nonsense, even being willing to help the Villain Team-Up in the process (unlike his Season 9 portrayal — who stubbornly refused to commit to similar Pragmatic Villainy, which ultimately led to his Deader than Dead fate). In fact, when Rabia and the other Umbrum eventually succumb to Stupid Evil, Sombra is the only one to invoke Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?.
    • With the exception of Chrysalis and Sombra (who were already evil), every member of the Villain Team-Up go from non-Antagonists (Iron Will) and jerk villains (Flim and Flam and Lightning Dust) to teaming up with the aforementioned tyrants and threats to the world itself.
  • Easily Forgiven: As per norm of the series by now. Celestia forgives Sombra and Radiant Hope despite their actions almost bringing about Equestria's destruction. Mainly because Sombra was the one that wound up saving the day by putting the Crystal Heart back in it's place and re-sealing the Umbrum and undoing his earlier petrification of the Royal Sisters and Shining Armor. This is more relevant with Hope than Sombra, as Sombra attempts a Heroic Sacrifice to right his wrongdoing, but Radiant doesn't even so much as apologize (but does agree to help Sombra find and restore Amore as part of the atonement process).
  • Easily Thwarted Alien Invasion: The attack coordinated by Flim, Flam, Iron Will, Lightning Dust, and Queen Chrysalis is easily defeated by the Mane 6, though arguably this was the whole point as Chrysalis says it was part of the distraction to keep them busy long enough.
    • In fact the Changeling hoard completely disappears after they attack Applejack, though Crystal Empire security forces are mentioned beforehand and we are shown numerous guards and civilians running forward to help.
  • Edible Ammunition: The Cutie Mark Crusaders' weapon of choice in the final battle: launching apples from a catapult.
  • Exposition Dump: Radiant Hope gives one at the start of the second issue, explaining to both Sombra and the audience how she's still alive, what the Shadow Ponies are, and why Sombra was in the Crystal Empire as a foal.
  • The Extremist Was Right: While wrong in her initial methods, Radiant Hope's belief that Sombra could be redeemed, viewed as horribly foolish and futile by everyone (including Sombra) in and out of universe and skeptically (Cadance) at best, is nevertheless proven true.
  • Family Theme Naming: Much like Sombra's name is Spanish for "Shadow" and sounds like "somber", the names given for his mother and sister are both Spanish words for negative emotions ending with "a" ("Rabia" means "Rage", "Ira" means "Anger").
  • Flanderization: Sombra only used his Taken for Granite power once in his origin story, and never in his original episode. Here it's basically his go to power, even when making threats, as opposed to his fear powers and crystal generation in his original appearance. Not to mention he was originally shown to be able to cast Reality Warping curses (causing the Crystal Empire to vanish until his banishment expired, hiding the Crystal Heart behind Pocket Dimensions of stairs and traps, etc.).
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: According to Radiant Hope, Sombra was created as the champion of the Shadow Ponies, made to protect them and help them connect with the outside world. But instead he became what he is. Chrysalis calls her a fool for believing it, as she's actually seen what the Umbrum really are.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Umbra Forces sealed under the ice, specifically Sombra's 'mother,' Rabia, who seems to be manipulating Radiant Hope.
  • The Heavy: While Rabia is the Big Bad, she's obviously unable to act directly until the final issue, so Hope and Sombra serve as the primary conflict-drivers in the meantime.
  • Heel–Face Turn: King Sombra after realizing he's become the monster he saw in the Crystal Heart from a thousand years prior.
  • Heel Realization: Sombra realizes this at the critical moment in the climax of the story when he's given the choice to smash the Crystal Heart and ensure the Umbrum's rule before also turning Cadance and Twilight to stone to join the rest of the Royal Family. Seeing that if he does go through with it, not only will he lose the only pony who truly does love him in Radiant Hope, but he'll turn into exactly the monster the Crystal Heart said he would become all those years ago.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: When Sombra has his Heel–Face Turn, he does not care if he is destroyed as long as Hope and Equestria are safe from the Umbrum after seeing what he had turned into. Thankfully, Hope and the Princesses avert this by making him a full-fledged unicorn and the Princesses forgive him for his past transgressions due to his heroic action in saving everypony.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The Film Flam brothers trick Pinkie Pie into shooting her out of her party cannon.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Of Radiant Hope's Villain Team-Up, only Iron Will was remotely trustworthy. Flim and Flam are conmen, Queen Chrysalis is a psychopathic, Manipulative Bitch who relishes the fact she can play others for fools, and Lightning Dust is reckless to an extreme that almost got several innocent people killed. Surprisingly, only Chrysalis performed any acts of betrayal.
  • Horrifying the Horror: A lesser example, but when it comes to Chrysalis reaction to Sombra's plan to unleashing the Umbrum. It's this that leads to her Pragmatic Villainy.
  • Informed Attribute: Word of God explained Flim, Flam, Iron Will, and lightning Dust's Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome was them not knowing they would be working with Sombra, only sticking with him out of fear. This is contradicted by their willingly working with the similarly notorious Chrysalis and changelings, falling in line and even smiling when assisting Sombra in fighting the heroes only gaining fear afterwards which leads them to presumably flee rather than sticking.
  • Idiot Ball: Several during the fight in the second issue.
    • Pinkie is conned by the Flim Flam brothers into letting them "inspect" her party cannon (aka the weapon she is using in the fight currently going on) despite knowing they're the bad guys. They shove her in the cannon and shoot her into a cage.
    • Rainbow Dash is tricked into flying right into Applejack's kick. What really makes this stand out is it's shown how easily Rainbow Dash can turn in previous episodes, but despite noticing in time to pull up she doesn't.
    • Shining Armor runs right at Sombra, despite that having gone poorly the last time he did it (and Sombra wasn't at full power then). He does have the excuse of being worried about Cadance.
  • Improbable Weapon User: Rarity weaponizes sequins during the final battle. It's surprisingly effective.
  • Inconvenient Summons: Fluttershy calls for Discord to help the Mane 6 fight back against the Umbrum, but he's in the shower, and it takes Fluttershy yelling at him in order for him to help out.
  • It's Personal with the Dragon: While Rabia is the Big Bad, the heroes barely know her and thus have more conflict and animosity towards Sombra, who's been Demoted to Dragon.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Chrysalis is remarkably on point in the third issue, giving almost the entire cast a heavy dose of reality.
  • Karma Houdini: After aiding King Sombra in his takeover of Crystal Empire and learning about his true plans to release the Umbrum, the lesser antagonists invoke Screw This, I'm Outta Here and aren't seen again. And Chrysalis and the Changelings pull a Villain: Exit, Stage Left for the second time in a row after My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic.
  • Legion of Doom: Radiant Hope gets the help of Flim and Flam, Iron Will, Lightning Dust, and Queen Chrysalis and the changelings to help her plan involving Sombra.
  • Love Makes You Dumb:
    • Radiant Hope purpose injects herself in the fight between the Princesses and Sombra to prevent Sombra from being hurt, giving him enough time to turn them to stone. She also performs multiple reckless and shortsighted actions for Sombra that put countless ponies at risk.
    • Shining Armor is so worried about Cadance that he runs right at Sombra and gets swatted aside easily.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Hope apparently never gave up on Sombra, even after a millennium. However, it also drove her to betray her own homeland in order to revive him.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: as a Bilingual Bonus. The Umbrum Radiant Hope stayed with were Rabia (Spanish for "Rage") and her kid Ira (Latin for "Rage").
  • Never My Fault: Lightning Dust still refuses to admit that she was at fault for what happened in "Wonderbolts Academy".
  • Never Say "Die": Shockingly averted. When Sombre says he intends to bring Amore back, Hope states that he killed her, only for him to clarify that Amore can still be brought back. Also when Celestia was shocked to see that Hope was still alive, she tells her she thought Hope had disappeared.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Sombra was still vacillating on releasing the Umbrum when Radiant Hope, who's realized she's been duped, shows up to talk him out of it. Cue an angry Twilight Sparkle attacking him, Radiant Taking the Bullet, and an enraged Sombra siccing the Umbrum on everyone in retaliation. This is also (and perhaps more) a case of this for Radiant: Sombra was in less danger than she was from Twilight's attack and her action only served to make things worse rather than protect Sombra in any way.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Despite being called "Siege of the Crystal Empire", the villains don't take the Empire by actual siege, but by infiltration. By the end of Issue 35, they're actually occupying the Empire. Ironically enough, Sombra's original appearance was an actual siege of the Crystal Empire.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: King Sombra used his One-Hit KO petrification spell on Celestia and Luna the moment he had an opening, and only stopped from doing likewise to Twilight Sparkle, who already had her magic sealed, due to his weakened state, though he does try to do it again later to Twilight and Cadence, again with both of them unable to use their magic, but is prevented by the Mane Six and their Ponyville friends, then by Hope, allowing him to perform his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Not Quite Dead: In #35, Celestia is shocked when she learns that Hope, her former student was still alive, as the last time they saw each other was a thousand years ago and the latter spent all that time in the Umbrum world and thus was presumed disappeared.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The presumed fight between issues #36 and #37 between all the remaining heroes against Sombra and the Umbrum, which had Shining Armor, Cadence and Twilight holding them off long enough to let the others escape.
  • Oh, Crap!: Several Umbrum have this reaction when Discord makes Fluttershy's animals grow giant sized.
    Umbrum: I regret my previous taunting!
  • One-Winged Angel: Rabia sheds her pixie disguise when Cadence exposes Ira, revealing herself to be a massive, monstrous shadow pony.
    Rabia: You'd be surprised - I can be pretty big when I feel threatened.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Cadence shows in #36 that the entire plot could've easily been avoided had Hope simply asked instead of launched a complicated invasion. Cadence was quite willing to simply free the Umbrum and let Sombra live had Radiant been right.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Chrysalis is against freeing the Umbrum, mainly because the Changelings have nothing to feed on if they have their way.
  • Redemption Earns Life: Sombra was willing and expecting to die when he used the Crystal Heart to reseal the Umbrum, then the princesses intervene, proclaiming he has proven he deserves a second chance and using their powers to revive him as a normal unicorn.
  • The Reveal: The second issue gives a lot of info on the Shadow Ponies and what Sombra was going in the Crystal Empire as a foal. It turns out Shadow Ponies are perceived as sprites or other spirits by the few ponies who can see them, like Radiant Hope, and look like odd squiggly beings in their own world. They created Sombra as a champion who could go among ponies and help his people. Chrysalis reveals in the third that this is a big lie, as she's seen the real Umbrum and they're nothing like what they told her. She's proven right when Cadance's love magic reveals their true form.
  • Reverse Cerebus Syndrome: ...Halfway through the arc though, it becomes very comical and lighthearted. (with the CMC able to battle the Umbrum using slapstick and cartoon physics, among others)
  • Screw Destiny: Discussed when Hope tells Sombra that her fate of becoming a princess did not come to pass because she chose Sombra over being a princess and that Sombra was always capable of making the choice to not become a monster. Ultimately, Sombra takes her words to heart and uses the Crystal Heart to banish the Umbrum once again and undo his petrifying of Celestia, Luna, and Shining Armor, who return the favor by making Sombra a full-fledged unicorn so he and Hope can be together.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Chrysalis and the Changelings fly away after having learned that Sombra will unleash the Umbrum Forces, but not before releasing Twilight to put the Mane Six against them.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Umbrum, who are still sealed away under the ice in the Shadow Prison. Hope and Sombra seek to release them. We also see what they were imprisoned for: ravaging the Crystal Empire and being a Hope Crusher for the Crystal Ponies.
  • Sequel Episode: Appears to be this to King Sombra's issue of Fiendship is Magic, as it answers the question of what exactly happened to Radiant Hope and its written by the same writer. The is also likewise one to Chrysalis's story in same series as she comes back to once more enact her revenge against the Mane 6 after managing to escape from her prison.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Pinkie parodies the "Do ya feel lucky, punk?" speech from Dirty Harry.
    • Sombra rests his hoof on a copy of Heart of Darkness.
    • Queen Chrysalis' line to the Mane 6 - that events have already happened as we see Sombra retaking the Crystal Palace - is reminiscent of Ozymandias' "35 minutes ago" line from Watchmen.
    • When the Mane 6 are captured, Pinkie rattles the bars of their cage, shouting "Attica!"
    • The "sentencing trial" is two pages of A New Hope dialogue.
  • Status Quo Is God:
    • The Flim Flam Brothers are villains at odds with the Apple Family again. Apparently, their being on good terms with Granny Smith was limited to her and/or a one-off moment.
    • Surprisingly defied at the end of the arc. Sombra not only lives and stays unsealed when all's said and done, he likewise pulls a Heel–Face Turn, gains a pony form, and finally recuperates Radiant Hope's love for him.
  • Stealth Sequel: In certain aspects, it's one to the Reflections arc. Whereas the ending to Reflections arc ends with the Mirror Universe Sombra becoming feral and evil and loses Celestia, the Main Universe Sombra in this arc becomes good and reunites with Hope. A nearby sign that says "Reflections" even lampshades it.
  • Stupid Evil: None of the villains (excluding Chrysalis and Sombra) demonstrate good decision-making here.
  • Stupid Sacrifice: Hope Taking the Bullet for Sombra. She's aware he's far stronger and more durable than herself, and all it accomplishes is convincing him to release the Umbrum in a blind fury for her being hurt.
  • Sudden Sequel Heel Syndrome:
    • Iron Will is a villain here, despite having having never been a villain in any of his previous appearances. Downplayed since while the rest of the Legion of Doom are in it for revenge, He just wants to regain his speech-giving mojo, the loss of which was hurting his career, and Hope convinced him it's because he's not feared anymore, and that by helping her he can get his mojo back.
    • While Lightning Dust and the Flim Flam brothers were never exactly heroes, their simple jerkass behavior previously is quite a ways from these issues, where they conspire with the changelings to invade the Crystal Empire.
  • Taken for Granite: Sombra does this to Celestia and Luna at the end of #35, then does it to Shining Armor after Cadence lies to try and save him from the same fate in #37, before planning to do it to Cadence and Twilight as well, if Twilight did not convince Rabia to have him do it outside in front of the Crystal Ponies on the Crystal Heart's dais, thereby buying time for Twilight's friends to rally Ponyville to come and save her and Cadence from the same fate. Then Radiant Hope convinced Rabia to shatter the Crystal Heart first before petrifying Twilight and Cadence. In the end, Cadance and Twilight are spared the same fate while the spell is undone on Celestia, Luna, and Shining Armor once the Crystal Heart is returned.
  • Time Abyss: Chrysalis is revealed to be so old, she witnessed the Umbrum before they were sealed away.
  • Turn Coat: Radiant Hope betrays the Crystal Empire to Sombra. Also applies to Iron Will, Lightning Dust, and the Flim Flam Brothers, Equestrians who betrayed the Empire and Equestria to Chrysalis. In fact the only villain who's not this trope is Chrysalis.
  • Tyop on the Cover: The Siege in the title of #37 is spelled wrong.
  • The Unfettered: Radiant Hope comes off as this when it comes to freeing the Umbrum and reviving Sombra. She's willing to promise three ponies a chance to dispose of ponies she's never even met, betray her homeland, stab the Princesses (her old friends) in the back, and sell out Equestria to Queen Chrysalis (planing to backstab her) if it accomplishes her goals and shows next to no regret for any of it. In the end it takes seeing the Umbrum exposed before her very eyes to actually stop, and even then it's unclear whether she's doing it for those she's harmed or simply solely for Sombra's sake.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Sombra shows little to no satisfaction in taking revenge on the Mane Six and princesses, and his original motivation (getting back at the Crystal Empire for how they treated him) seems long gone.
  • Villain Ball: When Twilight convinces Rabia to take her and Cadence out to the Crystal Heart's dais to be petrified in front of the Crystal Ponies, Rabia has no idea that Twilight is luring the Umbrum into a trap. Sombra, on the other hand, knows what's coming, and the Umbrum end up being sealed once more due to their short-shortsightedness and Sombra's Heel–Face Turn betrayal.
  • Villain Has a Point: Sombra points out that, given the Umbrum's first attempt to escape was to create a monster like him, they're likely not the sympathetic victims they convince Radiant Hope they were. Chrysalis likewise backs up this theory citing they're eviler than her and her kind. Sure enough, this is proven to be the case next issue.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • The entire population of the Crystal Empire seems to just disappear into thin air when Sombra is revived.
    • Iron Will, Flim and Flam, and Lightning Dust just kinda...disappear after Chrysalis bails on them. They don't appear in Issue 37 at all.
    • Shining Armor doesn't even get a mention after being turned to stone, and doesn't even appear after the day is saved.
    • Spike doesn't appear after the day is saved either.
  • The Worf Effect: Every good aligned character gets hit with this in #35, with the Mane Six, Shining Armor, and the Princesses getting defeated in quick order.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Chrysalis releasing Twilight then leaving: the Mane Six win? No more Umbrum, the Umbrum win? No more Twilight Sparkle.
  • You Fool!:
    • Chrysalis calls Radiant Hope this for believing the Umbrum's sob story.
    • Rabia does the same when Hope continues to believe that there's still good in Sombra.