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Recap / My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (IDW) Issue 51 to 53

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From the Shadows

Story by James Asmus, Art by Tony Fleecs

After returning from a film with her friends, Twilight Sparkle and Spike return to her castle to find a strange unicorn stallion rifling through her books. Before she can stop him, the unicorn teleports away with three books. As her friends help her to reshelve the books, Twilight finds that three of the books are seemingly ordinary books about Equestria's history. The Mane Six have their doubts as to his intentions, so decide to track him down.

Using an enchanted map, the Mane Six and Spike travel to another town before the path of the stallion disappears. The group splits up to try to find info. From the various townsponies, they find that the stallion's name is Shadow Lock, he has the ability to erase the text from books and make anyone that had read those books forget what was in them, and now is headed for the town's library. The group race there, distracting Shadow Lock as he pursues more books. In response, he uses his magic to bring to life monsters from the various books.


As her friends fight off the monsters from the books, Twilight tries to learn what Shadow Lock is after, but he refuses to talk about it and runs off. Twilight is able to quell the monsters by speed-reading through the books and achieving their endings, but finds that Shadow Lock has already erased the other books there. Fortunately, she has gained enough insight to send off the Mane 6 to other parts of Equestria where she thinks Shadow Lock will strike next. Fluttershy and AJ are unable to stop Shadow Lock bringing to life Mane-iac from a Power Ponies comic book, similarly, Rarity and Pinkie can't prevent him from recreating various gangsters from a newspaper archive. Twilight and Rainbow Dash cover historical Whinneyburg, but Shadow Lock is a no-show there.

Back at the castle, they discuss their next steps, where Twilight reveals that she had Spike set up a sleepover at the Canterlot Natural History Museum, believing that Shadow Lock would strike there next. As predicted, Shadow Lock arrives, and sends Twilight's friends into realms based on the museum's displays, while she tries to face down Shadow Lock herself so as to understand his purpose. Confronted, Shadow Lock admits that about a year prior he discovered that he was related to a villain from a thousand years in Equestria's past. Not wanting to have that known, he studied magic that would allow him to erase that name — and any memories associated with it — from books around Equestria to avoid having to face that past.


Meanwhile, the other six figure out that Shadow Lock's magic has stuck them in short, repeating time loops based off of the museum exhibits, and find ways to escape the magic. They join Twilight and Shadow Lock as he is revealing his faults, and they give him the idea from being trapped that if he doesn't face his history, he will be doomed to repeat it. Shadow Lock admits the error of his ways and promises to try to research his ancestor, in case that should ever come to pass. As the ponies start to return home, Twilight reveals that Shadow Lock never shared with her the name of this villain.

Tropes appearing in this issue:

  • Affably Evil:
    • Frankenstag's Monster politely tries to correct Spike about the difference between Frankenstag's Monster and Frankenstag himself, and the Cyclops-Clops offers to help clean up the post-battle damage.
    • Likewise, Shadow Lock is an Apologetic Attacker and Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • Ancient Egypt: Rarity and Rainbow end up in this time period.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: When Twilight, pointing out that Shadow Lock's ancestor was obviously defeated, given that he's not ruling Equestria now, asks how it happened, he realizes that he can't remember, and that he's erased so much history that despite the fact that there probably is a safe way to stop things, he's not sure what that would be now.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: When Twilight and Rarity visit one of the shops for info on where Shadow Lock is. The owner points to a sign stating she won't give any info unless they buy something.
  • Call-Back: Twist is seen reading a Power Ponies comic, and later Shadow Lock summons Mane-iac from it.
  • The Cameo:
    • Trenderhoof is seen working at the newspaper office.
    • The Mane-iac shows up when Shadow Lock pulls her from Twist's comic book.
    • Comic book wise, Noisy News (here known as "Quill" for some reason) is seen working at the newspaper office and Prancy Drew can be see at the colonial fair.
  • Canis Latinicus: Some text in some of the books shown in closeup (notably, the one that Shadowlock is looking at during the flashback in #53) uses a very stylized-looking text that is clearly based on the loren ipsum spaceholder text.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Shadow Lock's reasoning for committing Damnatio memoriae is that all information pertaining to his ancestor (Stygian) is forbidden and corrupting which could lead to somepony becoming just like his ancestor. Because of this, he concludes that the only way to protect Equestria is for his ancestor to be completely forgotten. Twilight points out that the problem here is that having no foreknowledge of Shadow Lock's ancestor means that nopony can make an accurate identification or make the necessary preparations to defeat or even defend against him which means that history will inevitably repeat itself.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The final panel of the third issue shows an image of Shadow Lock's ancestor, an evil alicorn-like pony. Come the Season 7 finale, it is revealed that this was the Stygian a.k.a. Pony of Shadows, who serves as the finale's Arc Villain.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: One of the monsters that attacks the group is called Frankenstag. Though he corrects them in state that that's the name of his creator and he's more his nameless monster.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The discovery of his ancestor and the evil legacy he left behind had pushed Shadow Lock over the edge and down a path of destruction, hence his determination to destroy every bit of evidence of the ancestor's existence in every physical medium and memory connected to it.
  • History Repeats: Shadow Lock is convinced that even knowledge of his ancestor existing is a danger, and that someone finding out about him could trigger a copycat, but Twilight argues that knowledge of the past is important. The fact that the Mane Six members he traps in the museum exhibits manage to escape by using their knowledge supports Twilight's point.
  • Mythology Gag: Shadow Lock's parents apparently retired to a place called Somnambula, the name of a villain from My Little Pony 'n Friends.
  • No-Sell: Apparently Pinkie is immune to the effects of a Cthulhu monster. She's actually disappointed when Twilight sends it back.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • When the group confront Shadow Lock the first time. He brings to life several monsters to combat them.
    • When Twilight meets Shadow Lock again, she assumes her friends are waiting down the hall if he tries to escape. However the group find themselves suddenly transported to the worlds some of the exhibits are based on.
  • Prehistoria: Pinkie and Applejack are sent into Equestria's prehistoric era, which has dinosaurs and cave-ponies living together.
  • Properly Paranoid: The Stinger heavily implies Shadow Lock's Greater-Scope Villain ancestor is about to return, just as the former feared. However, thanks to Twilight's advice, Shadow Lock now decides to actively research said ancestor to become Crazy-Prepared for such an event.
  • Sanity Slippage: Shadow Lock started to become paranoid after learning of his ancestor's evil, and it's implied that the constant erasure of works mentioning him, while still remembering his name from a piece of paper he keeps on him, has messed with his head more, since he mentions having trouble focusing.
  • The Scottish Trope: Shadow Lock's motive for erasing books is to erase any mention or memory of his ancestor's name from the minds of ponies and even the actual name is never mentioned in the comic (though we do see a picture likely of him).
  • Skewed Priorities: Twilight's response to a cloaked, sinister figure stealing her books?
    Twilight: No... I had those organized!
    Spike: Um, you do see the stranger who broke into our home, too, right?
  • Shout-Out:
    • The story starts with the Mane 6 after seeing the ponified version of Bride of Frankenstein; Twilight's mane is done up in the style of the Bride but only because Spike was hiding in there.
    • At the public library, Shadow Lock brings to life ponified versions of the Cyclops from The Odyssey, Frankenstein's Monster from Frankenstein. and a version of Cthulhu from H. P. Lovecraft's works. He later creates "Marshans" inspired by Mars Attacks!, and whom are defeated in the same manner as The War of the Worlds.
    • At the newspaper office, Pinkie mehs at a ponified Dilbert strip.
    • Pinkie finds the way to escape their entrapment at the museum as she spotted a glitch in the Matrix.
  • Take That!: One towards Dilbert.
    Pinkie: I thought these were supposed to be funny?
  • Un-person: Shadow Lock is essentially committing Damnatio memoriae against his ancestor.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Shadow Lock's motive for erasing all of those books? To prevent some ancient disaster from reoccurring.

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