• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #40

    Warning: This comic contains massive amounts of cute! You may not be able to handle the adorableness that is filly Twilight. 

    People with a past history of aversion to spoilers or cuteness over-daaaaw-sage should keep away!

    Everyone else, please read on.

    Let’s start things off with a disclaimer. I have indeed read Twilight’s First Day by Muffinshire. It’s a wonderful story with skilled artwork, great use of secondary characters, and cuteness on par with a litter of puppies. It may not be canon, but a good story is attractive regardless.

    Today’s comic touches on similar topics yet a comparison between the two isn't the goal. We can read and enjoy both based on individual strengths and approaches. So let’s talk about MLP FiM #40, as is, with Twilight recounting her first semester at the School for Gifted Unicorns.

    Twilight’s downright giddy for her first day, decked out with as many books as she can carry and her imaginary friend Smartypants at her side. As the audience, we might not feel as invested at first because we already know the outcome. We’ve seen Twilight’s success, growth, and eventual ascension. So as bad as things might get, can we really be concerned?

    Much like Neigh Anything, this comic realizes the contradiction and works to invest people in filly Twilight’s surroundings. One can easily devote several read-throughs to playing “spot the character” as many backgrounds hold familiar faces from the show, comics, and elsewhere.  

    You're welcome, Seth!

    The setup for the main conflict is the weakest part of the comic. Princess Celestia assigns Twilight the task of raising the baby dragon she helped hatch. Though Celestia claims this will only be when the Princess herself is too busy, Twilight appears to take him on full time. That includes disrupting Twilight’s classes whenever he cries. My hat’s off to mothers and fathers who raise children while pursuing their own education, but a filly is not old enough to care for another young life on top of her own growth.

    While Celestia’s teaching habit in the show has always been to throw Twilight into the fire and see if she’ll make it through, I’d hoped she'd prepared Twilight with some one-on-one teaching. This comic implies she’s only had one tactic throughout the years. In her defense, Celestia might be so focused on what Twilight can become that she forgets to see Twilight in the moment. Or she might not like kids. Who knows?

    I don't actually believe this, but I'm reaching for an explanation!

    Yet Celestia does certain things right, like hiring Inkwell. A returning character from the Princess Celestia Micro, Inkwell serves as a stern authority figure, but also a compassionate adult who recognizes Twilight’s struggle and tries to guide her in the right direction: friendship.

    Twilight’s sole "friend" is the doll Smartypants, whose imagined personality is a perfect listener with no ambition other than to make Twilight feel good. Such ideas seem great in childhood, but as we grow we recognize the needs of others and in turn become more empathetic.

    That’s what Spike does for Twilight. Though he is demanding, as any baby would be, he’s also Twilight’s first real experience of caring for someone beyond her nuclear family. Though it’s stressful and taxing, Twilight’s epiphany comes off as all the more satisfying. Shining Armor was her BBBFF, but if they never fought then he never pushed her to reach out further. The Mane Six are Twilight’s best friends, but she wouldn’t have been ready for them without Spike. The baby dragon who drove her nuts was the first to test her personal bubble and remains her anchor. Spike is the first character to worry about Twilight, the first to challenge her assumptions, and the one to stand by her when all others falter. This comic does a great job of showing how that bond forged.

    Almost every character comes off well. The teachers are firm but not cold-hearted. Twilight’s frustration is sympathetic but we know what she could miss out on if she had given up. The only character who I think suffers is Celestia, who appears to be asking much of a filly without instilling confidence or support.

    Ted Anderson wrote a lively piece that is supported by Brenda Hickey’s pony expressions. This one of the strongest entries we’ve seen in the comics recently, making me hope we’ll get other peeks into the Mane Six’s histories.

    This artwork reflects how I hope the story played out
    after Twilight and Spike became friends.
    Artwork by harwicks-art

    Twitter: Silver Quill