• Let's Review: Friends Forever #28

    Be warned. Within this comic lie terrors beyond your imagination.

    The problem with that statement is that people are really, really good at imagining terrors So, whatevs. Let’s dive head-first into freakout-ville.

    Mind the spoilers… of fear! 

     Haven't even started the review and already I'm torn.
    Covers A and C have lovely artwork and Cover B is just... dang!

    Many a topic in this comic. Princess Luna? That’ll get the fans going. The Crusaders now have their markers? That might cause a little brew-ha-ha. Jay Fosgitt’s artwork? There’s a divisive issue!

    When I first saw Fosgitt’s style I was put off. As with many, I likened the proportions to Gen 3.5 and wasn’t sure if I could enjoy the style. Yet after reading a few pages I got into the groove and found many of the expressions adorable. Fosgitt has struggled in the past with drawing the royal sisters. Their taller frames, flowing manes, and thinner proportions have often created startling poses that seem more human than pony.

    Thankfully, Fosgitt seems to be toning down the human-style poses so our ponies remain on all four hooves. The poses convey a high level of energy and Fosgitt’s style adds a unique identity that helps the comic stand out. The only art choice that made me do a double-take was that Princess Luna’s horse shoes (slippers?) seem to trace her hooves like knee-high socks. 

    We begin with fillies arriving to attend a royal sleepover. Princess Celestia wants to give Equestria’s future leaders a chance to see the sisters not as a distant, impossible ideals but rather a relatable goal. Twilight, meanwhile, is becoming self-aware:

    Twilight Sparkle for Skynet 2016!

    Now let us glimpse the kind of world Celestia inhabits. Her plans for a super-fun sleepover are undone by a pesky impending war. Turns out the Griffins and the Yaks are poised to start a battle that will spill into Equestria. I’m going to be biased and say the fault mostly lies with the yaks. Because reasons. Thankfully, Celestia has an idea:

    Behold: joy in pony form.

    Despite Luna’s protests, she assumes the mantle of sleepover host and is too prideful to allow Twilight Sparkle to help. From this point on, we encounter the Catch 22 that is the royal sisters’ lives. Luna has no one else to help her. No guards. No attendants. Not even Kibitz to keep her on schedule. Luna needs to be at the forefront to help these fillies relate to the national rulers, but it seems short-sighted not to include support staff. This question plagues every storyline featuring the princesses within Canterlot. 

    Luna does have some unexpected guidance. The Cutie Mark Crusaders recount all the times she helped them and decide to secretly coach her. It could have been so tempting to have them remain the triple-terror from Stare Master, but instead Jeremy Whitley presents the three as more mature and generous. This draws on the power of:

    My warning lights flashed when the comic introduced Thestra, a lonely filly being bullied for her cutie mark. Many times in Friends Forever a new character has been introduce and become the most prominent. I have no issue with the comics having their own unique cast (pun intended). Yet when the title emphasizes certain characters I get the sense newcomers weaken the focus. This story, however, avoids that pitfall.

    Thestra flees, giving Luna and the CMC a chance to show empathy as they pursue. Luna attempts to comfort the grieving Thestra, but the CMC have better experience with being bullied and cutie mark identities. Any further conversation is blocked by an intruder. It turns out that Canterlot’s halls can contain magical dangers at night. The perfect place for a sleepover.

    What is tonight’s terror? The Mirrorca! A being that… floats there! The horror!

    Luna says that it’s a being of chaos magic, which should be the worst thing in a land emphasizing harmony. Yet all we see this creature do is float, make noises, and reflect Luna’s attacks. This carries the wrong message for me. It’s saying that the ponies want to destroy it for what it is rather than what it’s done. Perhaps this would have gone better with a different team:

    Yet Thestra is able to provide a solution. With the Mirrorca slain (Don't tell Fluttershy!), Luna has a chance to encourage Thestra and realizes her status as Princess of the Night inspires those who feel they don’t fit in. The Crusaders likewise show their best by listing the ways Thestra’s special skill can benefit others. Item #1, sisterly freakouts:

    Twilight's a princess. She can afford group therapy.

    This comic highlights a lot of the pros and cons of a princess story. Luna is a compromise between the over-eager misfit in Luna Eclipsed and the self-loathing reclusive of Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep? She is friendly but awkward and you can tell she wants to do right by these fillies. Yet when I step back and study the situation I wonder “where is everypony else?” At the seat of their power, Celestia and Luna’s resources should be nearly infinite, so it’s hard to present either as out of their depth. 

    Readers might see two versions of Celestia here. One Celelstia is the kind leader who wants to connect with her subjects but must balance the world’s needs. An alternate view of Celestia is a scatter-brained monarch who leaves negotiation talks at critical times and invites fillies into a castle prone to magical monsters. I would present a third option. Luna writes a letter thanking Celestia. The implication being that Celestia organized this for both the fillies and Luna. Why should we assume that Celestia’s message about the pending war was real? For all we know, she simply took the night off to give Luna a chance to learn.

    Ultimately, her presentation hinges more on whether or not the reader wants to like Celestia. She’s mysterious enough that we can’t say with certainty. 

    The Crusaders are much more empathic than before and show their best traits. Even the introduction of Thestra is an opportunity to show how earning their marks has helped them grow.  

    All things considered, I view this comic as a fun and strong story. It shows the Crusaders being more mature and can serve as an example of why so many fans flock to Luna's persona. There are questionable moments that have a lot to do with Canterlot’s setting but it's not enough to undermine the entire tale.

    Next month we’ll see if a Maud and Rarity story rocks! 

    Twitter: Silver Quill