• Let's Review: Friends Forever #33

    It's back to Dodge Junction, where Applejack must uncover the hidden history of Cherry Jubilee.

    How did the most honest of ponies handle this secrecy? Let's talk about it.

    And let's be honest: there are spoilers within.

    One of the things I enjoy about IDW's comics is when they take elements from the show left unexplored and expand upon them. I don't care if it's canon or not. Good storytelling is it's own enjoyment.

    Cadance and Shining's high school days, Sombra's history, and now Cherry Jubilee's origins. This comic feels like a real successor to The Last Roundup, perhaps even surpassing that episode. Much of that has to do with Tony Fleecs' artwork.

    Hark! I hear someone more western than myself, y'all!

    It's clear that he put a lot of energy into honoring the show's design. In particular, I love how much effort he put into the cherry sorting line and the town's overall look. It's still Fleecs' own style, which matches the show's look very well. Other artists have tired to match the show's look without success. I think it has to do with the firm look for each pony. Other comics sometimes appear "loose", like the artists weren't sure about the style. Fleecs' comics have become more confident.

    The level of detail is really admirable. 
    Applejack's in Dodge Junction to help cover for ponies laid out by the plot-convenient equine flu. Right off the bat, Applejack's outside her comfort zone and with no immediate support. This is one of the things that's undermined her in other issues or episodes, so we're off to a strong start.

    Continuing the inspiration from The Last Roundup, AJ meets with Calamity Mane and Buffalo Bull's traveling show. I love Calamity's design. The combination of her mane, coat, and clothing creates a nice mix of warm and cool hues. This is a great design that I'd like to see in the show. It's worth noting that her cutie mark remains covered, which reminds me that most of the marks in this comic are digitally imposed. Once you recognize that, it's hard not to see the visual disconnect.

    She's a little ray of sunshine.
    The flu-stricken Buffalo Bull is less interesting, visually speaking. That's not a surprise since this franchised is aimed at girls, so it makes sense that stallions have always been less interesting. Rare is the stallion who has a duo-tone mane or a quirky appearance. Buffalo Bull looks distinct thanks to his mustache and clothing, but I'd give top marks to Calamity Mane.

    The new Calamity Mane, that is. Thanks to a convenient appearance by Marian the Librarian, Applejack has a little guidance while searching for answers. Applejack is more vulnerable here than she's been presented in most stories, which makes her more empathetic, though it is unfortunate that her plight takes a backseat to Cherry Jubilee's history.

    I could totally envision Twilight consenting to that poster series.

    The two-page spread of Cherry Jubilee's memories is loaded with new elements, and a quick shout-out to the thunder gremlins from Rainbow Dash's Micro and the Pigasus from issue 23. There is one element that we can recognize from Friends Forever #9. The crowd that celebrated Flim and Flam returns, with a few recolors, in a single photo. How much this stands out will vary between readers. Some may feel it's a lack of effort, but when I take in the whole image I see more than enough new material that it doesn't bother me.

    Some recolors keep things fresh, but the poses remains exactly the same.

    I was more troubled by Applejack's counter-argument to Cherry Jubilee's grudge. Ponies rely very heavily on fate and destiny, and there's a note of that when Applejack points out Cherry Jubilee's success. She turned an unfortunate event into a life, but that doesn't excuse being hurt. The comic presents a much stronger case that this was the result of mutual mistakes. 

    No excuses, but no vilification either.

    That might just be the flu talking.

    It's also nice that Cherry Jubilee and Buffalo Bull reconcile without Applejack having to lecture them. It feels natural, though a single panel warns that history might repeat itself. Thankfully, the last page shows that both ponies have learned. Their romance isn't rekindled. Too much time has passed to just change that, and friendship may be as far as this goes. Yet both are now taking steps to make sure to address problems in the here and now rather than letting it fester.

    He probably means something worse!

    If there's anything about this story I don't enjoy, it's the realization that the primary duo don't really work together. The focus is on Cherry Jubilee's past, even though Applejack is the most active protagonist. This imbalance can make the comic seem more like something from the main series rather than a story that compares the two characters.

    Yet overall this was a thoroughly enjoyable issue with a lot of great visuals. It reminds me of one of the comics greatest appeals, so I hope people will give it a read.

    I'm Silver Quill, thanks for reading!