• Let's Review: Friends Forever #34

    It's time to gather the cheesiest humor and party likes it 1999!

    We're talking about a Friends Forever issue featuring the two best party ponies in Equestria.

    Click for the review but remember: spoiler parties are the best parties because spoiler parties don't care!

    This comic stars Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich.

    Huh? You're still reading? I'm grateful. I figured folks would read that first sentence and immediately run off to get the comic.

    The shipping fuel is strong with this panel!

    This comic stands out from the rest of Friends Forever in very notable ways. It defies a lot of what I considered to be the "formula" for a good Friends Forever issue and pulls it off well.

    Agnes Garbowska returns as lead artist but her usual watercolor style is not on display. Once again she is combining her talents with color assistant Lauren Perry. This comic produces a challenge for both because not only does it feature the interior of an unknown house, but it must feature a party in almost every panel. That means conveying a lot of energy while also establishing an environment you can't just copy from the show. Some of the backgrounds do feature Garbowska's texturing work but the most noticeable work is seen in smaller spaces. Whenever a character has to explore a densely-packed area, the details and a few references really stand out.

    The funny thing is that Weird Al would likely stay clear of everything in this panel. 

    So what do I mean that this defies the formula? For starters, it beings with an immediate danger. Pinkie Pie is abducted by a mobile house. Borrowing a page from Baba Yagga of Slavic folklore, this house is strutting around the countryside on two legs. We haven't seen this sort of immediate risk since issue 25, when Rainbows wings were stolen. So right off the bat, we're invested in seeing a solution even though the other half of the lead duo hasn't even shown up yet. 

    There's a song for this panel.
    I think it's called "First World Problems."

    I've often considered the best Friends Forever issues focus on the advertised pair. Adding more characters, like comic-exclusives, runs the risk of losing the focus. Usually, the characters contrast and bring out the best in one another. Pinkie and Cheese aren't much of a contrast. They're of a similar mind and never truly quarrel, though there are some funny lines between them.

    Oh, that's a Pinkie burn!
    For this comic, it's more accurate to say it's a contrast in groups. Dare I say, a contrast in... parties. Pinkie and Cheese form party number one. After they've been abducted, it's up to them to both search for a means of escape while keeping a group of foals' spirits up. I love the way these two are presented. So often people seem to dismiss Pinkie as stupid or irresponsible, but she's very smart in how she blends her party activities with exploring. Both she and Cheese Sandwich show a lot of innovation, but it's also clear that the effort is draining and they're not confident about success.

    Many underestimate the intelligence-gathering properties of conga lines!

    Of the two, Pinkie is more the idea pony while Cheese's dialog sometimes makes the situation worse. Though he does lay out the grand solution, so I think the comic balances their contributions.

    The three foals, Pumpkin Twizzle, Aurora Muffin, and Java Bolt have names that would make a barista swoon. There's always a risk in stories featuring kids to have them cause more trouble or be bottomless, needy pits. These three, who form the second party, do a good job of contributing in little ways. They work just as hard to help find a solution, never whine or act selfish, and are all in all very likable. Sure, Cheese and Pinkie are throwing unending parties to keep the foals' spirits up, but because these three help we get the sense it's a mutual project. Not to mention each kid does have small moments to stand out and identify themselves. 

    I heartens me to see the young appreciate history.
    Even if I have no idea what she's talking about.

    The final party is both the mobile house and the ponies who shape its history. We never learn their names, but we get to witness their history in flashbacks that convey the general idea. As the history unfolds, the house begins to have a sympathetic aspect. Yes, it's abducted several ponies. It also hasn't attempted any harm. There is danger in starvation, but that seems an unintended risk. "Housey" is an antagonist, but still sympathetic.

    This is a very character-driven story. There aren't a lot of plot points to highlight because it all feels like a continuous flow. Each scene blends into the next. The only criticism I can think of is asking why the original family and their offspring allowed this fully-stocked house, full of memories, to sit in isolation. Several explanations come to mind, but it's all headcanon. 

    Aside from that question, this is a very fun story with some great character moments. It's also well timed. I don't know if the staff matched this story to come out around Thanksgiving, but the message hits home. Parties are celebrations of life. Sometimes we're encouraged to view parties as an end in themselves. That if you don't have a perfectly cooked meal, or some kind of flawless presentation, somehow the party is diminished. 

    A fellow on YouTube asked that I not ponify Yu-Gi-Oh characters.
    He said he didn't want Bronies polluting the fan base.
     Please stay tuned for ponified Seto Kaiba when I review "Hearthbreakers!" 

    Not to dismiss a delicious dinner, but I hope folks enjoy a wonderful time with friends and family above all. Whether it's a carved turkey or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the whole point is to appreciate what we have. That includes fun stories to read.

    Java Bolt, you are truly my favorite of the trio.

    Before closing, I want to remind folks that Jenn Blake, artist and creator of the third variant cover, is in a fight to overcome brain cancer. This is an expensive process and to the Brony fandom's credit, donators have helped cover two sets of treatments. Yet there is more to be done and I urge everyone to contribute to her fundraiser. 

    I'm Silver Quill. Happy Thanksgiving!