• Let's Review: Friends Forever #35

    It feels like it's been a while since a new comic hopped onto the shelves.

    Let's see how Twilight and Starlight handle their own book-sorting adventure... It's way more exciting than that, promise.

    Click below for the review but watch out! I'm still dusting for spoilers.

     The cover by Jay Fosgitt is the most accurate to the story,
    but darned if that cover by Tony Fleecs isn't the most beautiful.
    And the third cover has Fluttershy. Curse this cruel abundance of choice! 

    Hmm... A Starlight Glimmer story coupled with Jay Fosgitt's art style. I know folks have strong opinions on both and so I'm expecting a great deal of back-and-forth.

    Having devoted an entire post to the aspects of Fosgitt's artwork, I don't think I should repeat myself. Instead, let's talk about visual continuity or its absence. This was most prominent back in Friends Forever #24, where Griffonstone, Greta, and Grandpa Gruff all looked very different from their show style.

    The thing is that I really like the designs Fosgitt drew.
    It's just that we already know how these characters and places should look.

    We have some differences in this issue. Starlight's mane is styled more closely to her original cult-leader look. Not totally the same but much closer than her current Rarity/Sunset-esq 'do. The armor suits resting the Castle of the Two Sisters are more green and rocking the can-opener look. Perhaps they're meant to defeat one another?

    Pony Vader or lethal headbutt modification?
    Decisions, decisions!

    Visual difference like this can hurt the story. Not because things don't make sense, but fans of the show are aware of the disconnect. I'm not sure how these come about. It's clear from the exterior shot of the castle that Fosgitt has access to the show's visuals, but I think in Starlight's case he was using an outdated reference.

    Ultimately, I think it falls to the managing editor to make sure the team is up-to-date on the show's look, even if the style is unique. Seeing the same thing in a different style can be interesting. Seeing it with the wrong look is distracting.

    I wonder if pony security involves making books so heavy 
    that only a powerful unicorn could steal them.

    Speaking of distractions, Starlight's looking for a little privacy to focus on magic while Twilight's pushing for another friendship lesson. A little bit of passive-aggressive temptation convinces Starlight to come to the still-rotting Castle of the Two Sisters. The thing that kills me is that, much like Fluttershy, I can't tell whether or not Twilight does this on purpose.

    Seriously, I can't tell if they're too innocent to notice, or too devious to show it.

    Spike and Owlowiscious are guest stars on this team-up. That's especially nice for Owlowiscious, who's been noticeably absent from Twilight's new home. Much like in Inspiration Manifestation, his role is to act as an oft-ignored warning system. Why does he need to warn everypony? Because something's slithering around the Castle. When not being ignored, Owlowiscious serves as the suffering straight-owl as Twilight and Starlight start to bicker.

    Can owls suffer a heart attack?

    Much like Owlowiscous' appearance, it's refreshing to see these two butting heads. In episodes like No Second Prances, it's easy to see that Twilight was in the wrong, no matter her intent. This time, she and Starlight have equal opinions on the best way to orgranize the Castle's library. Neither one is right or wrong, but their pride is souring the cooperation. It's also distracting them from the obvious question: what's the point in organizing a library that no one visits?

    Sorry, Twilight. She's saying what we're all thinking!

    Because I find this butting of heads so fun, it's a little disappointing to know it's partly engineered. Our antagonist is a "Squirm-Spore" that can infiltrate rocks, armor pieces, even statues and animate them to attack. The spores it releases increase hostility, meaning that while Twilight and Starlight's argument is based on their own pride, the spores amplify it. It's a bit like the sirens of Rainbow Rocks, just instead of singing it attacks you with allergies.

    The ultimate wet-willy!

    Wait-wait-wait! Emotional shifts brought on by hostile flora? We're in the pony version of The Happening! 

    Anywho, once the Squirm-Spore directly attacks the the comic becomes an extended combat scene. This ends up playing both to Fosgitt's strengths and weakness. His strength has always been energy. From Owlowiscious' flapping wings to the various action poses, he has a knack for making still images look energetic. Yet during the climax, Fosgitt's artwork backfires.

    I wonder if Owlowiscious gets paid overtime for being an alarm system.

    Fosgitt and colorist Heather Breckel often employ a flower-pattern gradient for the background. I don't usually mind this because a library is hardly a diverse setting and I think the only comic artist who could make that more fun is Andy Price. Yet I find myself wishing for a background to these Godzilla-inspired clashes. To make the characters appear gigantic, one needs a reference. It can be an item, another character, or indeed the ceiling. Something to show how large they look compared to the regular world. Set against a gradient void, they feel less impressive.

    I'm anticipating that folks will complain that Twilight is reduced to a reading role while Starlight takes the action, but I think these fit. Starlight has always favored magic towards an aggressive solution while Twilight often seeks spells to change the scenario. A rhyming spell from Starswirl the Bearded helps win the day and recounts how he faced the Squirm-Spore with Melvin the Manticore. An interesting nod to continuity. Melvin is a character in The Journal of the Two Sisters, as he shared a similar encounter with Luna as Fluttershy did with Manny the Manticore. 

    Starswirl can't be that smart. 
    He started an argument with a scorpion-tailed, winged lion!

    The main message of the comic seems to be letting go of the need to be in control or assume you have to have all the answers. A good moral, but how well does the story act as a vessel? This comic features a lot of elements that have been neglected by the show and it's fun to see them return. Even the Everfree Forest seems a little more hostile thanks to the Squirm-Spore's presence.

    Yet the engineered rivalry feels more hallow than if it had been purely ego driven. Starlight and Twilight have very strong views on how magic should be applied, and I think it'd be fun to see them trying to help other ponies rather than be isolated.

    Say what you will about the Fosgitt style.
    This is flipping adorable.

    Out of all the issues that Jay Fosgitt has illustrated, this one might be the biggest mismatch. I do find his artwork adorable and enjoy the energy, but he's very minimalist. The fight scenes and giant spell required a little more detail to convey the affect. It's a good read with a lot of action, but I can't say it made me appreciate Starlight or Twilight further.

    On the topic of Starlight, I think Friends Forever could be one of her best options. The show has worked to increase her appeal by making her center focus for parts of season six. I get that many feel this came at the expense of the mane cast. Having established that Starlight has both faults and talents, the next step is to really integrate her with the cast. Since comics don't require voice actors, having her pair off with team members other than Twilight can add some flexibility to her presentation. I personally would like to see how she might play off against the other characters.

    Well, maybe not all characters. I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!