• Let's Review: Friends Forever #7

    Ah, comedy. The most subjective topic.

    I'm not sure which is more difficult: writing comedy or critiquing it.

    Let's see how Pinkie Pie and Luna handle both. Click for more but beware a spoiler pie to the face!

    After comedy, the second-most subjective topic in this here comic is Princess Luna.

    Luna's presentation varies between comics with many stemming from her role in Luna Eclipsed. My favorite presentation is a Luna who is trying to act the regal princess, but her enthusiasm undermines herself. This issue features a Luna who is more prideful and less spontaneous, which sets her at odds with Pinkie Pie. 

    This is the last thing most of Equestria's enemies see.

    Given that these two are the story's focus (but not exclusively), energy is going to be important. Good think Tony Fleec's art is up to the task. Looking back at this art, I see it as a period where Fleecs became more comfortable drawing ponies, but every now and then the proportions would slip. A character might look a little squished in some panels while others look like they could have been lifted from the show. Fleecs put a lot of energy into the more dramatic poses.

    All of Twilight's friends and family wish they could say this at some point.

    This comic also features halftone screen shadings, which I'm not sure was Fleecs' contribution or Heather Breckle's. It's not something I remember seeing in past issues and so I'll be keeping an eye out for it more. It's well used in small doses and seeing it reminds me of many Japanese manga.

    The halftone screens help add depth to the Golden Oaks' recesses.

    It's a surprise that Pinkie doesn't enter the story until page five. That's a good deal of real estate devoted to the setup, though I don't consider it wasted. To me, a lot of the best comedy takes place within these pages.

    I want to enter a room like that.

    Princess Luna demands requests Twilight's aid in learning to entertain ponies. It through this that we learn about the "Chuckle-Lot", a pony version of White House Correspondence Dinner. Yet what's interesting about this is how it shows Celestia changed after Nightmare Moon's banishment.

    A princess of many talents!

    The comics have been more bold in characterizing Celestia, with mixed affect. As I post this, Chaos Theory is approaching its end and Celestia's portrayal is already debated. It's similar to how her portrayal in Reflections fared. Characterizing Celestia is a lot like looking at the sun. The direct approach seems to damage folks, but filtering her presentation through other characters allows a different insight.

    I think many fans still view the princesses this way.

    Luna recounts how Celestia recognized the need for a change and sought to lessen the gap between the royalty and her subjects. This matches with how Celestia is often trying to get ponies to lighten up. Luna, however, is still stuck in the older ways and is once again having trouble adapting.

    One might ask why Twilight and Cadance aren't a part of this event. I don't think they need to rely on it as much as Celestia and Luna. The two younger alicorns are part of the current generation and don't have a 1,000 year legend to act as a barrier. This is something to remind everypony that Celestia and Luna aren't so different.

    Sorry, Spike. Your pain is supposed to be funny.
    Just because.

    Here's where I can point to where I think the comedy succeeds or falls short. During the first few pages, Spike is being tossed about and treated as a servant himself. Because comedy is often based on pain, I don't doubt that fans found this funny. I find it more humorous when I think that pain is deserved. Spike doesn't do anything to warrant bad karma, so these jokes can make Twilight and Luna look uncaring.

    I really want to hear her counter-argument.

    By contrast, there are three panels that carry great humor. They say that having to explain a joke means it failed. What happens when the explanation is a part of the punchline? All the elements in these three panels: Fleecs artwork, Breckle's coloring, and Jeremy Whitley's writing come together to make a very enjoyable buildup and payoff. It helps that a reader can look over this and say, "Yep, that's Twilight!"

    Yet this successful humor highlights why Pinkie's introduction can be a step down. Pinkie's a harder character to write because her view on the world is meant to be different than any other. So writing her interactions with a character she's rarely spoken with can be a challenge. This issue came out well before Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep, so Pinkie Pie and Luna's on-screen interactions had been limited to Pinkie screaming and running away from "Nightmare Moon."

    Methinks you need to expand your social circles, Twilight Sparkle.
    Hast thou met one Cheese Sandwich?

    In fact, that's what she does. Yet Twilight rightly points out that the comics and show have shown them on adventures together, so this callback to the show feels out of place. Thankfully, we bounce back as Pinkie Pie gives Luna a taste of her own medicine.

    That's the push and pull of this story. Figuring out how to get these two to interact in fresh ways. Sometimes it works, like with Luna trying to reason jokes while Pinkie Pie pushes for more randomness. Sometimes it doesn't fly because the story leans too much on the show.

    Biggest example is Pinkie Pie's Funny Farm. A comedy course conveying cute contraptions conspired to create clever convolutions. The idea is fun, but the comic leans very heavily on Party of One's presentation. Many fans will remember Rocky, Mr. Turnip, and Madam La Flour from Pinkie's nervous breakdown. With this comes the question, why is she using them now? The callback can work against the scene, if only because it can feel like a recycled joke.

    Thank you for your loyal service.
    Now let us humiliate you for our own amusement.

    We also get some show-based humor like a joke at Fancy Shmancy's name and a prank parade similar to Griffon the Brushoff. Opinions on pranks vary, and I'm not a fan. These might be funny for Pinkie and Luna, but they're at the expense of bystanders. On the plus side, Tony Fleecs gets to show one of the Thunder Gremlins once again and even Praiser Pan makes a return.

    While not quite a "Where's Waldo?" search, 
    it is fun to see these guys keep reappearing.

    The final act is where the comic reclaims originality. Luna succeeds at saying the most awful things possible, and Pinkie pie leaves in apparent defeat. This scene gets to show Luna's vulnerability and Pinkie's insight, something we wouldn't get if the comics continually reused ideas from the show. It also broaches a topic that can take people years to understand: learning to laugh at oneself.

    I so enjoy when Pinkie is allowed words of wisdom. It makes her so much more than a goofball character.

    This low point makes the payoff at the end all the more fun. I think this comic is at its best when it leaves the cartoon's ideas behind to forge its own path. Pinkie Pie and Luna find their own ways to be fun. Celestia enjoys some characterization. Even Twilight gets a chance to be an unintentional goof.

    No, Luna! Don't give in to your inner Kanye!
    Also, hi Wheat Grass and Flax Seed!

    It's a fun pairing between two polar opposite characters, and they do play off each other well. If the comic had let go of the show's jokes I think it could have been a more memorable piece, but it's by no means a bad story. A good entry to the Friends Forever series.

    Though, speaking of jokes from the show...

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!