• Let's Review: Friends Forever #37

    Knowing that Friends Forever is coming to a close soon leaves me a little bummed. Just two more issues to read.

    Here's hoping they close out the series with some flare. Who better to make that attempt than a dazzling fashionista and proud stagepony? Did they make the cut or did it all go up in smoke?

    Find out more after the break, but watch out for spoilers!

    As we approach the Friends Forever finale, I have to say that issue #13 remains my favorite of the bunch. Written by Jeremy Whitley and drawn by Agnes Garbowska, it featured Rarity in Manehatten along with Babs and the challenge of understanding another pony's perspective.

    This issue, written by Jeremy Whitley and drawn by Agnes Garbowska, features Rarity returning to Manehatten to see Babs and facing the challenge of understanding another pony's perspective... So, no pressure.

    Hm. Is this the first time Sweetie Belle has used her magic in a comic?

    I'm kidding, to a degree. This issue is very heavy on continuity, not just in terms of references but themes. Whether Agnes Garbowska's artwork is an intentional golden thread linking the comics or just a coincidence I can't say, but we'll get to that in a bit. Garbowska's artwork is a mixture. She often finds her stride in moments of chaos, where ponies are slamming into one another. She has a knack for conveying the stress and confusion.

    I've had days at work like this. It's exhausting.

    More difficult are the scenes where ponies are being neutral. Every now and then the proportions slip, and because they're usually consistent a single panel can stand out in the wrong way. It doesn't help that the most awkward panel in the comic features on the credits page as well.

    This is not a proper reflection of Garbowska's skill.
    So of course I had to post it!

    But let's talk about original elements. At the risk of being a broken record, I've noticed that the comics tend to rely on real-world designs when addressing some place new. Straight lines and simple colors. Maybe too simple. The interior of Madison Mare Garden is a plethora of purple. Almost every panel features a grape gradient. Not a great backdrop for rarity, whose mane tends to blend with the backgrounds.

    She's a sharp one, that Sapphire.

    On the flip side, I love what Garbowska and colorist Heather Breckel did with Sapphire Shores stage dresses. The initial look borrows some elements from Twilight's gala dress, but the look matches Sapphire's design and creates a lovely balance. The modified dress, seen only briefly, still conveys this color scheme while toning down the star theme.

    Like I say, we have Rarity returning to Manehatten with a not-sick Sweetie Belle. This comic makes several references to Friends Forever #13 while giving Babs a chance to show off her brand new cutie mark.

    Move along! Nothing to see here!
    Just two fillies enjoying the view. Move along!

    But the real focus is after Rarity bids them farewell for the weekend. She's off to meet Sapphire Shores at Madison Mare Garden and all the chaos that ensues. Sapphire's venue changed, and rather than be inflexible she's taken it upon herself to organize an even bigger show in less than a week to please the crowd.

    We haven't seen a lot of Sapphire Shores in the show or comics, but every time she does appear I'm impressed. I made a joke once that while ponies get pop stars who are intelligent, insightful, and respectful, we humans get... hm, there's no way to list a celebrity without sounding out of touch. Y'all go ahead and put in almost any pop star. I fear that while the names change, the quality of character does not.

    I think this is the most beautiful panel in the comic.

    Sapphire has no managers or other organizers. It seems she's taking control of the entire production. This arguably inefficient and probably leads to the chaos behind the stage, but I admire that she's so determined. What we're about to witness is the convergence of there mares, talented in their own fields, coming together to create a show that wouldn't be complete otherwise.

    The third component is Sapphire's special effects wizard: Trixie. Let us all pause to give Seth a moment to stop squeeing.

    All good? Great.

    Whitley writes Trixie in a very different style than what we see in the show. He emphasizes her vulnerability. The ego is still there, but it's tamped down to show Trixie eager to please and work with Rarity, who is still holding a grudge from that green mane incident.

    I think the worms really tie it all together.

    Oh, and conquering Ponyville. But you know, that green mane was a low blow.

    Oh my gosh. That's seriously bumming me out.
    I might cry myself...

    This is where continuity becomes a stumbling block. Trixie makes a passing remark about To Where and Back Again, where she helped save Rarity and Co. This comic directly references Friends Forever #13, which in turn referenced the main IDW series two-parter, Manehattan Mysteries. This continuity chain makes Rarity's grudge awkward. She's seen Trixie trying to amend her ways and they've worked together. So right away the conflict makes Rarity look the poorer. Thankfully, Sapphire is able to give her some straight talk.

    Oh! Dropping some stone-cold facts!

    So Rarity and Trixie work parallel. That is they do their own tasks but don't coordinate. This is a very similar approach that Twilight had to take in the Ponyville Days arc, and it features similar results. The scenario hits close to home. A pop star at risk because stage pyrotechnics caused a fire.

    That's exactly what happened to Michael Jackson in 1984. His hair caught on fire, causing pain that would follow him for the rest of his life and opening the door to his addiction to painkillers. I'm not sure how present this was in the staff's mindset but the parallel is uncomfortable. Sapphire is safe but  understandably furious. Thankfully, Rarity has the chance to shine. The attitude problem has been her own this issue and so it's good to see her put her career on the line to stand up for Trixie. I don't blame Sapphire for considering letting both go, but she's still savvy to time limitations.

    I think I'm becoming a Sapphire Shores fanboy.

    The connecting bond between Rarity and Trixie is unique. Both take a lot of pride in presentation. Both are stubborn and driven to succeed. The egos manifest in different ways but we can see how they're more alike than different.

    That's... nice?

    The theme in this story and its moral is all about forgiving and forgetting, a concept I half-support. I'm all for forgiveness, but I've never been a fan of using the term "forget". It sounds like denying the past rather than learning from it. I think we forgive and let go. All the negative feelings like resentment are cast away, but the facts shouldn't be discarded.

    This issue is fun, but a combination of color choices, continuity hiccups, and a limited interaction between the two leads holds it back. It's a solid but middle-of-the-road story. Oddly enough, I come away from this comic with more admiration for Sapphire Shores. Maybe she could star in a comic down the line?

    Next month is the final Friends Forever. Let's see if the royal sisters can end with a win.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

    Twitter: Silver Quill