• Let's Review: Friends Forever #38

    The time has come to say farewell to a very enjoyable series.

    Can the Princesses of Equestria, the twin guards of the land, end on a high note?

    Let's find out after the break! But beware. The sun should never set upon spoilers!

    This issue is special in so many ways. The final issue of Friends Forever, a series I've overall enjoyed and in some cases felt surpassed the main series. It's an issue that focuses on the royal sisters, who haven't always been given respect. Last and certainly not least, this is Andy Price's first foray into writing for the comics.

    This shall end in blood.

    Much as Tony Fleecs did in Friends Forever #31, Andy Price is both story writer and artist. It's an interesting setup because while it demands more of an individual, there's also a sense that the communication gaps that can happen between writer and artist disappear. This comic has a focus few can enjoy.

    Nopony tell Big MacIntosh!

    Though I admit that when first flipping through this comic, I was intimidated. This story is tightly packed, showing a lead-up of events that feature not only Equestria's leaders but several key supporting characters. More than that, there is a lot of text. From Kibitz's musings to the sister's arguments, there seems to be a greater text concentration than in most MLP comics.

    How could anyone sleep through that?

    Though let's be fair. It never reaches Michael Bendis text walls.

    I can't even tell who's talking!

    This comic also takes on special meaning thanks to Babscon 2017, where both Price and Fleecs hosted panels on comic artistry and writing. Price mentioned when he first started, Celestia and Luna were his least-favorite ponies to draw. Their unique body types, the ethereal manes, the jewelry. They are completely a-typical from the rest of the world. Yet Price went on to say that as he practiced, they quickly became his favorite topics. His artwork, enhanced by Heather Breckels coloring, really makes this issue stand out.

    Price draws them so beautifully.

    You can see a lot of Prices talent in the princesses' expressions, ranging from joy to fury. I did promise a compare and contrast between this issue and Legends of Magic #1. Angry Celestia is a good place to start.

    Huh. Beauty and terror all in one bundle.

    In truth there are a lot of parallels between the end of one series and the start of another. While Celestia and Luna have grown more mature and comfortable with one another, old habits die hard. In preparation for a special event they vow to work together to clear the schedule by sacrificing sleep and privacy. Right away their contrary natures conflict. Celestia's pragmatism versus Luna's dramatics. Luna's inferiority complex and Celestia's pride.

    Urge to comfort Luna... overpowering me!

    One might criticize that 1,000 years would be time enough to shake at least Celestia free of bad habits, but if that were true I would give up all hope for her character. It is quirks and failings that give characters individuality, and I enjoy seeing these two play off one another.

    I blame the discovery of fire.

    Though they're not alone. Dare I say that Kibitz, the royal timekeeper, might be my favorite comic-exclusive character? If humor is based on pain, then Kibitiz's frustration and wounded dignity is some of the funniest aspects. Plus there are few ponies who can snap the royal sisters into terrified silence.

    None can resist the power of the mustache!

    Kibitz is also our introduction to a mystic crone known as Crystal Ball. But if you hear that name and only imagine a GI Joe character who never appeared in the cartoon... then I thank you. It's good to know I'm not alone.

    Yes, she seems totally trustworthy.

    The general idea is that this special event requires that the two alicorns check their power at the door and walk amongst the ponies as equals. Kibitz thus provides a shortcut with a magical berry potion to both depower and empower them. Of course, this wouldn't be a story if it doesn't all go horribly wrong.

    Just imagine how this would look 
    if they'd gone with mushrooms over berries.

    As the berries begin to enhance the sisters' competitive natures and aggression, I think back to Friends Forever #35. The "Squirm Spores" served a similar function by feeding Twilight and Starlight's hostility, which I found disappointing. If the story introduces an outside influence, then the character's own accountability begins to weaken. I like seeing characters have to admit their faults without a scapegoat.

    You might say that argument was a "hoot".

    Unlike Twilight and Starlight's adventure, we get to see a lot more of the Princesses in multiple situations. Twilight and student had one form of disagreement, but Celestia and Luna go through multiple events showing both the demands of their station and the range of responsibility. This goes a long way to make their conflict feel genuine even without the berries' influence.

    Each delegate here has damaged Equestrian property.
    I'm just saying, a little something in that tea wouldn't be questioned.

    It also shows something I've hoped to see more of in the show. No matter the princess, we often see them waiting within a castle to dole out responsibilities to the series' protagonists. Even Twilight had become more stationary within her castle, hoping the Cutie Map will alleviate her boredom. This is the classic view of what it means to be a princess and I'm glad whenever MLP can challenge this.

    "Come back and accept Starlight's friendship!"

    I'm expecting some folks to challenge that Celestia is assisting with defending ponies' dreams after the events of Do Princesses Dream of Magic Sheep. But this comic fires back with a legitimate question: what did ponies do during Luna's 1,000 year banishment? Though I'd usually be eager to shout "Continuity War!", in this case I think it would be a draw. Both stories present a legitimate point and I'm going to assume that whomever has responsibility for the night will likewise have responsibility to safeguard dreams.

    Maybe she just meant Celestia 
    has no power to have fun.

    Back to the story proper, we finally learn that the desired event is the Sisterhooves Social. Which, by-the-by, is also the name of my favorite episode. Combine that with Brotherhooves Social and this event has some pretty heavy precedent. It lives up to that as the rivalry between sister intensifies while Rarity and Sweetie Belle try to serve as both truthsayers and crossfire victims.

    Price is doing a good job of keeping tabs on continuity.

    We haven't even gotten to the Kaiju-esq climax but I think it's safe to weigh in on this comic based on what's already been covered. Like I say, Price filled this comic to to the brim with material, jokes, references, and some interesting questions. Everyone serves a role and the focus is evenly spread so that it never feels like either sister is being favored.

    Never mind King Kong vs Godzilla. I want to see how this ends!

    This comic was a wonderful close to Friends Forever. It gave the spotlight to a duo who are an obvious choice but are often neglected. It gave additional characters a chance to shine without forfeiting the spotlight. It's a lot to absorb and so I recommend additional read-throughs, but it never feels overwhelming.

    I never knew how much I wanted to see something 
    until it was right in front of me.

    Much of it hinges on how one interprets Celestia and Luna. I'm betting that there are fans who will feel uncomfortable with the rivalry as presented. Others might not enjoy the escalating argument. That comes down to personal preference and either way I encourage everyone to give it a read and challenge how one might expect the princesses to act and why.

    Farewell, Friends Forever. Thanks for the fun ride!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!