• Let's Review: Friends Forever #10

    It's been a while since we've gotten to take a look back at an older issue. Friends Forever hit the double digits with an issue starring Fluttershy and... Iron Will?

    Well, when someone tries to review, you show them what you do!

    Check out the review after the break. If you don't want to be spoiled, read the comic before you're foiled!

    Kinda funny to be reviewing this comic. I did a live review of Putting Your Hoof Down at Bronycon 2016 and reading this reminded me of my episode criticisms. Though the plot is straightforward I think there's a lot to cover in terms of characters.

    I remember being this choosy when someone made me a free meal.
    What? I was less than a year old!

    Let's start with the artwork. Agnes Garbowska (spellcheck's mortal enemy) has a very unique style. She can match the show's look beautifully and the unique shading style can often match Equestria's softer tone. She's no slouch when it comes to emotive characters, especially here where Iron Will's aggression is a major factor.

    That can't be an easy castle to draw and color.

    The flipside is that this softer shading can make it hard for the right elements to stand out. With everything shaded in the same way it can be hard to gauge depth or know where the eye should be drawn. In some cases we see the character standing in full view with no shadows, whereas in other panels the presence of a shadow helps convey the scene's setup.

    Fluttershy has a shadow, but but the others are harder to spot.
    Did they never turn back from being vampire ponies?

    One interesting note is that this story is one of the few to feature the Mane Six throughout the comic. Fluttershy is clearly a lead but her friends keep appearing throughout. In fact, Fluttershy doesn't enter the scene until page 5. Iron Will is storming through Ponyville, bellowing to see the timid pegasus. Her friends are an immediate barrier, assuming Iron Will is still trying to get paid for his seminars.

    My Little Bouncers. My Little Bouncers!
    They see your name's not on the list.

    Except that Iron Will is there because he needs help from the one being that talked him down. Here's where the story hits its first speed bump. Twilight and friends have a long history of dealing with aggressive or selfish characters, and a grudge is understandable. But when Iron Will flat-out states that he needs help, the ponies don't just turn him away, they try to dissuade Fluttershy. I've never known these character to refuse to help when needed, even if they have to battle between their conscience and impulses.

    Someone needs a hug!
    I nominate Spike.

    Rainbow Dash is particularly aggressive; mocking Iron Will for wanting to get in touch with his "inner pony". Thankfully, Fluttershy is more open and so the process begins. Fluttershy tries having him feed animals but makes the mistake of having him square off against Angel. Next is customer service at Sugarcube corner, but Pinkie's shenanigans are taxing to even the most patient beings. Even Sweet Apple Acre's orchards are too fragile for Iron Will at full charge.

    I miss having Twist on the show,
    but I'm glad they didn't try to phonetically write out her lisp.

    The last straw is another round of mockery from Rainbow Dash, which basically ends the attempt. The balance in this sequence varies. Often times it's Iron Will's own impatience and aggression that undermines him, but not always. Angel and Rainbow are not the most sensitive beings, but even the Mane Six act at the beginning and end.

    Oh Rainbow. You make hard to like you sometimes.

    We've seen these ponies make mistakes before and it's had mixed receptions. If it's a mistake from which they learn, then we can at least know they've grown. But when they continually test Iron Will's limited patience and show no consideration, it's hard not to see them as the ones who really need sensitivity training. At least Iron Will is trying to meet them halfway.

    Quick, use Rainbow as a shield!

    Why does he want this training? Because his wife won't let him home until he understands why it's wrong for their son to talk back. Iron Will is a character to mistakes volume for confidence, and so he doesn't get why his son talking back to both mother and teachers is a bad thing.

    If an Iron Will pouts in the forest and nopony is there to hear it,
    does he truly make a sound?

    To Iron Will, talking back is a sign of assertion and he views it as a positive. There is the point that a young person should be encouraged to at least speak up, but with that comes the temperament to choose one's battles. Iron Will can't see this because his focus is always on the immediate action rather than context. This is where Fluttershy shows her best. She calmly sits down and engages Iron Will in discussion. She makes a point, but she encourages Iron Will to understand by asking just the right questions.

    So he's never had to deal with a heckler?
    I imagine that would end in bloodshed.

    So we have a curious dynamic. This comic seems to understand Iron Will's limited view and Fluttershy's strengths. Yet to test Iron Will the other ponies are made to look more unpleasant. Given all this, I find the issue to be a solid but middle-of-the-road tale. I wouldn't point to it as a strong or weak entry in the series. A decent read but nothing I'd revisit soon.

    Care to schedule an appointment there, Rainbow?

    Time, sadly, was not kind to this issue. After receiving aid from Fluttershy, Iron Will would go on to betray her trust, endanger Equestria, and decimate any hope for his family by becoming a fugitive. We've not seen him since Siege of the Crystal Empire and with the story shift towards matching the new season, I don't expect to see Iron Will's conflict ever resolve.

    It's a separate conflict from this issue, but the knowledge does affect my re-read. It's too bad and it shows how an unresolved story can sour the feel of previous comics. Thus is the double-edged sword of continuity.

    Maybe someday Iron Will will make a return appearance get to be something other than the aggressor. Who can say? But that raises a question. If Iron Will did return, what role would you like to see for him?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!