• Let's Review: Friends Forever #12

    Been a while since we had a chance to look back at an older comic. What sort of treats this did this issue have to offer?
    Check out the retrospective after the break, but beware of bittersweet spoilers!

    Oh, we are in for a treat today. I have fond memories of this comic and all the little nuggets within.

    Ever wonder why Ponyville has such wide roads when there's so little traffic?
    Me neither!

    Then I sat down to write this review and thought, "Oh, [family show]. What am I supposed to do?"

    What does it say about me that I actually want to see this? 
    Normally I like to do a play-by-play to talk about the story and its themes, but this story's plot is straightforward. In between town history celebrations, weather festivals, family bonding events, and any other kind of celebration that seems to take up 90% of the calendar year, Ponyville has an annual snack cart invasion. Treat stands from across Equestria line the streets, tempting ponies and sapphire-hungry dragons.

    Diabetes for all! 
    Yet no treat is more alluring than the Phenomnomenons. Pinkie Pie, mistress of every sugary delight known to the world, is powerless against their allure and so she goes to Twilight for help.

    There are 50 support groups on standby for a Pinkie Pie intervention.

    And that's it. That's the story. No surprise twists and turns. No hidden villains (though the snack ponies do take on a sinister look at one point). It is a simple but effective story that allows Pinkie Pie's most wild energy to play off against Twilight's intellectual confidence. To someone like myself, this is a challenge to write about since it's like describing slapstick. I could describe each encounter point-for-point and only succeed in boring you. It would be a disservice to yourselves, my own efforts, and the comic's quality.

    The Sirens got nothing on a good sugar jingle.
    Good grief, that sounds Freudian.

    So let's instead talk about the artwork, which is so vital. I hope Brenda Hickey and Heather Breckel had fun with this comic. It's packed full of energy, especially focusing upon Pinkie. Breckel might be one of the best choices to portray Pinkie. She does a great job of conveying the pink pony's pretty perplexing pandemonium. Both Pinkie and Twilight run the full range of emotions. Joy turns to sorrow to anger to delusion and finally surrender; only to start up again in the next panel. Just witnessing this spectacle is, as Twilight puts it:

    Colors and background pieces offer a visual treat. The Phenomnomenoms cart is almost as pink-laden as the lead heroine, but the other carts and earthy tones around Ponyville keep it from being monochromatic. Twilight's castle is a different story. Even with seasons five and six behind us, I'm still not a fan of the interior. The castle invites artists to go with blue gradients which often makes Twilight's home seem cold and sterile. It's so opposite Twilight's own warmth. Even when compared against the blue, outdoors gradient, the interior just seems like a bring-down. It's the only element in this story I don't enjoy, but I can't fault the comic because that's how Twilight's place appears.

    This is how Twilight feels every day in that castle.

    There are also a ton of visual references, including a few I likely missed. I grin at a Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas homage and my inner fanboy squeals at Kill la Kill ponies.

    Figures that Ryuko and Mako would want to hang out with nudists.
    That makes sense and sounds slightly less creepy if you watch the anime. 

    Yet all this praise for the art shouldn't take away from Barbara Randall Kesel's writing. She seemed to have a lot of fun writing out Twilight's various treatments and Pinkie's reactions. There are several scenes that feature rising tension, followed by an over-top-mini-climax, and a transition to the next phase. One of my favorite parts is where Twilight hauls Pinkie back to the castle, saying she'll thank Twilight later. Sure enough...

    Ah, fourth wall. How you provide for us! 
    Kesel often tries to convey Pinkie's hyperactivity through excessive dialog shrunk to fit. This has a mixed affect on me. As I try to make out the words I can almost hear a motor-mouth Pinkie speaking them. It's meant to overload the senses, and it succeeds. But there is a stubborn part of my mind that says, "No! You have put words in front of me and I will know what they mean." This is why I hate contracts. At the end of the day it is very effective, though both Pinkie and Twilight's more condensed dialog can tax the reader's attention and energy.

    Just another typical Ponyville day.

    There's a moral amidst all this mayhem. A tale of self-control and the overcoming the temptation of immediate gratification. What I like about this story is that Pinkie isn't presented as unreasonable. Even Twilight's iron-clad intellect falters after she tastes these treats. It makes one wonder what they put in Phenomnomenons.

    Battle Tirek to a standstill? No prob.
    Sugary treats? Impossible!

    In fact, Twilight's "fall" shows how sometimes we can be influenced by even one person's passion. Twilight wondered what makes these treats so good and thus steps into the same trap. So it's not a simple lecture about "eat right". There's a little more empathy. This is especially fitting for here in the US, where sugar and other temptations are over-abundant. No one is saying it's easy, but even Pinkie acknowledges that she wants freedom to choose over impulse.

    Still better than Pixels!

    Although there are issues I enjoy more for the story aspect, this is one of the funnest entries in Friends Forever. The setting is lively, the characters have energy levels cranked up to the 11, and even the moral offers more empathy than others. I'd recommend that folks give this a read once again and enjoy the Pinkie Pie/Twilight Sparkle odd couple. As a final comment on the art, I love the designs for Marcie Pan and Fawn Doo. In addition to fun names, they have a great design that can be found on Brenda Hickey's tumblr. Impressive characters, given that they never have a word of dialog.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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