• Let's Review: Friends Forever #15

    Time for a look back at one of Friends Forever's more interesting matchups. Can Applejack navigate Ponyville bureaucracy with her sanity intact?

    Probably not, but who doesn't enjoy a good meltdown.

    Catch the review after the break but beware! You haven't filled form Sp01-ER-S.

    Our artwork for this issue comes courtesy of Brenda Hickey. The last time I got to write those words was back in Somnambula's issue of Legends of Magic. Hickey is an excellent choice for this comic because it focuses on high energy insanity. Particularly with crazy Applejack.

    I'm the same way during tax season.

    I hope she enjoyed some fun drawing this comic because the setup and details really do drive the spirit. Whether it be comical exaggerations or a situation that's gone clear bonkers, Hickey's artwork is a treat to view. She is also tasked with drawing a great many supporting characters, all comic exclusives. The stand-out character to me is Tadwell, our first taste of Ponyville bureaucracy.

    And so was born a rivalry that would last to time unending.

    There are some places however where I don't think Hickey conveys the right action. The most standout piece is as Mayor Mare and Applejack rush to a crisis. The poses are something that I think would happen mid-stride, and yet with their legs back and their heads leaning forward it looks as thought they'll fall over. To capture movement in a still image often requires choosing the most dynamic action. I'm not sure the reasons behind this choice, but it's a short note in the story.

    Feel like I should be playing a kazooo version of the Lone Ranger's theme.

    Colorist Heather Breckel is tasked with conveying the mood through tones. Ponyville Hall's atmosphere often starts in earthy browns but shifts depending on Applejack's mood. Perhaps the background goes a frigid violet as she lays on a cold menace. Or brighter reds and yellows as her tempter builds. The biggest moments are often set against a blue background that contrast against Applejack's coat, making sure you know where to look.

    Winners never quit!
    Quitters never win!

    And there's ample opportunity as this comic gets what Applejack is about. Many times I've noticed in comics or the show that the goal seems to be to get Applejack to be the unreasonable one. The stubborn pony that takes on too much or loses her own hospitality as she becomes inflexible. I think this is a mistake because the audience stops empathizing with Applejack and instead waits for her to get her reality check.

    I sometimes miss this more slapstick humor style.

    To my thinking, Applejack is like Alice on a journey through Wonderland. The goal is not to make her look like the strangest character. Rather, she is the anchor of sanity to which we might hold tight. Yet the greatest mistake a person can make is try to force the world to make sense. Applejack isn't a character to force the world into the illusion of normalcy. At her best, she's an example of how to adapt to strange situations without giving up one's core self.

    Applejack will gladly sign the coronor's form.

    I once thought she had to go outside her home territory of Ponyville to accomplish this. Yet I forgot one fact: you can't beat Town Hall.

    What does it mean to have a cutie mark in delivering citations?
    Must be terrible on one's social life.

    An unreasonable citation brings Applejack to Tadwell's desk and all the absurdity that follows. I think many readers would sympathize with Applejack's attempts to navigate beurocracy's labyrinthine process. I've certainly been in situations that required mountains of paperwork and wondered just what kind of folks would work in this environment.

    I'm more a bar graphs fan, m'self.

    Then I took a few government jobs myself and realized those same folks chaff under the regulations as much as the people on the desk's opposite side. So I don't view this as a slight against government workers. It's having fun with the situation. Who knows? Maybe there is a government employee like Tadwell out there. But I hope I never meet him.

    You can see the barn in question if you sit atop that stack.

    Just as we're about to see Applejack commit the first Equestrian homicide, Mayor Mare enters the scene. Though well grounded and practical, she seems to thrive on Ponyville's insanity while Applejack drives for the solution. It's an interesting contrast to see how jovial the Mayor acts while actually setting the stage for Applejack to step up. Compared to the Mayor's presentation in the show, I more enjoy this comic's depiction.

    Welcome to your own story, Mayor!
    Hope you have fun!

    So it's a little disappointing that the Mayor's moment to shine happens off-panel. Somehow, Sweetie Belle changes most of the ponies in Ponyville into produce. That includes Twilight, who likely can't cast magic without her horn. I think some will cry foul that Twilight was undone by a foal's wayward spell. I'm not frustrated by this because over time I've decided I don't enjoy the idea of auto-immunity. Alicorns are a bit more relateable if they have to face the same vulnerabilities as other ponies.

    They want Applejack to produce results.

    If the organized chaos of Ponyville Hall was too much for Applejack, this insanity threatens to overwhelm her. Yet Mayor Mare steps up and organizes her previously bumbling staff to keep everypony safe and find the resolution. Which happens off screen. To quote Rarity (who is quoting others):

    At least there were no tridents involved.

    Either way, this was Mayor Mare's greatest triumph, but her most humanizing moment comes as she recounts how she first got elected. Instead of an instant success, she relates how she learned to listen to others and focus on their needs. It's likely why she's so at ease with her staff's haphazard approach. She knows what works for them rather than trying to force them to follow her methods. Is this the smartest approach? I think that's a topic worth debate. We would see many of its shortfalls in the Ponyville Elections arc.

    True teamwork in play!

    One of the things I celebrated about the Friends Forever line was its ability to forge connections between characters we didn't normally see interact. Though Applejack supported the Mayor in episodes like The Last Roundup, this was the first chance where they got to talk as peers. I enjoyed how the Mayor saw much of herself in Applejack. It also opened a thought on Applejack's future.

    Love how the flashback is told through monotone.

    Presently, Applejack is perfectly content to work on Sweet Apple Acres. Unlike Rarity and Rainbow Dash, she wasn't looking to climb higher in her career. Yet contentment now doesn't translate into stagnation. Perhaps someday down the line Applejack will look at Ponyville and decide she can do more. I could think of worse leaders for Ponyville and I think this would be an excellent development for her character.

    Except for that one part. It knows what it did!

    Perhaps it's limited to just the comics, but I appreciate a good idea and I hope other fans will read this story and see a possibility. It's a fun, silly story that depicts Applejack in one of her better roles and gives Mayor Mare a more respectable presentation. All in all I consider it one of the stronger entries.

    I wonder when the Mayor might actually consider retiring?

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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