• Let's Review: Friends Forever #17

    Certain ponies might not look back on this issue so kindly... But for me the time has come to look back at an early issue of Friends Forever and to behold one of the greatest secrets: Big Macintosh's inner thoughts!

    Dare I enter this great unknown and behold sides of Big Macintosh never seen after the break?


    I've often said that my favorite versions of Friends Forever feature two unlikely cohorts working towards a shared goal and playing off one another. This issue runs in a parallel vein but with important differences. In many ways, this could be seen as a Twilight Sparkle story guest-starring Big Macintosh. She is the most proactive character on this merry-go-round while Big Macintosh is an unwilling passenger.

    Big Macintosh has counter-intelligence down to an art.

    Our artist on this journey is Brenda Hickey, who represents the show very faithfully. Combined with Heather Breckel's coloring work the settings reflect the dark tones of Twilight's castle contrasted against the vivid greens of Sweet Apple Acres. For a good portion the greatest emphasis is on Twilight's stress level and physical expression. Big Macintosh's reactions are much more subdued to add contrast. It's towards the comics latter half that Hickey gets to cut loose and show these characters in new and super-expressive ways.

    You are in no position to criticize, Ms. Want-It-Need-It!

    I think the characters' expressiveness is the number one draw for this issue. Pun totally intended.

    Hey! Listen!
    Hey! Listen!

    Hey! Listen!

    That expressiveness starts with Twilight's newest vice: chewing her mane. This comic came at a time where her role as Princess of Friendship was ill-defined. In some ways I think it still is, but at least this comic made an attempt to flesh it out. Twilight has taken on a sort of Dear Abby role as ponies write in with their friendship problems. Ever one to take on responsibility, Twilight is so stressed about letting others down that she can't stop fixating on dozens of problems. This translates into not just chewing her mane, but also quills, loss of sleep, and burnout.

    I have to admire that stack's structural integrity.

    Spike is the voice of reason to Twilight's obsession and I always appreciate a story that shows the little dragon in a positive light. It's he to convinces her to go out and visit other ponies, only for Twilight to take away the wrong meaning. Seeking out a hard-working pony to learn their work ethic, Twilight begins to spy upon observe Big Macintosh.

    Given the conditions and her drawing instrument,
    I think her art's pretty good.

    It's here that we get to see how Twilight's split attention is affecting her. While taking notes on this task, she keeps getting distracted by scents and even critiquing her own drawings. It's a flaw with which I can relate and it makes her more a real character. Though I do have to criticize the comparison.

    Don't make eye contact.
    She'll swallow your soul!

    Big Macintosh has lived on Sweet Apple Acres all his live and has basically been raised to tend the farm. He knows the flow, the priorities, and has an idea about its future. Twilight has only recently entered a role for which she hadn't even dreamed and her preparation has been haphazard. I think she's setting too high an ideal with this comparison.

    Wait... Did Applejack just prank Twilight?

    Though to her credit she knows Big Macintosh well enough to limit her interview questions to "yup" and "nope" answers. It's here that she shows the same level of patience demonstrated back in Feeling Pinkie Keen and seeks a magical solution.

    Life is more fun if you provide your own sound effects.

    I've a track record of denouncing magic that influences and invades the mind, and Twilight's intrusion spell is no exception. Sure, she gets Big Mac's permission, but only after "Swooping" in and taking him by surprise. I get the sense he agreed not out of consideration but because of the Apple family's agreeable nature. The mind is a person's ultimate refuge and a place where our best and worst takes form. Casually strolling into this place is a gross breach.

    Love the watercolor effect. Very similar to Agnes Garbowska's early artwork.
    The Smarty Pants cameo doesn't hurt either!

    At the same time, I do like how this comic found a way to present a variety of sides to Big Macintosh not often seen. It's easy to assume that people of few words would likewise have few thoughts, but that's what I mean when I refer to the mind as a refuge. Big Macintosh's various sides get some time in a spotlight and this is where Hickey's artwork really delivers. She does a wonderful job of expressing these different aspects through physicality and dress.

    And what's all this "Flash Sentry" fan fiction I see?

    Several elements of Big Macintosh's persona decide to take a look at Twilight's mental landscape. It's unfortunate that we don't get to see Twilight's various aspects, but a library does make more sense. The Macintosh aspects are quick to note her disorganization and lack of focus, which leads to a dubious moral. Twilight's fallability is relatable, just like Big Macintosh's hidden depths. But simply saying, "You need to focus more and relax" is far easier than implementing. This is something that comes with practice and awareness. It's not an overnight switch.

    Green quills? I once considered going by name.
    I was hung over.

    Despite the rushed solution, I do enjoy this comic for how it presents both Twilight and Big Macintosh. Although Twilight is the more active character, this issues shows a lot of depth for both her and Big Macintosh. My own qualms about mental magic aside, it's a fun and interesting study of both characters and so I recommend it very easily. The story is simple and direct, but its celebration of the intelligent, the quirky, the calm, and the inquisitive makes it a joy.

    Gonna wanna get a cotton swab. 
    Also, I love the sound effects in this issue.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading.

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