• Let's Review: Friends Forever #18

    No new comic this week, so let's dust off an old issue from the Friends Forever series.
    Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are off to their Flight Clamp reunion, but with mixed feelings.
    Find out how the story played out after the break. Just watch out. This review was voted, "Most likely to spoil the story."

    Time has added a strange twist to this issue. While this came out back on July 1, 2015, the episode Pony P.O.V. (October 1, 2016) made reference to Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash attending a flight school reunion. If one compares notes, we could count this as the story taking place while Twilight tries to sort out the argument between her other friends. It also gives me a reason to post this:

    The artist for this issue is Jay Fosgitt. Once again we face the debate of how stylized becomes too stylized. For those who haven't heard a lot about this, Fosgitt has a style that's far different that the rest of the IDW staff. His artwork often features very organic curves but he tends to draw the ponies in "hyper-cartoonish" styles with larger heads and smaller bodies. He also favors presenting the ponies in more human poses than the usual four-footed-frolicking.

    See? Frolicking!

    Looking through this issue reminded me of a criticism of more recent Fogsitt issues. Some feature very little background or even characters standing in a white void. Although there are a few panels featuring the latter, this issue features more effort put into Cloudsdale surroundings. Even a simple column helps remind the reader that we're outside Ponyville, and the panels that do feature a gradient are usually offset by expressive action.

    She's adorably staring into my soul!

    The real strength for this art style comes later in on in the story, so let's tackle that now. It's a standard day in Ponyville with Rainbow Dash trying to fly faster while Fluttershy and Angel help with keeping time. Something about a white rabbit with a watch just triggers the nostalgia. 

    He's not late for his very important date.
    He has no social life!

    The trouble arises when the invites to the Cloudsdale Flight Camp arrive, drawing mixed reactions. As the best flier in the school, Rainbow Dash has nothing but fond memories of being celebrated. Fluttershy, the weakest flier, gets to recall the same mockery that haunted her in Hurricane Fluttershy.

    That cheese isn't the stinkiest thing in this flashback.

    We receive a contrast in characters as the two arrive. Dumbbell and Hoops seem to have forgotten their change of heart from back in Sonic Rainboom and are back to jeering "Rainbow Crash" while also introducing us to "Klutzershy"... Yeah, they weren't the most inventive bullies.

    Haven't seen chins that strong since Transformers Animated.

    At the other end is Cirrus Cloud, a pegasus for whom Metal was not just a phase. She'll represent a contrast between how people were growing up versus how they are now. For the moment her motives are unclear as she keeps dodging Fluttershy. As does Spitfire, who has apparently gotten over her fear of training foals. 

    The only way to make little ponies look bigger.
    Littler ponies!

    It's also here that the Friends Forever title doesn't ring true. While Rainbow Dash is away racing and grandstanding for her fans, Fluttershy is left to explore Cloudsdale and wonder why so many ponies are avoiding her. Given the varying roles, I'd argue that this story is more about Fluttershy and Cirrus Cloud. It doesn't help that Rainbow pledges to back Fluttershy up but then departs without thinking.

    Trading emotional support for lumbar support.

    It's here that Fluttershy's imagination runs wild and we see her envisioning a Carrie-inspired scene. This is where Fosgitt's style really stands out. Reactions will vary depending on how well people enjoy this style, but the scene where Fluttershy envisions her humiliation is both visually stunning for me and a little creepy. 

    I wonder if the Fluttershy in this 
    fantasy went on a true Carrie spree.

    Rainbow re-enters the scene as Fluttershy tries to duck out. Having been celebrated all afternoon she finally realizes how this has been affecting her friend. Rainbow is often the big sister to Fluttershy, pushing her to go out and try things she'd otherwise avoid. She's also the one to reaffirm that Fluttershy has accomplished amazing feats. So while she's been missing for a good chunk of the story she does get to shine. Her empathy is always present, it just needs a moment to focus.

    "I have to tell Cirrus Cloud her mane is tacky."

    Cirrus Cloud subverts Fluttershy's expectations by presenting an award in honor of all her accomplishments. This is a fun scene and I'm sure it appeals to many fans. It might sound strange that I'm not as big on this ending as I think it's one of those times where things are wrapped up too neatly.

    Is it me, or does that dude on 
    the left look like a dinosaur?

    I did not enjoy my middle and high school years. I know what it's like growing up with people treating you as the odd one out or devaluing yourself so they can feel superior. When I look back, I can remember the feelings invoked though the faces of my classmates are too faded. I doubt I'll ever see them again and I don't feel a need to do so. I'm content with saying, "I hope you turned out better, but I don't need to see you again." 

    How could anyone forget that makeup?

    So reading this ending I feel like the story is trying to force a resolution. Fluttershy received a reminder from Rainbow Dash about what's really important. Whatever happened in the past, she has reason to be proud of who she is now. She doesn't need the approval of past figures to define her self worth. She just has to look around at the ponies who know and celebrate her now. It's a similar feeling to Fluttershy's micro comic, in which she felt like a winner but the comic had to make it official. I feel like the action undermines the self-affirmation.

    Rainbow's pose in this is very perplexing.

    I don't know how others experienced this story or if their own histories worked out differently. Perhaps you met someone from the past and witnessed how much or how little they'd changed? If so, let us know in the comments.

    This implies Spitfire is around the same age as Rainbow Dash.
    The show has hinted likewise, but it feels weird.

    As for this issue I find that it fits well in the middle range. Rainbow Dash has a chance to stand out but for the most part this is a Fluttershy story with an emphasis put on the comic-exclusive Cirrus Cloud. Nothing wrong with it but when one reads a comic featuring two title characters on the cover, it can feel strange to realize one is more a guest-star. A fun story, but not Friends Forever's strongest.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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