• Let's Review: Friends Forever #19

    Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday.

    Or rather, marriage shopping! Time for a look back at an old Friends Forever issue as Rarity tries to rope the Cakes into create a wedding super-service.

    Check out the full review after the break but beware. By reading below, you do solemnly swear to have these spoilers, to know and to hold, til the final paragraph do you part.

    Our lead characters for this tale are Rarity (star of some stand-out issues including my favorite Friends Forever #13) and the Cakes (who... exist). More on that idea later but first we must talk art.

    Three wedding dresses designs for a pony in one issue.
    Plus, I love how the final is a blending of the first two designs.

    Fashion and setting are this issue's core components. Well, those two topics and a Rarity meltdown. Thankfully, Brenda Hickey and colorist Heather Breckel were well up to the challenge. Not only did they have to both create new locals and update familiar ones to have a wedding theme, this artistic team had to design several sets of wedding gowns, formal wear for the lead cast, and original characters.

    Hang on... Is Fluttershy even wearing a dress?

    I'm not sure what references Hickey used for the Mane Six's attire seen in the opening, but it matches well with the show and the character's designs. The only one who seems a-typical is Pinkie's dress. Her usual pink-and-blue motif gets traded for a yellow-emphasized dress. It's barely featured so it's not a big focus but I noted that it was the biggest departure from what we often see.

    Isn't it a faux pas to wear white at someone else's wedding?
    Also, you're already famous, Ms. Equestrian Savior!

    Expression-wise Hickey puts a great emphasis on Rarity's reactions. Her starry eyes shine brighter than the actual bride as she has an idea. Combine her fashion services with the Cake's baking to create the ultimate one-stop-shop. That's right, she wants to create a wedding Walmart.

    It's funny because Spike is sad.
    Wait, no it's not.

    Reading through this issues, it's almost impossible not to draw parallels to Suited for Success. The plotpoints are similar, though the actions often reversed. Instead of Rarity giving in too much to a demanding customer, it's she who becomes overbearing and close-minded. All this because her idea has drawn the attention of Not-Hoity-Toity, a.k.a. Touring Wind.

    I guess the only question is
    whether or not that boa is real or synthetic.

    I enjoy Touring Wind's design. The feather boa and thick glasses are minimalist but convey the idea that this pony is heavily involved in the fashion world and likely eccentric. It's a running theme in MLP that fashion ponies rarely accept a conservative look. That wouldn't help them stand out from the crowd!

    I betcha there's a flask in one of those saddle bags.

    Her assistant, Bright Bridle, appears more the put-upon, everyday type pony. Her saddlebags are a utilitarian feature while the beaded necklace shows she does have an eye towards fashion. Her mane is more stylized, but the loose strands hint at how much Touring Wind's schedule demand her energy. All of this is conveyed simply by design and a few action, so I understand enough about these characters to understand their role. I don't know them on a very personal level, but it's a swift and understandable introduction.

    Again, not really an issue for you!

    Seven seasons with Rarity makes the rest of this story more awkward. I've witnessed her be demanding, dramatic, and disheveled. I can't recall her usurping another's business. Rarity has a gift for recognizing the talent in others and is often eager to promote it or forgive some eccentricities. So seeing her dismiss everyone's ideas and become the sole manager of this "partnership" feels off.

    I hope Hickey and Breckel had fun with this.
    I have fun viewing it.

    I understand the motivation. She has to impress an eccentric like Touring Wind and so a simple hometown wedding might not make the right impression. But we've seen her do more with less, so this conflict feels forced. Plus the Cakes, who are meant to be her partners in both this story and the new business, are reduced to a labor force. This issue came out more than a year after Rarity Takes Manehatten, so I wonder if that was a factor crafting this story.

    G1 homage in the issue. Extra points!

    The big difference I see is that in that episode, Rarity had just suffered a betrayal and abuse. There is no Suri Polomare here. So in many ways I sense the lessons she's learned are being ignored for the temptation of fame. Much like Suited for Success, we witness the complete destruction of her ideal only this time she might actually kill a pony.

    Food allergy. I could see this translating into a hatred for strawberries.
    Also, I guess this proves ponies have spirits. Yay?

    It's here, with the wedding plan in ruins and Rarity's sanity at the breaking point, that Mr. and Mrs. Cake take a more proactive role. Though shown as hesitant laborfor most of the comic, we learn that they've been preparing backups in case Rarity's plan failed. They also have a home remedy to save a life, which definitely earns some bonus points.

    Love the visual contrast here.

    Yet I feel disappointed that we only get to see their best at the very end as a counterpoint to Rarity's worst. It's been more than three years since this issue came out and I marvel at how many couples have entered this show. Most of them have had to overcome an external obstacle. Cadance needed to rescue Shining Armor from Chrysalis. Cranky searched all of Equestria for Matilda. Bright Macintosh and Pear Butter had to stand against inflexible families. Even Big Macintosh and Sugar Belle had to connect in spite of Feather Bang's intrusion.

    They are an adorable family and I've enjoyed them every season.
    Except for "No Second Prances". Mrs. Cake was weird in that.

    All of these triumphs fall into the "love conquers all" ideal, for which I am a sucker, but I don't think we've seen the Cakes overcome such challenges. So in a paradox, this makes me eager to see more of their daily lives. Mr and Mrs Cake's marriage may not inspire ballads or dramatic tales, but to my thinking that doesn't make their love any less real. Because the franchise has not asked us to stand in awe, they're the couple I'd look to for an example of life's challenges after the honeymoon.

    I didn't get to comment on Ginger Gold and Apple Crips.
    Love their designs as well, especially Gold's cutie mark.

    We get to see their reasonable, calm expressions win over Touring Wind, with some help from Spike's fanaticism enthusiasm. Thus the day is saved, but even with the joke at the end it seems that Rarity and the Cakes chose not to pursue this idea. Likely because the comics can't influence the show canon and thus we couldn't have followup.

    After all the Friendship Express has done for him.
    Treachery, thy name is Spikey-Wikey!

    This comic can be a lot of fun for wonderful visuals, beautiful designs, and some grand expressions from Rarity. The story itself is not bad, but it is familiar. Rarity wants to create, her work catches the attention of a celebrity critic, she has a meltdown but rallies and wins a second chance. It is very much in the vein of Suited for Success, but my biggest issues is the Friends Forever title.

    I can't stay mad at that face.

    The best issues in this series built a bond between the lead characters. I don't sense that happens here. An alternate take on this would be how Rarity could witness the Cakes balance between work life and raising a family, something which she might find unappealing at first but gain an appreciation. And the Cakes could value how Rarity can remain creative even under pressure. I think this issue stuck close to the show's format, which can better meld with the show's canon but when dealing with secondary characters I hope that the creative staff are allowed to be more adventurous.

    "Queen for a Day" can translate into "Bridezilla for Life."

    I still hold the hope the Cakes might get to have a more prominent role in a story down the line. Even if they don't, I enjoy them for the everyday life and love they embody. Rarity remains one of my favorite characters and even a flawed outing for her can't diminish her appeal.

    Wonder how that comes cross to fans who speak Spanish.
    "Yes Gih?"

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading.

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