• Let's Review: Friends Forever #21


    No new comic today but the Friends Forever library has a few entries left.

    Let's take a look at how Zecora and Spike handle a sudden Ponyville epidemic.

    Check out the full review after the break but make sure you've taken proper care. Spoilers are contagious.


    Spike and Zecora. Now there's a team I haven't really seen pair up. Within the show, Spike is usually making commentary while Zecora provides the needed information to solve a problem. This story features both in a modified yet believable scenario. 

    I just came back from a convention.
    Compared to con crud, this looks tame.

    The art for this issue features Agnes Garbowska and coloring assist by Lauren Perry. A tall order for both as they have to draw an infected Ponyville with a wealth of red spots. I'm not sure how they accomplished the spots. They don't appear uniform enough to be a repeating pattern but I wonder if there was some trick to help save on time. This issue is one of the earlier instances where Garbowska appears to have moved away from the watercolor styling and favored more hard-edge shading. There are still elements of the watercolor effect in the backgrounds, especially when there are no inked details. I enjoy these panels because it looks more vibrant than a standard gradient or solid.

    Remember when Applejack used to be terrified of Zecora?
    Glad we're past that.

    One critique of Garbowska's art style is that it can be hard to place items by perspective. The size of the characters in relation to their surroundings can be off-putting. One could joke that the ponies have become giants, but ultimately I makes the artwork feel off. 

    Feel like those houses should have more exaggerated heights.

    I've mentioned in past reviews that some Friends Forever issues feature an emphasis on one character while their costar shows their best towards the end. Not so here. This is a curious inversion and I think it's the only time such a thing happened. The story wastes no time as a breathless Spike enter's Zecora's hut to seek help.

    You're spending more time catching breath than you would drinking.
    Sip it!

    Despite Spike's claims, it seems that most of Ponyville is up and about, looking miserable. Why these ponies aren't resting I don't understand, but perhaps their conditions have worsened to the point where they have to go and seek more help. Sadly, Equestria's disease response unit is as slow to help as the Royal Guard, so Ponyville is on its own. 

    Does nopony cover their mouths when sneezing?
    Inconsiderate!

    Zecora has taken ample precautions, including a bird bodyguard that will take the hit of a stray sneeze. That's pretty hardcore by bird standards. Because of these precautions we get to see both Spike and Zecora caring for just about every citizen in Ponyville, including the Apples. Yet the mystery behind this outbreak remains.

    Pound and Pumpkin's health is a nice hint behind the true cause.

    What elevates this above the normal trend is that it takes time to build both Zecora's character and her bond with Spike. In contrast to seasons one and two, Zecora recounts how the ponies have come to accept her and she's no longer the feared outside. Yet the fact that she can take a sneeze to the face and not get sick reinforces the ideat that while she is accepted, she still feels different. She is the only Zebra in Ponyville. The only one we've seen for much of the expanded media.
    .
    I still wonder why Zecora came to Ponyville. 
    Not that it's a bad place, but what was her motive for leaving home?

    Spike connects with this, recounting how he also feels the disconnect. We've seen in issues before this one and after that Spike struggles with the disconnect of knowing more of the pony outlook while not knowing his dragon ancestry. These two can connect over the fact that they're a minority of one, which is a bridge for a friendship to grow. 

    Friendship through SCIENCE!

    It's also nice to see that Zecora doesn't immediately know the problem. There's no deus ex solution here. No instant potion. We see that Zecora is prepared and her own style of magic extends to more than potions, and yet even with all her preparation and resources she can't pinpoint the cause. This has a dual effect. The resources and preparation demonstrate that she is more than competent, and the lack of progress shows just how serious this situation stands. 

    Wow, Spike's a strong guy.

    Then we hit the unexpected snag. Zecora falls ill, and in doing so is removed from the story. It's now down to Spike, who has a sudden insight after helping. It seems an oversight on Zecora's part to eat food from a pandemic area. Perhaps this is the most forced element. Yet it does give Spike a chance to show his best. In these situations I often expect Zecora to be the solution, so having Spike face a problem she couldn't solve is no small challenge. 

    Technically, she wasn't able to cure it.
    Oops! I sound like Mud Briar.

    Yet all turns out well and so we get to witness Spike and Zecora part ways on a stronger friendship than before. I enjoyed this comic's take on how two of Ponyville's most unique members can still feel like outsiders without feeling alone. It's an interesting take and a good mystery to boot. 

    Treachery! Dereliction! Court martial!

    I recommend giving it a re-read and perhaps compare how Zecora and Spike appear here in comparison to what we've seen in the show since. 

    I like seeing these two team up.
    We'd get more in Ponies of Dark Water.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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