• Let's Review: Friends Forever #23

    A new comic isn't due out until next week, but that just gives us time to look back at a previous issue.

    In this case it's Fluttershy and Applejack out to save a mythical creature from over-ambitious ponies.

    Will I warn you about spoilers within a review? When pigs fly!

    Spoiler warning: this issue does feature a flying pig.

    Back when this issue came out, I doubted that Fluttershy and Applejack could share a story. We'd just recently seen Bats, in which Applejack's stubbornness often dominated Fluttershy's meeker assertions. So I went into this issue some trepidation. These are my favorite and second-favorite ponies, so I'd rather they both get to show their best.

    This is how most slasher movies start.
    Goodness, that was jaded of me!

    Tony Fleecs is certainly in high form this issue. Much of the story takes place in Splendor Woods, which look quite sple–lovely. It looks lovely.

    I love the coloring in this. 
    The blues really add a sense of depth.

    Not only that, but Fleecs is tasked with drawing a variety of ponies both from the show and one or two new faces. The newest of which is Nosey News, a character who has made additional appearances since this debut. Though not meant to be endearing, Nosey is certainly distinct and memorable. Her attire stresses a business approach and her well-managed mane hints at a very disciplined lifestyle. Yet the loose bangs around her ears hint that she's not completely rigid. This will prove a strong contrast to Applejack.

    She's a mare on a mission...
    To ruin your day!

    Nosey also features something rarely seen in MLP: a black mane. It's not often seen in the show because rich black likely makes a character stand out too much. Any color appears bright alongside black and demands far more attention. Fleecs moderates this by adding blue highlights that give her a luster. It still stands out but not as much as a total black mane would.

    That looks delicious!

    The story opens with Applejack and Fluttershy enjoying a camping trip, only to be interrupted by Nosey and her Pigasus hunters. I don't know if there's ever been a Bigfoot hunting expedition this size, but it is a satire of the cryptid hunters that have endured throughout the ages. Like many tourists, these ponies' enthusiasm disrupts local lives and so Applejack and Fluttershy go from enjoying a vacation to enduring the intrusion. I'm assuming their continued presence is due to more to Applejack's stubbornness than anything.

    Pinkie would admire how fast they set this up.

    It's also Applejack who makes the assertion that will become the central moral for this comic. She states that every lie comes at a price.

    You've hurt plenty of ponies
    with the truth, AJ.

    It's not that I disagree with this, but I find such a statement incomplete. The truth comes at a price as well and it can hurt just as bad. The real difference to me is the cost. Often we are tempted to lie to avoid the hefty price we know truth demands, only to discover the lie takes a toll for which we weren't prepared. Other times, however, we may know the price of avoiding the truth and yet willfully pay. Perhaps another cause demands we make a compromise or a hundred other factors take hold. Even Fluttershy challenges this idea.

    I could quote an ethics dilemma from high school,
    but I would end up invoking Godwin's Law.

    So imagine their surprise when they wake up to find a Pigasus in their tent. I'll credit Fleecs with making this little creature look adorable. I'm not a person who finds pigs cute and yet the combination of freckles and unique colors really makes this little creature stand out.

    It's so cute! And still delicious-looking.

    Thus we come to the main conflict. To Applejack's credit her first thoughts are not about a reward or getting the Pigasus seekers to leave. Like Fluttershy, her thoughts are focused on protecting this innocent. Yet as the two go through the options they find that they're lacking.

    What would happen if you removed it for just a week?
    Aw, forget it. I can't say no to those eyes!

    One might think the most obvious answer would be that one pony stays to guard the creature while the other recruits help. Yet Applejack has made it clear she isn't willing to lie and Fluttershy lacks the steel to address an entire crowd. Even together they seem badly outmatched.

    I admire that Applejack isn't willing to pass this burden to another.

    This is exemplified when Applejack tries to address the gathered ponies without betraying the Pigasus' secret. She makes the assertion that her status as the Element of Honesty makes her 100% believable. Much like the truth statement I take issue with this. The Elements of Harmony didn't bestow traits upon the Mane Six. Rather, the ponies proved themselves worthy of such lofty ideals. If it were magical empowerment, then there'd be no reason to strive to be like the ponies we admire. It's defining a character by their power, which isn't really characterization.

    Why don't more hecklers actually shout "heckle"? It's so honest!

    After being booed off the stage, Applejack seems at the end of her rope and only the smallest circumstance saves the day. Fluttershy's efforts are admirable, but she's been a spectator to the conflict thus far. It's Applejack who forced herself to choose, which is also to her credit but it removes Fluttershy. Yet the shy ponies attempt at a diversion sets the stage for Nosey News to out herself as a faker. This is the worst kind of lie. It wasn't to protect anyone or even to avoid consequence. It was just so she could make a quick buck.

    These comics featured Indiana Jones pony well before the TV show.

    Though going back to the concept of a price, I notice that the only reason Nosey's plan fell apart is because she admitted the truth. That sense of inconsistency really undermines this issue. The concept of truth and consequence is over-simplified and so it doesn't resonate with me.

    You are watching a pony get lynched.
    Fluttershy, there are times I worry about you.

    As the more proactive character, I think Applejack makes this story about her while Fluttershy serves as advisor and audience proxy. She witnesses Applejack struggle as we would and helped at the end. I enjoy Friends Forever most when it is a journey shared between two characters. This one felt lopsided.

    This sums up Fluttershy's role this issue.

    With great artwork, some adorable characters, a dubious moral message, and uneven character representation I would say this issue fell in the mid-range. Not at all terrible but not a shining beacon either. Applejack and Fluttershy can share a story, but it wouldn't be until Viva Las Pegasus that I would think they could equally contribute.

    One final image of painful cuteness.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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