• Let's Review: Friends Forever #24

    We have no new comic this week but we still have a few issues of Friends Forever left untouched.

    This issue was Rarity's foray into the Griffon world and it's fixation with Boofyball. How will she and Gilda fare on the field?

    Catch the review after the break but look out for spoiler interference!

    One of the things I like most about Friends Forever is the chance to see two characters rarely associated team up. Gilda and Rarity are a prime example. This issue directly references "The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone" and based on that you'd expect a followup between Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Gilda. I don't think Rarity and Gilda have traded even one word.

    Do enjoy how Fosgitt emphasizes the
    "Little" in "My Little Pony".

    That's part of the appeal. When this came out I was curious to see how it would all unfold. Or in this case, bounce.

    Is it animal abuse if they volunteer?
    Certainly not a sport I'd celebrate.

    This issue's artist is Jay Fosgitt, whose work continues to stir debate. In Friends Forever #22 I talked about his additions to Equestria and how much the design impacts our memory. This issue is something different. Although Fosgitt adds several Griffons with unique designs, the stand-out aspect is the disconnect between named characters and their designs.

    Given the mix of accuracy and missteps, I wonder how the comic artists receive reference images?

    Thanks to tweets by issue author Georgia Bell, we know that the Greta and Grandpa Gruff seen in the comic are meant to be the same characters witnessed in the show. You wouldn't know that by looking. Indeed, a brief view of Griffonstone creates a disassociation as the reader sees body styles or architecture that is almost the polar opposite. If these designs were not meant to represent already-established characters and locals I would praise the design. Fosgitt has some fun with the varying types and styles of both Griffons and Yaks. Because these are meant to represent characters with whom I'm already familiar, however, that uniqueness becomes a distraction.

    I like the designs of the other Griffons.
    Each is distinct.

    Yet characters like Rarity, Gilda, Prince Rutherford, and even the Friendship Express are spot-on. They are still following Fosgitt's style but I can point and them and say with confidence that they are the same characters from the show. So why the disconnect with some characters and not with others? I suspect that Fosgitt wasn't given enough visual references for each.

    Jay Fosgitt and Heather Breckell get Griffonstone's dreariness down,
    even if the visuals are a mismatch.

    Images of Gilda and Rarity are in easy supply, but if one didn't know that Greta and Grandpa Gruff were already existing characters, would that person know where to look? Having a record of these characters for reference is not the job of the artist, but rather the supervising editor. I can only imagine the multitude of references housed in the DC and Marvel comics libraries. At the time this issue came out, I don't think DHX and IDW were providing their staff enough resources. Things have since improved, but this issue is a testament to what can go wrong without that communication.

    She's armed and fabulous!

    But enough about the artwork, let's talk story. One wouldn't think that Rarity would have any investment in either Griffonstone or the sport Boofyball, but that was before she knew they needed uniforms. While sticking to the classic joke of Rarity bringing enough clothing to dress an army, we get the first hint at a conflict.

    I wonder what the tensile neck strength 
    would have to be for those headpieces?

    Because Rarity has no investment or knowledge of the game, she has no real idea how to design for them. As if often the case, she favors form instead of function and this costs her some of her clients' trust. However, this is not the story's main focus.

    Those background ponies
    are the true heroes here!

    Griffonstone is united behind their team, who has a shot at the cup if they can beat the Yaks. So many players are either holding in their criticism or feeling relief as Coach Klaus takes his frustrations out on the weakest player. I like the designs for both Klaus and Firegem. They reflect the relationship and emphasize how powerless Firegem is against Klaus. Even the presentation of their eyes–from Klaus' concealed peepers to Firegem's oversized eyeballs–highlights how we're meant to interpret this.

    Small head, big body vs
    big head, small body.

    On the topic of the Boofypuffs, who serve as the game ball, I have a strange thought. Joseph Campbell wrote in The Hero with a Thousand Faces that we populate the unknown with our subconscious. Our fears and desires take the form of dragons, ogres, mermaids, vampires, and others. So I have to ask, what part of our subconscious does a Boofypuff represent? A fluffy creature that actually volunteers to get kicked and thrown about but can then shout profanity and critique the team's gameplay. There are all kinds of messed up ideas with that.

    You must phrase your insult
    in the form of a question.

    Rarity is put in the difficult position of being an outsider that has perspective but no voice. She knows she isn't the one to dictate terms to the team, and so she leverages Gilda to speak up on Firegem's behalf. This is where the story loses a lot of its tension. Ideally, we would empathize more with Gilda and her choice. Griffonstone hasn't been united under any ideal since losing the Idol of Boreas. A win for the local team might open the door to a new sense of unity.

    Okay, "unity" takes on different shapes.

    This idea goes unexplored because the emphasis lies on Coach Klaus' status and how he got the griffons into the Boofyball league. In a sense he is a hero for giving Griffonstone a channel with which to interact with the world, but Gilda's hero worship is forcing her to silence. It doesn't help that his offer to make her assistant coach drives Gilda further towards his mindset.

    Griffonstone won't learn anything about personal space
    from ponies. Not while Pinkie Pie is about.

    The problem is that any empathy or sympathy we might impart to Gilda is directed towards Firegem. He is the sacrificial lamb in this setup. No power to control how he is treated and almost no hope of improvement. The fact that he's even willing to stay on testifies to some kind of hidden strength.

    I wonder if you could turn this message around
    in a Rarity and Fancy Pants story.

    There is some plot contrivance as team members are left sick at home, giving Rarity the chance to sign on and be an even worse player than Firegem. I will credit that the story doesn't go for the "underdogs always win" trope. The game quickly becomes a struggle just to earn a point, with Klaus getting himself eliminated after Gilda finally stands up to him. So it's more that Klaus undermined himself than Gilda rising up to be more.

    That must be the Griffon version of

    By comic's end we do see that Rarity has gained some insight. The final uniforms are much different than the metallic pageantry she envisioned. Gilda promises some positive changes, though I don't see why Firegem directly antagonizing Klaus is presented as a positive. The goal is to affirm Firegem's sense of self and foster confidence, not punish Klaus.

    Do not antagonize someone with a bladed tool!
    That's basic survival sense!

    While Rarity has gained a fondness for the sport, I can't say the same has happened between her and Gilda. Surely the latter is a little bit better for listening to Rarity's advice, but I'm less sure that Rarity has gained new respect for her griffon friend. We do get a "Dear Princess Celestia" closer that highlights the lesson on communication and its importance (the irony!) but a lesson and character growth are two separate things.

    Indeed, this is not my least favorite comic.
    It's just not one I can celebrate.

    All in all, this is an issue I tend to pass over. It's Gilda's sole contribution to the Friends Forever line and that is unfortunate. In fact, I think it's her only appearance in the comics. Doubly unfortunate. Yet the visual dissonance, the lack of empathy, and a sense that this story is more about Rarity helping Firegem than Gilda doesn't hold my enjoyment. Perhaps Gilda will have another chance to shine down the road. Rarity, of course, always finds a new way to shine.

    Indeed you do!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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