• Let's Review: Feats of Friendship #1

    It’s time to start a fresh adventure! This time it’s the Student Six plus one at center stage.

    Find the review after the break! Of course, a new story requires a few new spoilers.

    After the Student Six’s comic debut in the main series, this mini-series seems like a safe bet. After all, they do represent a fresh path with which to revisit or relearn lessons, or explore elements outside the Equestria we witness via the Mane Six. Including a story when an early-forming friendship is put through a test of prioritizing others while also caring for one’s self.

    So I guess Sandbar x Yona isn't a thing in this series.

    Tony Fleecs adds his visual talent to Ian Flynn’s story, though I think Lauren Perry’s addition of “Flats”. These are the basic colors that serve as a the coloring’s main structure before you add details like shading, highlights, or various effects. Perry’s work deserves special notice because there are points where the background is being filled in without any line art.

    The balcony is hand-drawn. Not so the clouds.

    This comic makes it a point to represent the School of Friendship almost exactly as it appears in the show. A level of detail that sometimes conflicts with Fleec’s character drawings as if they are blending two images with mixed success. Consider this opening panel on the School.

    I think the goal here is to show the school.
    Not show the world from the ponies' POV.

    It definitely looks like the show’s version with a level of detail and loyalty not often seen in the comics. Yet the ponies in the foreground and their placement doesn’t seem to match the scale. It's like Fleecs had to draw the ponies first and fit in the background later. In other cases, we see that some details are defined by line art while others are draw using a few colors. One example being a view of the Stable Rapids.

    I think the lumber is digitally imposed as well.
    Are the ponies trapped in the Matrix?

    Much of the landscape is clearly lined but the flowing water has no hard boundary. I get the impression these details are digital additions. I’ve commented before that seeing a digital image imposed over hand-drawn work has a strange feeling. I’m not a fan of the contrasting feel. For a last comparison, we’ll take a look at a tunnel under the under-construction “Feats of Friendship” coliseum/stadium.

    You want context for all this?
    Too bad!

    Within this smaller space the shading adds texturing, but key fixtures like the stone within the walls are all inked and the elements seem to be in better proportion. I get the sense that Fleecs and Perry had greater control over the environment here rather than trying to fit vistas that mimic the show’s look.

    I like seeing "too cool" character break their bravado.

    By now you might be asking, “Silver–you talky turnicidae–what’s with the gray mare?” Meet Swift Foot, a transfer who’s been assigned to the Student Six’s team for the upcoming Triwizard Tournament Feats of Friendship competition. I get the sense that Fleecs took some inspiration from Rarity’s design with a flowing mane and eye shadow to drive home that this character is a beauty amongst ponies. Plus Sandbar’s infatuation is a good hint.

    Sandbar and Spike should commiserate.
    Because commisery loves company.

    We get a small hint that Swift Foot has a tragic past due to a preview of her home, but not much beyond that. The opening act for this story sets the tension by having her work with and influence each student. In some ways it’s a pretty linear tale since each encounter lasts about two pages. What’s more interesting is how she preys on each character’s vulnerabilities, suggesting that she’s either planned this out well in advance or she’s very good at reading others.

    Well... a village on a doomed shore can still see some sun.
    It could happen!

    Let’s break it down. With some characters like Silverstream, Smolder, and Ocellus, it’s playing to their species’ sense of identity. Hippogriffs carry a collective scar over their time in exile and Swift Foot knows how to use that to cast doubt. Dragons pride themselves on gathering hoards and demonstrating this power. How diminished must Smolder feel when she realizes that she isn’t receiving the same food she’d enjoy in the dragon lands. Changelings are dealing with a shift in identity and a few choice words put Ocellus in doubt about how much her freedom is respected.

    Let's see you import gems! Eh? EH?

    Out of these three, Smolder’s may be the hardest to accept. Spike has a supply of gems not only through Twilight’s care but also the Cake’s gifts and Rarity’s spelunking expeditions. It’s a small continuity error to say that Smolder wouldn’t have access to dragon food. Yet even then, it’s not something she’s earned. I think she could still feel at conflict with what’s around her.

    You actually get to hear yak talk.
    I'll let keep the surprise.

    Yona’s doubt isn’t based on a sense of vulnerability, but frustration. From her perspective, she’s left a home of which she’s quite proud to speak someone else’s language, learn their cultures, and live by their rules. This could be a common feeling shared by all these students from distant lands. They’re putting for a great deal of effort, but are they receiving in kind?

    Mark Gallus' head size.
    It's about to swell.

    Gallus’ vulnerability is more individual. He’s been alone within griffin culture and so you can’t play on his sense of identity. However, he’s also not been respected. With a few compliments and questions, Swift Foot instills a sense that he has unacknowledged potential, leading to resentment.

    I don't think the ponies "made" them change their life.
    Thorax showed them a way other than Chrysalis and they chose.

    The idea here is that each of the affected students sees themselves as a victim. Of neglect, disrespect, dismissal, or being underestimated. With that mindset it’s easy to justify a selfish action, even if that action is rooted in self-care. It’s a hard balance to do what’s best for others while also looking out for your own well being. I’m hoping the comic can explore this balance.

    Well... they seem to be reacting well.
    Only two are glowering!

    So what about Sandbar? The student who is the least out-of-place and arguably the least vulnerable? I think his infatuation with Swift Foot was a feature not simply because she’s a filly and he a colt, but be cause it gives him a conflicting desire. While he stays loyal, it still carries frustration.

    Sandbar's best moments are
    when he abandons assumptions 
    and speaks for himself.

    I wonder how Sandbar will feature into the group. A rallying point who draws other to him, or perhaps a figure needing saving that requires the others to set aside their differences? Either way, I get the sense he's going to have serve some kind of linchpin role given that he represents the pony culture the others doubt.

    Hello Illustrious Q and young fan I don't know!
    I'm totally not jealous!

    Which raises the question of what comes next. Most of the students are feeling alienated from pony culture. Oddly enough, that can become a rallying point by which their friendship can become even stronger. Swift Foot has laid the ground work to increase tensions between each student but I think she's far from done.

    You'll be eating those words by issue 3!

    As a start to this story, this story does a good job of establishing the setting and hinting at greater stakes. I'm definitely intrigued to read, though I'm hoping the pace for each issue will be a little slower. Necessity demanded a swift run through each encounter. The tradeoff being that this conflict can feel rushed. We'll see how the Student Six view one another next month.

    I have certain guesses about who the final villain might be.
    I am, of course, wrong.

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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