• Let's Review: Feats of Friendship #3

    The finish line is in sight, but will they cross it as a team? The Student Six conclude their mini-series and we learn a little more about their saboteur.

    So how does this finale play out and is this new information enough to shift our perspective?

    Catch the full review (and some spoilers) after the break!

    Here we are at the last issue. It's a strange feeling as I'm used to mini-series being five-parters. Better, though, to keep a story short and fun than drag it out.

    Moral quandary... taking over!

    At this point I've praised Swift Foot's design, the Student Six's expressions, and the detail in large setting like the coliseum crowd. Yet there is a topic to expand upon. In the first issue I commented that many of the landscapes appeared to be generated on a computer and Fleecs' artwork imposed upon that. The second issue did not feature any "artificial" landscapes. In this issue, we get a viewing of a never-before-seen locale before getting a computer-drawn backdrop of a familiar place.

    As evil plans go... this one raises some questions.

    The isle of Thrace is rendered in cold grays and violets with a hints of green. It reinforces life on a cold, desolate landscape that crafts similar attitudes in its residents. Fleecs adds just enough texture to Swift Foot's room to reinforce the hard stone, and every facet of King Diomedes' throne room is a sharp angle. While not the most vivid layout, it serves as a dialog with the audience, letting us know much of the King and his tribe well before we read a word bubble.

    "I must go now. My planet needs me."
    There. I quoted a meme so you don't have to.

    Contrast that against a very faithful shot of Ponyville at night with Swift Foot in the foreground. The amount of detailing is impressive and it's clearly an investment of time. Yet because the lines are colored and the detailing more intense than the foreground, it creates a disconnect. Almost like we're witnessing a green screen effect. I'd be curious to know what was going on to create such faithful depictions of the show's landscapes but contrasting against Fleecs' own style.

    I get the impression that whenever Swift Foot needed
    to manipulate others, she asked, "What would my sisters do?"

    If I were to describe the events this would sound very generic. Friends argue, reconcile, triumph, and Swift Foot reconsiders. However, the fun lies in seeing how these events take shape. Starting with learning about Swift Foot's awful family. A family that has many roots in mythology.

    I worry for the gene pool when they all look so identical.

    The daughters of King Diomedes are a reference to the "Mares of Diomedes" or "The Mares of Thrace". You'll be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous set of horses in mythology as some stories had them breath fire and were extremely aggresive. Most attribute their madness to their diet of human flesh. Thankfully, Swift Foot and her sisters seemed to have been spared this bit of mythological reference.

    You'll be the real antagonist next time!
    (If we get a followup story. I hope.)

    Turns out Swift Foot is the youngest of four and even her name is reference to the classical myth. The daughter we've known the longest is an updated version of Podargos (the swift). Next we meet Shining Light / Lampon (the shining) and Blonn Di / Xanthos (the yellow), who torment their sister for entertainment. More serious and scheming is the eldest sister, Terri Belle / Deinos (the terrible). The puns are entertaining on their own but knowing the origins makes them even more fun. My hat's off to Ian Flynn for the mythological word play.

    "York"? Yaks have "york" in their vocabulary?
    I am strangely surprised by this.

    Witnessing Swift Foot's family life seems to contrast against the enthusiasm we've seen in the previous two issues. The very last panel showed her looking quite satisfied with herself.

    "And there's the teaser, signifying that I'm winning!"

    Now we are presented with a more doubtful Swift Foot who sees all this as affirming her father's philosophy. In some ways I could compare this to introducing Spoiled Rich into Diamond Tiara's story. We're meant to transfer much of the ill will from the child to the parent. I maintain that a character is still responsible for their actions, but it is a different scenario with Swift Foot. As far as we know, this is her first experience in the larger world and she's operating under explicit orders.

    "Are we the bad guys?"

    Yet despite what happens we never witness her confess or declare her intentions. The change withing Swift Foot is an internal battle. What makes her a fun character is that we can see she's aware of her surrounding and is actively comparing what she witnesses against her beliefs. This is a more mature presentation than if one of the Student Six saved her during a challenge. It less of an act/react and more of an ongoing thought.

    This might be her most memorable face.

    The funnest part is seeing how the Student Six–at one point shouting at one another–break the hostility with a clumsy joke and use that as a springboard towards reconciliation. Without knowing it, they've defeated Swift Wind just by living the values Twilight and crew taught. Swift Wind's manipulations (now attributed to Terri Belle's intelligence gathering) all depended on the individual creatures feeling excluded or victimized. A gesture showing that they're willing to reach across any perceived gap breaks this isolation.

    I'm like that with Spanish. And French. And German.
    And Italian. And...

    One other aspect of the Mares of Diomedes is that they were stolen by Hercules as one of his twelve labors. In fact, just about every trial the Student Six and Swift Foot faced are references to these feats. So it makes sense that the final challenge would be one of Hercules' most famous tasks: slaying a hydra.

    Wonder how Fluttershy, Pinkie, Applejack, and Spike view this.

    Or rather, a hydra projection. Gotta give props to Twilight for finding a way to create a grand spectacle without putting the students in danger. Its defeat is quick as the unified students are fully energized. Though I will give props that Ocellus makes a much cuter hydra.

    She's also the cutest bridge.

    This is the only challenge in which Swift Foot is 100% on board and we enjoy some dramatic irony. Only the audience got to see her vulnerability, but we know that she's slain her own monster. Everyone else still thinks she's just a really cool new student who understand their feelings. The funny thing is that this is not a lie. Only Swift Foot knows it's an incomplete truth.

    Don't worry, Sandbar. You've got an
    adorable certain someone in your future.

    Though there's a symbolism to the Hydra as well. The hydra represents an immortal, recurring vice. It's why we have the term "hydra problem" where trying to create a solution on causes further trouble. Such is the case with the Thracian ponies. Swift Foot has been turned thanks to witnessing friendship at its best, but no one else knows about this distant threat.

    I wonder how this story would feel if we learned that Twilight
    saw through the deception and figured out how to flip Swift Foot?

    It's here that I get pessimistic because there have been many times in the past where I said, "I'd love to see this [character/setting/idea] come back again." Yet the IDW comics seem to leave these ideas in the wind. I would very much like to have some followup to this. A mission by the Mane Six or Student Six to help Swift Wind and perhaps avert a war.

    Yep. I'm making this the banner for the series retrospective.

    Yet in the here and now I found this an enjoyable finale. The battle against the Hydra is almost an afterthought as I'd argue the series' climax takes place when Silver Stream attempts to speak Yak.

    Hey, trout bike maintenance is important!
    Don't diss it!

    Come back tomorrow for a full series retrospective but go get this issue today. It's a funny take with some classical themes in the mix. Not the climax we might have envisioned but an interesting presentation. I really do hope Swift Foot and her family won't be left in the storytelling void.

    Adieu, you comic-exclusive character.
    Thanks for being one of the good ones!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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