• Let's Review: Friendship is Magic #99

    On the doorstep of the 100th issue, we return to the voyage that is the good ship CheesiePie! What new interactions await us on this voyage? Check out the full review after the break! Love knows no spoiler tags!


    It's hard to go into this comic with a clear perspective. It stands on the eve of the 100th issue. It is one of only four issues before the series' end. Given all this, I could understand why it doesn't register as strongly on people's radar and I would consider that a loss. I adore this issue.

    Missed Derpy opportunity, but we did get to learn Sugarcube Corner's address!

    Artist Robin Easter gets a unique honor this time around. In addition to creating the line work for this final "slice of life" story, they feature in an interview page where they get to introduce four original characters. This is also Easter's first foray into drawing ponies. With this new experience comes some uncertainties. It's difficult to point at specific examples but there's a sense throughout the issue that Easter is getting a feel for the characters' proportions and how far one can go with cartoonish stretching. One example would be when they draw a pony in profile view. The muzzle seems to extend further than we often see. An odd idea, given that these are horses we're seeing.


    Other critique: Proportions.
    Gummy is flipping huge!

    I cannot fault them in the expressive department. These characters are truly alive in how they react to both their environment and one another. There are some truly adorable displays of affection here, particularly between Pinkie and Marble.


    Shout! Shout! Let it all out!

    Marble is the main catalyst to this story, but the event itself is not the real focus. We begin this story with Cheese Sandwich walking through Ponyville to the Pie Family farm. No small trek, given that we usually see ponies taking the train there. This is a frame story in which we witness the penultimate event before flashing back to understand how we got here. Marble has been accepted to an Abyssinian university to study... um... everything? The story doesn't try to pin down her focus. Instead, it emphasizes the exclusivity and reclusive location. Given that it moves Marbles to an unreal level of expressiveness, we definitely can see how important this moment stands.

    I never knew how much I wanted happity-tappity Marble
    until today.

    Some may cry foul as we've already seen Marble's silence broken by FiM #86. This instance feels more natural. Back in 86, Marble's words were a panic over trying to make new friends. This story at least starts out with her standard "Mmm-hmm", only to have it shattered to help emphasize this new life phase. I think this is a far more effective use of utilizing a big shift to help the reader understand. This is where we confront another break with tradition: Pinkie Pie doesn't want to party.

    What is this I don't even–

    Now there's a sentence I didn't think I'd get to type. I think much of the reception will revolve around how well people accept this idea. How is it that Pinkie is refusing to celebrate Marble's accomplishment? We're given that Pinkie sees this as the loss of a chance to communicate with her sister, yet we've also seen Pinkie throw parties for farewells including Twilight's coronation. I would argue that there's a believable reason for this. As we've seen in "Maud Pie", "Rock Solid Friendship", "A Hearthswarming Tale", and "The Maud Couple" Pinkie's love for her family often takes on a possesive nature. She wants to keep them close and in some ways static. Change–like a new boyfriend or increased distance–overrides Pinkie's usual accepting nature.


    Wow, she can even hear Applejack approach.
    Pinkie Sense for the win!

    Why is this? Because once upon a time, Pinkie's family was all she knew. Even as she's ventured forth to embrace a larger world, her family has always bene there as a foundation. Pun intended. Changing that undermines some of Pinkie's confidence. This is a flaw that is not justified, but it is understandable. So her resistance I think fits within her normally enthusiastic character.


    An interesting philosophy!

    It's here that we get to see the best of Applejack in a way we haven't gotten to enjoy since "Sisterhooves Social". In hindsight, this is a side of Applejack that went terribly underutilized. So often the show attempted to make her center of conflict by emphasizing her unreasonable aspects or having her advice go unheeded to lengthen the conflict. This small segment gives us a chance to see how Applejack uses her own experiences to encourage her friends. It's not dictation or manipulation. She's calling out to Pinkie's best by showing her own. This is the best version of Applejack and I love seeing it.


    Dang, Applejack! Warn me before you hit my feels this hard!

    Thus we see the return of Cheese Sandwich. I wondered if this would become a version of "Meet the Parents" between Cheese and Pinkie's family; but this is more a development in their own relationship. Cheese is brimming with ideas an innovations but he doesn't really know his audience. Just as Pinkie isn't eager to accept change within her family, Igneous and Cloudy Quartz aren't too keen on new ideas. Plus, Marble really needs a steady sendoff. I don't think this is Cheese being clever or tricking Pinkie into helping. I think he's a guy who likes to push the boundaries and might need a little reality check.

    I foresee many looks like this in their relationship.

    I've said in the past that I'm more a fan of the "opposites attract" idea; but this story presents a strong argument for similarities. The big concern is that because two characters show so much in common, there's not as much room for conflict or growth. This story gets to show that two party planers won't always be on the same page. There are strengths and weaknesses to each pony's planning that the other can help compensate. They're of the same spirit, not a hive mind.

    She can definitely help him with his one-liners.


    The story reaches its peak with a grand sendoff to Marble. I'm likely in good company feeling bad for Marble in the holiday special, so getting to see her excited for a new adventure with many possibilities is gratifying. Plus her farewell to Pinkie and the bonding between Applejack and Applebloom all enhance the family setting. It also further develops Cheese's relationship with our proud party Pinkie, for it's been hinted throughout the comic that they've been in more and more contact since that business with the muffuleta moss.


    Okay, "hinted" was too generous.
    As a politician, Mayor Mare knows not of subtlety!

    Which is one of the strengths to this story. Though not as large in scope as rescuing Twilight's festival, there's nothing here competing with the character presentations. In fact, character is the driving force here. Everyone featured gets a chance to shine. Though some actions are misguided, possessive, or over-enthused, it all stems for a character's core traits. I don't think anypony is made to be foolish or unreasonable to fit the story's needs. Each page serves as a mini-chapter, making it feel like we've witnessed far more story. In fact, this shorter story feels more driven than the double-sized annual. Granted, this story has the advantage of relying on pre-established characters. I often find that the comics are at their strongest when they take a smaller or neglected part of the Friendship is Magic world and expand upon. I don't resent the introduction of the new, but in such limited space continuity is an advantage.

    I think that's Mud Briar? But he never really won me over,
    so I can't get too worked up. Focusing instead on Vinyl!


    The timing for this story is also very meta. We're approaching a change, and it's natural to feel resistant. Phases of life end and new ones begin before we even realize. This is the last-single issue story. Next month it's the last of the foreign Tree of Harmony tales, followed by the final confrontation. With its character-driven story, adorable moments, hearthfelt displays, and a good message I think we've got a solid winner. A proper farewell to Marble and the Pie family plus a strong showing for character's we've enjoyed for nine seasons and 100 issues. Do pick this up and give it a read. Then please share your thoughts with us.


    Still in the feels!
    All the feels!

    I'm Silver Quill. Thanks for reading!

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