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The main problem was that Fosgitt payed no respect to the actual "canon" character designs of both Greta & Grandpa Gruff. It was just disgusting and turned me off immediately. I'm surprised that IDW let this shit past.
Rarity again comes off as a bit of caricature as the comics have depicted her so many times in the past. Gilda was great for the most part. Their interactions were okay, despite the fact that Rarity seems to spend more time with Firegem. I would've preferred a Rainbow Dash/Gilda FF more myself.
For the story itself, It was a cool theme to explore. Coach Klaus's abusiveness to Firegem becomes noticeable to Rarity and she knows that it really isn't the proper way for a leader to bring up team member morale. Gilda gets hired as second in command and starts acting the same way he does. Eventually, she sees the light and sticks to her guns (which caused Klaus to be ejected from the game) and was able to take charge while treating all members properly and with respect. Though it didn't help them against their total loss to the Yaks.
Overall, I give this a 5/10. A somewhat interesting story let down by awful character designs and shitty anatomy in the art department.
Just a reminder, McCarthy considers comics or specific comic events non-canon "to the show" unless they are mentioned or featured in the show. Not mentioning that even though they try to follow the show's continuity, they fail in so many regards and contradict established canon on so many levels (Iron Will is a baddie in the Umbrum arc even though he was always portrayed as a nice guy in both the show and a Friends Forever issue) that they should be considered noncanon as well. They also commit many character assassinations and make the Mane 6 caricatures of themselves on so many occasions, which lends to the fact that they shouldn't be treated in the same regard as the show.
So, to address the elephant in the room again, what the f**k was the point of this so-called "villains" teamup! They didn't do f**kin s**t in this part! I was assuming they WERE going to be the ones to help the Mane 6 defeat the Umbrum, but instead, Twilight's friends call in any other favor from Ponyville, Cloudsdale, and Discord to do shit. Even the f**kin CMC are there! Why would anyone in their right mind put them in harms way?!
Iron Will, Lightning Dust, Flim and Flam, and Chrysalis were all wasted and sh*tted on by Whitley this arc. Most of them were completely UNNCESSARY in this story. Whitley could've at least had the decency to allow them to help out or do SOMETHING worthwhile, but NOPE. Got to have panel time for your sh*tty reformation of Sombra so your special OC could be "right" all along. We're left wondering what the fuck happened to all of them. If the story is somewhat being realistic, they should be hunted down and sent to prison for all their betrayals towards the princesses and Equestria.
If sealing the Umbrum was so f**kin easy to do, why didn't Radiant Hope just do it the first second she could? It might have helped her sh*tty character out a bit, but no, she just lurks about and does absolutely nothing to really help the "good guys" by herself. She basically bets the fate of Equestria on Sombra luckily betraying the Umbrum.
Overall, I give this a 1/10. Not even the art could save this abysmal fanfic-tier arc. This was a story that relied heavily on cliches, deux ex machinas, a Sympathetic Sue type character, character assassinations, and the death of one of the last few decent villains left in the franchise. "Hope" you're happy with your work, Whitley, because I'm certainly not.
I hope Hope never reappears ever again after this arc, depending on what happens. She is a downright Sympathetic Sue character. Her highly questionable actions led to putting her former mentors, her race, and the entire nation of Equestria in mortal danger. Even after she abandons the Umbrum (who manipulated her easily for a thousand years) without.a second thought and joins the good guys, she STILL screws everything up by shielding Sombra from Twilight's energy blast, resulting in Sombra opening the Umbrum's prison and making everything absolutely worse. She is a s**t character, plain and simple.
Also, it annoys the hell out of me that Twilight and Cadance are so forgiving and are defending Hope's actions. They do know that as well as helping the Umbrum to get out their prision, she was willing to sell Equestria to the Changelings and manipulate antagonists based on petty revenge against their friends (basically killing them). Also, because of her getting in the way of Twilight's blast, they were unable to stop Sombra from unleashing the Umbrum. Tragic Sue incarnate!
This issue and arc in general is going to be complete shit, no buts around it.
The story had plenty of funny moments and meta humor. The book tails were all entertaining and done well. I especially loved the creative rhyming in the last one.
It's ironic that Spike and Twilight couldn't risk going out in the snow storm but their friends were capable of coming to them. I wish we could've seen the trip that Dash described, but of course, it would've needed 20 more pages to explain, something the staff wasn't able to do.
Overall, I give this a 7/10. It's a funny, entertaining issue.
I enjoyed the interaction between Fluttershy and Applejack. It seems this issue focused heavily on lying and the consequences of it. Ignoring the one in a million chance of finding the Pigasus in your own tent, the conflict started out well.
We got plenty of gag moments and lots of references if you look closely enough.
The story had a great start and middle but ended extremely flat. Nosey News spilling out her deception to everyone around her is not great storytelling. It felt like Anderson couldn't end the issue with a decent conclusion and had to rely on Nosey News being a complete idiot. This ends up feeling very rushed and makes the moral lackluster in the end.
Overall, I give this a 6/10. Not one of the best "Friends Forever" issues, but it handled itself pretty well except at the very end.