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I truly think Rarity is the best-suited pony for Friends Forever. (Pun totally intended). With her fashion business, her outgoing personality, and her rigid viewpoints she can fit into almost any storyline with both presence and humor.
Maybe a little too much presence this time around. Friends Forever 24 is another odd team-up. Gilda comes to Rarity asking for help designing for Griffonstone’s boffyball team.
What’s boffyball? It’s where you kick a tiny furry animal around until you score a point. But the cute cursing critter likes it so it’s not animal abuse. Right? Right?
Although Gilda is the second part of this team-up much of the middle part is focused on establishing the stakes. In particular is Coach Klaus’ abuse of the teams weakest player, Firegem. Because the comic devotes so much time to Rarity sympathizing with Firegem I think some of the audience’s focus shifts from Gilda’s needs.
Gilda gets to have her moment when she’s forced to make a choice between victory and camaraderie. In a more traditional story this would mean she’d both choose friendship and the underdogs would rise to win the day. This comic takes a better approach. One that I really enjoy.
American culture emphasizes not only winning, but shaming the loser. To be frustrated by defeat is natural, but only in that it makes one want to do better next time. The level of hazing, insults, and personalization I see in sports is one of the big reasons I never got into it. So this comic’s approach struck me as a nice compromise between the ideal of friendship and competition’s reality.
Oh, and the Yaks return, still milking that one joke. Imagine my joy.
One thing of note is the art style. Fosgitt’s work often comes under fire for the more human-like poses and the altered proportions. I personally enjoy it since it’s a distinct look, but there are times where I feel like it’s taking shortcuts. In this case, it’s the few shots of Griffonstone. After having a such a unique look in the show it’s disappointing to see the town portrayed with standard cottages and modern-world designs. It would have been fun to make the boffyball stadium look like a bird’s nest.
There are also two characters who look nothing like their show counterparts. To the point where the comic's writer had to tweet one of their identities. Disconnects like this don't ruin the comic but they tax the reader's immersion.
All in all a fun outing but some mixed focus on who we’re really cheering. The moral is decent but Gilda’s reduced role decreases the impact. I’d point folks towards Friends Forever #13 for a stronger example of mixing unexpected characters for a stronger connection.
Destiny's a funny thing in storytelling. Characters act like they have free choice but once a prediction is presented their lives seem chained to the outcome. Offhand I can't recall any story about actively thwarting destiny. Only the weight of accepting it. Frank Herbert's Dune is a great example.
Also, I find it funny how when two people disagree at least one will ultimately claim their view is the more open/enlightened/intellectual/etc. :)
She may not know the plan, but given the Tree's endorsement and Celestia's plans it seems Twilight doesn't have a say in her future, but rather has to choose to accept it. If her destiny is denied for any reason, the world breaks.
Sombra was destined for villainy. Should he just passively accept that fate?
A lot happens in this comic, but only after hijinks diminish the available space.
Can’t say how long it’s been since Sombra unleashed the Umbrum. All of Equestria’s princesses are at his mercy, but the citizens of Ponyville have likewise gathered into a resistance.
Crystal ponies? Apparently they're extinct. There isn’t a single one to be found beyond Radiant Hope. It says something when you have to outsource a resistance.
But let me say this. For all the valid frustration with Radiant Hope’s decisions, I like one very simple fact about her: she doesn’t accept destiny. She wants to take ownership of her future. In spite of everything that’s happened she never resigned herself to fate. She made mistakes, she was naïve, but when reality hit her she stood firm and believed in her friend. I like Radiant Hope. That fascination with the sole pony who doesn’t blindly accept destiny has helped me move past the rougher parts of this arc.
I cannot, however, ignore that the League-of-Not-Quite-Evil-But-Not-Very-Nice-Either did nothing to redeem themselves. They didn’t even feature. It seems they should have remained locked away since part 1, because everything that’s happened since has turned them from unwitting accomplices to traitors.
The battle… I shouldn’t be surprised. Hijinks battles are a staple of this series yet the Umbrum were so menacing that this seems to undermine them. After such a buildup, in which even Changelings fled at their name, this feels like the Umbrum came in too late and shuffled off too soon.
But the big thing here is Sombra’s redemption. You think Starlight Glimmer got the fast track to forgiveness? Just watch Sombra become good again.
Ending this arc, there are some unanswered questions. I went into this focused on Hope and Sombra, seeing what they would become. Along the way, three ponies and a Minotaur dug themselves deeper, and Cadance may have to face that she has rage in her heart. None of this is addressed, but the door is open for future issues.
This series highlights an interesting idea. I like to joke about “Continuity” because I don’t expect it in the show. Yet this arc had a lot of momentum before even starting thanks to Sombra’s Fiendship is Magic issue. When it had to flesh out the motives of the lesser villains, Radiant Hope’s goals, the Umbrum’s power, and Ponyville’s role in the Crystal Empire’s rescue, it got crowded. Interesting ideas suffocated under the rushed pace.
Should the IDW comics build stronger narratives by having individual stories lead into a greater climax? Or is that too common in comics right now? I can’t dictate terms but it’s something I hope folks would consider.
Oh, and someone should double-check to make sure Shining Armor was de-petrified. That would be awkward.
But given everything's that happened I see her reaction as very believable. We've seen so many character react to tragedy by becoming hard and bitter. Radiant Hope is a different outcome. She's so desperate to find something good in the world, and the ponies she trusted all let her down.
We know she's being fooled because we're the omniscient audience and we know how this show works. When I try to view the story from her perspective, I can see why one would want to believe.