Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #9: Granny Smith & the Flim Flam Brothers

Okay, public service announcement first: there will be no Ponyfic Roundup this week. My apologies for that: I just haven't had time what with real life intruding so much (work stuff, the Scottish referendum and being unwell over the weekend). Don't fret, though: I intend to return to fanfic reviewing next week, when all being well I'll be bringing you a special edition of PR. This will discuss a much longer fic than you're accustomed to my talking about. Clue: not Background Pony, Anthropology, Past Sins, Eternal or On a Cross and Arrow.

MLP Friends Forever #9 standard cover
Only two covers this time: I bought Amy Mebberson's Peanuts homage
All right, with that out of the way, let's get down to business. As you've doubtless worked out by now, that means my review of the most recent IDW comic, Friends Forever issue #9, which brings together Granny Smith and the Flim Flam Brothers. We have a brand new writer this time around in the shape of Christina Rice. The ever-busy Tony Fleecs handles the drawing, while the equally omnipresent Heather Breckel does the coloury stuff. Does it work? Your guess is as good as mine... so here's mine:

Yes, it does. I really enjoyed this issue, perhaps not quite as much as last month's wonderful Applejack/Rarity extravaganza, but not far off. The setup is ripe for exploitation: Granny and the Apples attend the 45th annual Apple Con, which – gasp! – has been opened up to purveyors of other fruits, much to traditionalist Granny's dismay. You can already see where we're going here: a full-on take-off of the generational tensions in the Pony fandom...

...except that we're not. Surprisingly little is made of this, although there are a good number of sly winks at conventions in general. Everypony who is anypony is here: virtually every major, side and significant background pony is shown in the double-page spread of the Apple Con site itself. We're not just talking regulars such as Derpy and Lyra here: attendees include the likes of Hayseed Turniptruck, Twist and Ace. And Slash. Yes, that Slash. The odd pony is confusing (an earth pony Lightning Dust?) but for the most part they're recognisable.

Some of the attendees for Apple Con 45
Maud was upset at the dearth of stoned dates at Apple Con
The main story concerns Granny Smith discovering Flim and Flam at the convention... but separately. They've clearly had a major falling-out, and it falls to Granny to find out what it was. Rather disappointingly, the reason was a love triangle. Not the most interesting choice, but it's carried off quite well, and I really liked the Music Man reference: entirely appropriate, given what we got in "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000". And look at that, Granny had a similar experience years ago. Hey ho.

More fun, perhaps, is Apple Bloom's almost comic-long quest for a special apple peeler. This very clearly is a dig at certain fans who spend hours ignoring a whole range of convention events just so that they can queue for hours to pick up one special item, probably these days a CCG card as far as this fandom is concerned. Naturally, the filly fails to get the peeler when they run out just as she reaches the front of the line. Rainbow Dash knows how she feels... still, at least AB probably wasn't just going to sell the peeler on eHay.

As for the art, all I can say is that Tony Fleecs has improved enormously since his iffy outings for the early Micro-series comics. Facial expressions, in particular, look much better and the sepia-toned flashback page is nice. Almost all the large panels are good, too. Of course, some of the credit for this must go to Heather Breckel, who infuses everything with her customary vividness. Combined with Rice's mostly solid writing, it means that this is an enjoyable comic to read.

Flim and Flam lock horns, literally
It's a Frantic Flim Flam Fight Fiasco!
I must admit that I wasn't entirely sure about how this particular team-up would work, but Rice, Fleecs and Breckel have shown that it can work. I can't quite bring myself to award it the highest of ratings, since I do think one or two open goals were missed and in one case (the love triangles) the creators rather took the easy way out. Nevertheless, this issue of Friends Forever, like its predecessor, seems to show that this side series has finally come of age. Recommended.

  • A solid debut storyline (plus AB's quest!) from Rice
  • Several spot-on digs at the con scene
  • Tony Fleecs' art continues to improve
  • Some lovely colouring from Breckel
  • A truly stupendous number of background ponies to spot.
  • More could have been made of the "new fruits" angle
  • The love triangles are a bit on the formulaic side

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