Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Comic review: MLP Friends Forever #14: Luna and Spike

MLP Friends Forever #14, main cover by Amy Mebberson
The cover, as ever, lies. Sadly
It's been a while, hasn't it? More than two months, in fact! Thanks to another port strike in the US, IDW's comic schedule has been really messed up lately. Thankfully, they've now taken the decision to print their commercially viable titles (obviously including MLP) domestically, so things should calm down a bit. Anyway, this time we're back in Friends Forever territory, with writing duties handled by Jeremy Whitley and artwork by Agnes Garbowska – the same team, in fact, who did FF #13, though that's a distant memory now! Read on...

This issue, like the last one, gives us one of those intriguing pairings that we rarely see even in fanfic. It actually makes a lot of sense to put Luna and Spike together, as they're both semi-outsiders who've been welcomed (back, in Luna's case) into pony society. And there does indeed seem to be a decent rapport between the two characters in this comic, notwithstanding one rather payoff-less moment wherein Luna tells off the dragon for letting her down when he doesn't (as she sees it) investigate properly.

Dragon Town Comics
Must have taken them ages to come up with that name...
There's some surprising worldbuilding in this episode. Fillydelphia is established as a large city along the lines of (but probably not as large as) Manehattan, which further skews Equestria towards an urbanised society, something I'm not entirely keen on. More relevant to this comic in particular is the notion of "Dragon Town", which seems to be a full-on retcon, given that in "Dragonshy" it's made fairly clear that dragons don't normally live in Equestria at all. Even if the immigrant community is recent, it's surely not that recent.

This is the second big-city detective story we've had in relatively recent times (the main-series Trixie arc being the first), but it does enough things differently not to feel too stale. One problem I do have with it is that I think it under-uses Luna quite badly. I was expecting her dreamwalking abilities to play a significant role – or, at the very least, for there to be some reason (possibly ethical) why she wasn't able to use them. Instead, she spends most of the time behind a desk helping with the paperwork.

Luna learns all about police paperwork
"You are about to enter the most fascinating sphere of police work... the world of forensic paperwork"
The OCs in this comic are a mixed bunch: "Officer By the Book", for example, is a feeble name. The best by far is Mina, the young female dragon whom Spike befriends in the (Power Ponies-obsessed) comic shop. She isn't quite portrayed as a potential romantic interest for Spike, but the suggestion is clearly lurking in the background, especially given her (hilarious) obsession with shipping: Luna/Discord or Luna/Sombra? You decide! Mind you, Mina, Real Person Pony Sapient-Entity Fiction is never a safe occupation!

The artwork in this comic is pretty much as you'd expect from Garbowska: her style continues to divide opinions, but I don't mind it, though I don't find it as attractive as, say, Brenda Hickey's. There don't seem to be an enormous number of external references, either: yes, there's a very blatant Police Academy one, but most of the others are in-universe or comic-related nods. Oh, and obviously Mina is in no small part a take-off of the more obsessive bronies, but that one's all part of the fun!

Mina fangirls over Luna
"Also, I'm totally gonna cosplay as you this year's con"
What there is, and one reason I'm not entirely sold on this issue, is a vast amount of Lampshade Hanging. Especially with Friends Forever, I prefer the comics to be a little less knowing and a little more cute and fun. Spike talking about the banana peel early on feels forced, for example. Oh, and whatever Whitley might try to claim, Luna looking in on filly Twilight's dreams does contradict show canon, as Luna was Nightmare Moon – and banished – until Twi was an adult! So, recommended, but with reservations.

  • Mina is a very entertaining new OC
  • The digs at fandom obsessives, though shallow, are mostly funny
  • Plenty of worldbuilding, even if some of it feels a bit off-model
  • Some very problematic retconning/continuity-breaking
  • There's nothing all that new about the storyline
  • Luna isn't really made the most of


  1. We need the Fair Comics Cover Act of 2015! That was one of my main gripes back when I used to read a lot of comics. You have faith in your story, right? You wouldn't just be serving up some lukewarm tripe to your faithful audience, correct? Then friggin' choose something from the story and illustrate that! And I don't mean some vague hint or one panel interaction. If my comic says The Hulk vs. Doctor Doom, it needs to be more than a page of action to justify that awesome cover of the two of them duking it out.

    As for this comic, I have yet to read any of the Friends Forever series, but the liberties taken with canon would drive me up the wall. I don't really mind if they are going to world build on largely unknown elements like Fillydelphia, but retconning the dragons and messing up Luna's timeline is just sloppy and vaguely insulting.

    1. I think this is the biggest bit of retconning in FF. Most of the other worldbuilding doesn't clash, at least not this obviously.

  2. In my opinion, the comic commits one of the cardinal sins of Bad Fantasy writing; it reduces an innately intriguing and mysterious race (dragons) to a direct analogue of bland, modern humans. Booooring!

    1. Yes, good point. See also: the Everfree Forest.