The Equine Flu is making its rounds about Equestria, and as Cherry Jubilee is currently shorthanded for harvest season she’s called Applejack to come help her. While harvesting one day, a group of ponies called “Buffalo Bull’s Amazing Wild West Show”, which Applejack is a fan of (and, in particular, its star attraction “Calamity Mane”), rides up to the farm. Calamity Mane herself comes out and explains that the troop is sick with the flu and asks if they can stay to recuperate for a few days. Yet when Applejack approves them staying without consulting Cherry and tells her about it, on mentioning that Buffalo Bull and Calamity Mane are there she gets so enraged that she only allows them to stay one night, but tomorrow wants both them and Applejack gone (for letting them stay at all). Applejack and Calamity both try to find out the reason for being angry, but not only do Cherry and Buffalo Bull (who himself caught the flu) say nothing but it turns out Bull is angry to find out they stopped at Dodge Junction in the first place and now is getting sicker. Applejack decides to go to the town library instead to see if she can find something in the history of the town to give a clue, and ends up discovering that Cherry Jubilee is, in fact, the original “Calamity Mane”. On confronting Cherry with this, she breaks down enough to tell the whole story. As a young filly she felt her special calling was cherry farming but wanted a chance to go abroad in Equestria. When Buffalo Bull’s (then) small show stopped by the town, they fell in love with each other and she accepted his offer to join his show to see Equestria, changing to a stage name of “Calamity Mane”. While the show enjoyed success, Cherry eventually tired of the exhaustion of stage life and wanted to settle down. While they were stopped in Dodge Junction, Bull publicly proposed to her and, panicking and not sure what she wanted, she ran off to a nearby cherry farm. Feeling her calling there once again, she grew more confused and went to talk to Bull about it; only to discover he had packed up the show and left her behind. Although Cherry eventually found her calling working on that farm and eventually buying it, she never stopped hurting over being abandoned by Bull and, now, from having replaced her with a different mare. Applejack tries to point out that both Bull and her ended up having good lives that made them happy doing what they wanted and tries to tell her that holding onto her grudge isn’t going to make her or Bull happy. Cherry seems to ignore this and runs to confront Bull but, on seeing him sick and heartbroken as well, lets go of her resentment. The two finally apologize for hurting each other and reconcile. A few days later, Cherry has also managed to reconcile with the current Calamity Mane. Buffalo Bull puts on his first show in Dodge Junction in years, inviting Cherry Jubilee to also perform under her real name. She, in turn, welcomes Calamity Mane on stage to perform with her while thanking Applejack for making it all possible.
Kind of ironic that Applejack, who has a history to me of having the most bland and humdrum episodes, ended up having the most heartfelt and emotional episode of the regular series with “The Perfect Pear”. Similarly, one of the most heartfelt and emotional issues of the “Friends Forever” series also goes to her.
Cherry Jubilee hasn’t had too much to do in the main series, which goes without saying. She was pretty much just a character brought in help move the plot in two episodes. Characters like this, however, are gold for the IDW Comic because they’ve been established along with relationships to other characters but haven’t yet been fleshed out. And this one did a marvelous job of that.
While the IDW Comic gets away with more than the show does based on the medium, it still has a responsibility to remain grounded not far from Y-rated territory, so it’s still subject to many of the same constraints. Nevertheless, just as was done in Season Seven, the comic managed to push the envelope by going in a story direction that little kids would find somewhat entertaining but the adult audience would understand far better and hits a bit closer to home. The experience of first being in love is something that feels very new and yet wonderful to lots of younger people. Yet it’s not very long after we first start forming connections with other people outside of our family’s that run far deeper and tighter than mere friendship that we start to learn just how “tender” and “vulnerable” those same connections are. One of the bitter lessons of most people’s younger years is the pain that accompanies throwing your heart around and giving it to other people. Yet none of that, however, is nearly as brutal or painful as when we feel like we’ve found the person who might be “the one” and bare everything to them, perhaps for a period of years, and feel like we could be together forever even if we’re still at the part of our lives where we’re trying to figure out who we are.
And as a result, when something happens that breaks that connection, there are two overwhelming emotional responses: extreme sadness and a desire for revenge. When you get hurt that bad and that deeply, it often spawns feelings of wanting to hurt that person back. And while this is most bitter, typically, in relationships…turning otherwise reasonable and pleasant people into their most hurting, venomous, and vengeful natures…it can happen any time someone hurts us deeply. And, similar to as was shown in “The Perfect Pear”, the pain can be so bad that we feel it “deserves” the grudges that we associate with it. That the misery and anguish we feel needs to keep being honored by never stopping being angry or hateful to the one who hurt us.
And just like in “The Perfect Pear”, all that ends up doing is rotting at our own hearts. Having a hole put into them ironically makes us want to keep that hole in there forever.
The truth is everyone has their reasons for doing the things they do. Some of them are selfish. Some of them are foolish. Some of them are based solely on raw and misplaced emotion and revenge. Rarely, however, (and far less often than most people are willing to accept) do people do things out of a pure desire to just be cruel for the sake of being cruel. Rarer still is the person who is willing to see what they contributed to get them to the point of where they are today and to apologize for it.
While it’s pretty clear that Bull and Cherry are friends again by the end of this story, whether or not they went so far as to restart their relationship is probably too much of a stretch. Yet even that was alright, because they finally got to part on friendly terms and finally understood, and accepted, that both of them were thinking more of themselves than anyone else in what happened and, for better or for worse, both ended up with the lives they wanted…leaving it pointless to spend the rest of their lives angry and hurting over what they did to each other.
This isn’t quite as tragic as “The Perfect Pear” and the ending isn’t quite as bittersweet although it does make the point, once again, that life’s too short to go around clinging to grudges. However, the real reason I mark it down was the “new” Calamity Mane. She is, for all intensive purposes, an innocent bystander. It’s clear she didn’t know that Cherry Jubilee was the original Calamity Mane and she looks up to Buffalo Bull in a non-romantic way, and yet she suddenly finds herself (unfairly) receiving Cherry’s wrath for Bull’s mistake. The most stand-out panel to me is where she overhears Buffalo Bull telling Cherry it was a mistake to replace “the one and only Calamity Mane”…something that clearly hurts her. Yet all we get is Applejack quickly throwing in an almost comedic “I’m sure he didn’t mean that”. At this point, you could have made an entire separate storyline in which the newer Calamity Mane now wonders if she was never anything more than a way of getting revenge on Cherry.
The way the art is drawn in the final panels, it looks as if Calamity Mane was just supposed to be happy for Bull and Cherry at the end but then, reading back through it, the writers realized that Calamity had just been wronged as badly as Cherry had been. So the dialogue was amended to include a few throwaway lines to show Cherry had made friends with her after all and didn’t mind her taking over her old spot. The biggest indication of that is the next to last panel when Cherry asks Calamity to come on stage as well…yet in the last panel Calamity is clearly just watching the show alongside Applejack. That’s something a little too big to overlook.
But aside from that, this is one of the best of the “Friends Forever” series and another surprisingly emotional tale from the most down-to-earth of the Mane Six. It’s not quite “The Perfect Pear”, but it’s definitely one of the high marks of the comic.
This entire storyline features a lot of nods to “Buffalo Bill” Cody, one of the last legendary figures of the American Old West. He was most infamously known for “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West”, a traveling show that showcased numerous acts and stunts that were themed with the 1800s American West and, in great part, helped romanticize and popularize the idea of the Old West culture. Among its most notable acts was the storytelling of Martha “Calamity Jane” Cannary, a prominent frontierswoman from the Old West and contemporary of “Wild Bill” Hickock, and Annie Oakley, an infamous sharpshooter and exhibition shooter. Buffalo Bull is clearly inspired by Buffalo Bill, especially running “Buffalo Bull’s Amazing Wild West Show”, while Calamity Mane seems to share aspects of both Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley.
It appears that Twilight Sparkle has used her princess status to promote literacy. Although she doesn’t appear in this issue, there’s a poster with her face on it in the library encouraging ponies to read. 😛
The gremlins appear…AGAIN. This time as stickers in a scrap book. So does a Pigasus from the Friends Forever with Applejack and Fluttershy.
4.5 Stars out of 5