Granny Smith and the carny-con duo The Flim-Flam Brothers. Up until this point, the boys' character arc in My Little Pony has traced a path intriguingly similar to that of Flintheart Glomgold in Carl Barks' stories. The first time out, in season two's "The Super Speedy Cider Squeezy 6000," F&F were not out-and-out con artists so much as slick-talking rivals to the Apple Family, laid low by their own carelessness. Season four's "Leap of Faith" presented them in a much more conventionally negative manner, as they tricked Granny and other lame, halt, and blind ponies into shelling out for a phony cures-whatever-ails-ya tonic, subsequently slipping out of Ponyville after their scheme was discovered. Here's where the Glomgold analogy breaks down, as Christina Rice and Tony Fleecs' new story does NOT, repeat NOT, find the tricksters suddenly devolving into cold-blooded, would-be murderers. Instead, they're mutually alienated rivals in love, and it's up to Granny to restore their partnership. If you're wondering why Granny would even bother doing so, given the trouble F&F have caused the Apples to date, then you obviously aren't fully hep to the Apple Family credo of "family coming first."
That is pretty much all there is to the meat of FF #9; the real wonder is that Rice and Fleecs were able to stretch such a simple plot idea out to 22 pages. This is done through the media of, among other things, not one but two flashback sequences, a two-page spread showing the reunited F&F doing their usual singsong routine to a gaggle of excited ponies, and another two-pager display depicting the setting of the drama, AppleCon 45, which appears to be a combination of a Farmer's Market and a... do I even need to say it? Rice actually does surprisingly little to exploit the comic potential of a fruit expo serving as an agricultural equivalent of a "fanboy" mash-up. Granny complains a little about the Con getting too big and diverse over the years ("Comic-Con International," just saying), but the gripes soon narrow down to a specific mad-on about the presence of *gasp!* orange salesponies. I know that Granny's supposed to be a bit ossified and devoted to apple-mongering, but Rice overplays her comments to the point that the old greenish mare sounds, well, a bit "fruit-ist." The backstory on Flim and Flam's breakup over a comely librarian mare named Marian removes whatever picogram of a doubt may have remained that these characters were directly based on Professor Harold Hill of The Music Man. The fact that the young Granny found herself at the center of a similar set-to many moons ago seems a bit convenient, but I'm not complaining. Just about every background and foreground pony ever seen in the series, and even a few from the comics, appears here, as if to make up for the plot's comparative lack of substance.
A decent enough effort, but a bit too much on the slight side for my tastes (which encompass both apples AND oranges, if you don't mind, Granny).