I have never seen an episode of the latest cult hit television show, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. Then again, I don’t watch much television in general. This new tie-in series has pulled in numbers normally only seen with big two books, a testament to the show’s popularity. Is this first issue deserving of that honor, though?
Written by Katie Cook
Illustrated by Andy Price
Welcome to Ponyville, home of Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Rarity, Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie, Applejack, and all your other favorite Ponies! Something’s not right in the town though, as some of the inhabitants are acting very, very strange! It’s up to the Mane Six to find the source of the weirdness before it’s too late!
One of the most notable qualities of this comic is just how much fun writer Katie Cook is having with it. The dialogue has a light and playful quality to it that is just as enjoyable to read as it seems like it was to write. Having fun isn’t enough, though, and Cook recognizes this; her humor is clever and varied, relying less on the cheap laughs of pop-culture references — there are a few, but their sparseness makes them more effective — and more on the idiosyncrasies of personal communication, making us laugh because… well, because we sound ridiculous. Sure, the various characters are vocally distinguished primarily through caricatured dialogue, but this is an all-ages series. The characters so far may not be the most subtle — it’s hard to be subtle when you’re a fluorescent talking pony — but neither are they, god forgive me, one-trick ponies. Even readers such as myself, completely alien to the series, can see that there is a roundness in character to Twilight, Applejack, and the others — except maybe Pinkie, but I could be wrong — and that’s because of Cook’s careful attention to her dialogue.
This issue sets up an ongoing arc, but it does so by using a plotting technique that you surprisingly don’t see too often in our era of “writing for trade.” Cook has had the sense to write an issues that both kicks things off, so to speak, and reads as a one-and-done story at the same time. With today’s emphasis on decompressed storytelling, it can be frustrating to blaze through a comic that only takes, say, three minutes to read, leaving it unsure of whether you like it or not. In this day and age, readers sometimes get six or more issues into a series before deciding whether or not they like a comic, simply because they aren’t offered enough to go by in the first one, two, or more. Cook knows the importance of writing “for the issue” — even if she has a long-term goal in mind, she understands that those who buy this new series issue-by-issue are looking for a whole product, not a story that is essentially put on layaway. The alloted pages of “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” are used to their fullest, telling a full, unrushed story while setting up things to come, even leaving enough room for a two-page backup.
A common problem with comic adaptations of animated properties is that the artist will sometimes struggle too hard to make every panel look like a frame from the show and/or film — or, in some sad cases, they actually trace or even copy/past from a still. The problem with this approach, though, is that comics and animation follow different rules when it comes to conveying motion. Andy Price, by contrast, has clearly allowed the source material for this comic to inform his style, but he does not allow this influence to remove him from the realm of sequential storytelling. We ofen see figures in his comic art that might not be able to move with grace in an animated format, but “move” with energy on the comic page. Price’s job may entail hitting a certain stylistic spot, but he is a comic illustrator first and foremost, never sacrificing supposed “visual integrity” for solid panel-to-panel motion. Even then, to my — admittedly untrained — eye, Price knows what stylistic elements are required to make his art unmistakably reflect the world of Equestria. The colors in this book are a bit intense, nearly blinding my noir-adjusted eyes, but that isn’t at all meant to be a bad mark against colorist Heather Breckel; her use of shading and gradient avoids over-rendering the line work and reveal a careful eye. The boldness is just another example of faithfulness to the source material — hardly a fault.
The comic adaptation of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic may not be your thing — heck, it isn’t my thing — but that’s really the only strong complaint one can levy against it. Katie Cook and Andy Price have made a fun all-ages book that is generally well put-together: it looks nice, it reads smoothly, and it has more than a couple of clever moments in both the writing and the art. Even if you aren’t a full-fledged brony, you’re doing your medium of choice a disservice if you don’t point any friends or relatives who are already fans of the show toward this new comic.
Final Verdict: 8.0 – Just because it isn’t something I would otherwise read doesn’t mean it isn’t good.