My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is somewhat bamboozling. I'm not entirely sure how to approach it as a comic, so I'll just come clean and let you know this is my first exposure to the MLP world. A massive success across all demographics — not just the one it was initially aimed at — the TV series Friendship is Magic staggered all expectations upon release, proving the catalyst for a gigantic fanbase to suddenly amass and take over the Internet. The show led to conventions, spinoffs and now to this comic, written by Katie Cook and drawn by Andy Price.
On the basis of this first issue, I've now got a reasonable grasp on why the franchise has gripped people so strongly. One thing I am now absolutely certain of, however, is the talent and ability of artist Andy Price, whose layouts are brilliantly conceived and placed together on every page of this book. Each page is filled with details and bouncy background jokes, but the layouts bleed across each other, inset panels stand on top of each other and the gutters are filled with connecting images. And this isn't something that plays out in the actions scenes alone — the conversational scenes are drawn in a visually arresting style which does bring J.H. Williams III to mind. This is crazy stuff, but far more restrained than the kind of layout you'd see in Batwoman.
The coloring and lettering has to match the style of the show whilst differing slightly enough to make the comic its own beast, and from what I can tell it manages to do an excellent job. Robbie Robbins in particular manages to balance a lot of dialogue against Price's art, without covering too much up, nor sacrificing the flow of the story. It's not an easy job, because Cook makes sure that every page is compressed tightly, with lots of dialogue and a joke for every panel.
The story is a riff on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, for the most part, although most noticeable is that Cook is far more interested in playing to character than to a complicated narrative. I finished the story with an idea of who some of these characters were — there's a naïve, charmed one and one with wonky eyes and one with a cowboy hat who doesn't take sass. Considering there seem to be at least thirty ponies in this comic alone, the fact I could start to tell them apart by the end says something about Cook's ability to build a character.
Not having any idea what the series was before didn't help me particularly in this regard, as I had no voice for any of these characters before I picked up the book. I'm sure that fans will be far more able to pick apart the characters who were written out-of-character, or celebrate the voices which Cook absolutely nails. From the viewpoint of a newcomer, I can see where the charm in the series comes from — a distinct range of characters, none of whom seem to take the spotlight from the others. Readers can pick their favorite (I liked the cowboy one) and be safe in the knowledge that the character will get a line or two, or a joke, even if they aren't the focus of a story. There's a range and variety in the gags which move from blunt visual gags (one character gets an anvil dropped on their head) to Internet-pleasing kitten jokes, to puns, to character-based jokes.
I thought it was a decent first issue, which sets the scene and world nicely. While I did feel crowded out by the amount of characters who appear, I get the impression that fans will find a lot to enjoy in the issue. If you're a newcomer looking to see what the fuss is about, you'll get a vague opening taste of what's going on. Most importantly, the book seems to retain the idea of "this is for everyone" which the series championed, meaning those unprecedented, staggeringly ginormous sales for the book will probably continue for the foreseeable future. The book lives up to the hype, and proves that all-ages isn't a bane the comic book industry should shy away from. It's proud of itself, and with good reason.
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet's 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He's on Team X-Men, you guys.