Friday, 7 December 2012

Review: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic issue 1

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic #1: Cover E (Fluttershy)
I got a virtual cookie from Andy Price for working out the book reference!
All right, it's a week or so late, but it's time I posted my review of the launch issue of IDW's My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic book, which we're told will be the first in a four-issue initial arc. As we all know by now, it's been a gigantic sales success... but does it actually deserve all that? The short answer is yes — at least if you're a devoted fan of the series already. If you're not, the answer might be just a little more nuanced... but if you're reading this blog, you're probably firmly in the "fan" category anyway.

I know not all of you will yet have read the comic, not least thanks to the failure of IDW to meet the vast demand for the first printing, so I'll put all the detailed, spoilery stuff after a jump. Some good words go to Nostalgia & Comics in Birmingham, where a friend and I went on launch day (28 November) to pick up our copies. (They cost £3.15, since you ask.) As you would expect, I plumped for the version with the Best Pony cover, which you can see up above. Right then: review after the jump!

The cover art is wonderful, as it is for the other Mane Six covers. Andy Price did a fantastic job with these, and they were a big influence in getting me excited for this comic in the first place. Their appearance was an early sign that this wasn't just going to be a quick cash-in. I haven't bothered with any of the variant covers, of which there are about a billion, since I'm not really a collector; I want this comic to read. That said, Midtown Comics' Derpy cover would have been tempting had they not charged ridiculous international postage fees. Come on, guys, $50 is just silly.

Extract from page 5 of MLP:FiM comic #1
Applejack spends a good deal of this issue in a rage
Price is also responsible for the hand-drawn interior art, which again is of a very high standard indeed. He's used a style that is very strongly influenced by that of the show itself, but which uses the flexibility given by print to give the ponies stronger, sharper expressions. The black outlines, as opposed to the coloured ones of the cartoon, also contribute to this. Everypony looks right; with the exception of Rainbow Dash temporarily mislaying her wings once or twice, Price doesn't put a foot wrong. Heather Breckel adds digital colouring that's suitably bright and bold; not all comics have to be gloomy! Finally, Robbie Robbins does a great job with some inventive lettering.

Writing duties are handled by Katie Cook, who is better known as an illustrator but who, on this evidence, should be in considerable demand as a writer too. The story — summed up by the arc's title, "The Return of Queen Chrysalis" — may not be utterly original, but that doesn't matter at all. It's action-packed, it's funny, it's well-paced and — most importantly of all — it feels as though we're reading a real story about "our" little ponies. The only slight criticism I'd make is that things get just a little bit wordy towards the end. I don't mind that much, but some younger readers especially might find it off-putting.

When it comes to characterisation, things are spot on, to the extent that Rainbow Dash aggravated me once or twice in just the way she does in some of season 2 of the show. When a pony speaks, you can hear her voice; that's how it should be — at least if you're a fan; you may initially be slightly confused if you're coming in entirely cold. Still, there's always the humour, of which there is bucketloads. Most fans will be thrilled that Derpy gets a scene to herself, but everywhere you look there's something to make you smile (smile, smile). References also abound, though thankfully they don't get in the way of the story.

Extract from Katie Cook's backup story in MLP:FiM comic #1
You underestimate yourself, Pinkie...
As for extras, there's a two-page backup story both written and illustrated by Cook: it's gentle and amusing, so does its job. The cute way Cook draws the ponies is perfect for this, though I'm not sure it would have been for the main epic adventure. The "IDWords" column is frankly rather uninteresting, especially as the first chunk of it is devoted to telling us about the launch of, er, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic! Oh, and there's a little covers gallery on the inside covers, but with so many variants they all look tiny. The trade paperback next year should help in that department.

VERDICT: Issue #1 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic really is the comic I'd hoped it would be, and a bit more besides. Considering the stratospheric levels of expectation attached to it, that's an impressive achievement. It has a couple of small flaws, but I've read it through several times now and still want to go back for more. I've pre-ordered issue #2, and I urge you to do the same. Maybe 8/10 or so if you're a complete newcomer to FiM, but this is a fan review — and for that group the comic scores 9.5/10.

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