After months of anticipation the first issue is finally here. Does it live up to the hype? The answer is just a click away.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1
Writer: Katie Cook
Artist: Andy Price
Colorist: Heather Breckel
Letters: Robbie Robbins
Editor: Bobby Curnow
(All Standard edition covers are by Andy Price)
After 28 years, My Little Pony has finally made its’ way to the Graphic Storytelling medium, but can it live up to its' pedigree, or does it get crushed under the weight of expectations?
When one takes a look at the history of the Graphic-Storytelling Medium, they soon find out that the licensed comic is very much a part of the story. In fact, it’s so much a part of the framework that the birth of this type of comic can be traced back to 1933 debut of Mickey Mouse and his Friends a full year before the birth National Allied Publications, the company that would eventually evolve into DC Entertainment. As for the modern licensed comic, the 1970 release of Marvel Comics version of Conan the Barbarian is generally accepted as the genesis point, as its’ critical and financial success would eventually open the floodgates. By the time Conan the Barbarian’s #275th and final issue, not only would virtually every kids’ property of the time see the 4-color treatment, but even Disney would publish through its own short-lived imprint. Unfortunately, the crash of that decade would also claim licensed comics as a victim, slowing what was once a floodgate down to a trickle.
Today, licensed comics are once again a significant part of the Industry, using their pull to attract interested audiences. However, the biggest difference from the past is the fact that it’s no longer virtually guaranteed for a youth-targeted (or any) property to get a comic of itself. For that to happen, the property must be popular enough for a publisher to see a return on the investment expended to make it worthwhile, something that has finally given the 28-year old My Little Pony franchise its’ first ever comic. With months of speculation and a number of sales records broken, the only question that remains is whether IDW’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 can deliver on the hype and expectations fostered upon this surprise winner? The answer is just below you.
Despite being more than 2 years old, one of the most asked questions about this generation of My Little Pony still remains “How did this show get so popular outside of its target audience?” The answers to this question are numerous, but from a personal standpoint, the aspect that drew me and a multitude of is the master level craftsmanship of the entire mythos. From the animation, to the world building, to the music and the lore, there is a lot to sink one’s teeth into. Beyond those aspects, the biggest draw has to do with the overall writing. From the stories to the characterization, Friendship is Magic is deeper than most any other show for little girls ever created with its’ Highest Highs is on par with some of the best Television has to offer. With such a high-water benchmark to follow, Katie Cook had quite the task to create a story that’s up to par with its’ pedigree. Fortunately, she’s more than able to handle the task at hand.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 begins with the Cutie Mark Crusaders on yet another quest to get their cutie marks. Unfortunately, said adventure comes to an end in a manner those three never expected, setting the table for the rest of the story at hand. Sporting the title “The Return of Queen Chrysalis”, Issue #1 introduces its’ readers to both the threat of the Changelings and the world this story resides in and does in quite the spectacular fashion
From both writing and storytelling standpoint there are many things to adore about this piece of work, but the first and foremost among them is the pacing. From start to finish, the creative team puts together a story that flows in such a way that the reader is never left with what seems like empty or unimportant space. Whether it is the introduction and display of why the Villains are a threat, to the unveiling of the world the story takes place, the pacing allows everyone to take in the rich world this comic has been tasked to expand. Without such a great fundamental foundation, nothing else in this story would come off as well as it does with it, and that includes the writing.
Speaking of the writing, said foundation established by the pacing helps the script flow beautifully in almost every word written. For starters, Ms. Cook shows an almost masterful understanding of every character she’s being tasked to write, and is able to use that attribute to not only give established fans a sense of comfort in her understanding, but to introduce the unfamiliar to a world that has drawn many to explore its’ wonders. Beyond hitting the write character notes, the writer also creates a full writing packing with both near-flawless flowing exposition and dialogue that engages the reader in many different ways. From the comedic, to the dramatic, to the action oriented the writing is up there with the best of the TV show and will reward those who both read it once or enough for the bounding to become endangered, establishing Katie Cook as one of the writers to watch out for as 2013 begins.
Despite my praise for the writing, I’m not ashamed to admit that I was a little bit skeptical about how it was going to unfold due to fact that I had never sampled the work of said writer. As far as the art goes, however I had much less doubt as to how the art was going to unfold. Even when the first pieces were leaked during the later summer, it became very apparent that this comic was going to be special artistically. However, there was no possible preview that could’ve prepared for what I experienced.
Over the past couple of years, one of the lessons I’ve learned about comics is how important of a role art plays in the overall construction of the work, and how badly done art can mar even the best of scripts. In the same breath, amazing art can lift scripts that would be lucky to be considered average on their own and in the case of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, it helps to take Katie’s script to another level. Being led by the pencils of Price, this issue contains some of the best art you’ll see in a comic this year. The expansive page shots are a sight to behold as the detail given to each aspect of those pages from the windows to the Ponies themselves will leave you awe-struck at how beautiful. Speaking of detail, there is nothing spared from the smaller details, as the main characters are beautifully drawn in their expressions where the situation warrants it. From Applejack’s Determination, to Rainbow Dash swagger, to Rarity’s dramatics, to Twilight Sparkle’s exasperation at Pinkie Pie’s insanity, the drawings are simply a treasure trove of riches that are made even richer by the other artistic aspects.
When it comes to the colors, this comic should be a master class on how you use them correctly. In the show, the world of Equestria is mostly a bright one, as even the darker aspects are bought to life with a splash of color that some animated series would find too light for its’ own villains.’ With what seems like an exercise of greater expressive freedom that what is granted on the show, Heather Breckel uses the colors to recreate the expected world of Equestria in a print form. However, there is also just a little bit more of those darker tones coming into play as the colors play a huge part in establishing the moods of certain scenes, bringing out the viciousness of the Changelings and their Queen, adding a direction that usually doesn’t get seen in this manner in this world, and it fits perfectly. Finally, props need to go to Robbie Robbins for their work on the letters. The dialogue bubbles are top notch, the sound effects come to life and the font used for the opening logo of the comic is simply to die for. When all is said and done, everyone on the art team is at their best and they deserve a bow.
The $128,000 question and the Final 22 Cents
As the weeks counted down to release, I had to mentally prepare myself to leave my fandom at the door, and not only judge this book critically, but truly ask the vitally important question of whether this comic will be truly accessible to the curious who aren’t already fans? Make no mistake, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 contains a lot of Easter eggs for those who are already fans of the show. From the appearances of memorable background Ponies (there’s a scene with Derpy that’s simply hilarious), to the inserts of Pony versions of the Blues Brothers and the writer herself, the material that you need to be a fan to fully appreciate rears its’ head. With that being said, the material is even better because it doesn’t get it in the way of the story.
At all times, Katie Cook and the rest of the Creative team realize that this could be someone’s first introduction to this world and they do everything they have to do to make sure everyone gets both enjoyment and the world the story is taking place. With 3 reads behind me, I can safely say that there is nothing in this comic that creates Even the exposition that references past events is done in a way that you can understand what makes the characters tick, and it all adds up to an experience that’s inviting to all.
Make no bones about it, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 is among the strongest 22 pages of graphic storytelling all year. With some of the best all-around work done on a “Major Press” All Ages comic in quite some time, there is bound to be something for almost to enjoy about this comic. Should this first issue be any indication, friendship will most certainly be magic in 2013 and beyond.
The Bottom Line
Writing/Story ****3/4: With an engaging plot, great story and overall strong writing. Katie Cook hits the ground running in her comic book writing career.
Art *****: Drawings, Colors, Lettering, Expressions and Story Flow. Name any aspect of the art you want, there isn’t a discernable flaw that takes away from the art team’s achievement.
Accessibility *****: It would’ve been easy for this book to be just for the Bronies, but it transcends over that bar to become a comic that’s for… well… everyone, something we need a lot more of these days.
Final Judgment: ****3/4 (Exemplary)