First Impressions – MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #1

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 (IDW 2012) Lone Star Comics Variant Cover

It’s finally here people. The OTHER comic based on a wildly popular children’s television show (with a large peripheral demographic among its fanbase) that I’ve been waiting months to read. The show that spawned an entire generation of bronies and pegasisters, and one of the best damn shows on television period. It’s MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #1.

And indeed, I did get one of the Lone Star Comics exclusive variant covers. Texas Huzzah!

Brevity being the prudent course, let’s get the basics out of the way. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an animated TV show broadcast on The Hub (Hasbro’s TV channel). It’s a reboot of the My Little Pony franchise started in the eighties, which badly needed said reboot because everything that came immediately before this show was cow chips, even by My Little Pony standards. Really, these videos explain better than I ever could what MLP was and currently is, or at least as of the beginning of season two. The show just started its third season at the time of this post, and the (already great) quality of the animation/voice acting/scripts has only gotten better.

But I’ve promised to minimize gushing, so what’s this show about in brief?

mlp_covers1-6

It’s about…ponies…what were you expecting? Seriously, it’s about a group of six ponies (Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity) who live in Equestria (think Earth, but inhabited by ponies and a million times less terrible on aggregate), and specifically in the town of Poniville. They run around learning about friendship in ways that don’t make you want to claw your eyes out, and be very funny, witty, and well-written while doing so. Oh, and they wield powers tied to aspects of Harmony, and friendship itself is literally magic.

Hence the title. There’s also something about taking orders from their immortal god emperor Celestia, but let’s keep moving.

MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #1 takes place I presume somewhere after season three and possibly in the series continuity. I have to specify this because of how often an adaptation will outright deviate hard from its main universe. Anyway, the town is overrun by the shape-shifting forces of Chrysalis, the Changeling Queen.

Yes fans of the show, the character’s expected comeback occurs in the comic spin-off, Chrysalis not seen since the end of season two.

For those unversed in the MLPFiM show, Queen Chrysalis is exactly what she seems on the tin: a changeling who can shape-shift and feeds on love. She did some stuff, then got booted out of Equestria for a while. Now she’s back, and going all Invasion of the Body Snatchers on Poniville. Her minions capture the citizens and replace them. Quite badly in fact, considering nearly all of them affect the same vacant expression and eerie countenance. So the “mane” six have to stop them.

Despite what I said earlier, these girls (mares?) have a track record of saving their world from supernatural threats. At least two episodes a season is devoted to it, in fact. Why do you think so many guys start watching?

I don’t really want to spoil things, but they win. Durr-hay. Problem is not all the citizens were reclaimed. The…Cutie Mark Crusaders (three young ponies seeking to find their place in life by engaging in a new insane activity each week) were captured by Chrysalis proper, who challenges Twlight and company to retrieve them within three days. And thus we have our beginning story arc.

Did you get all that? No? I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

Artistically MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #1 is certainly not bad. While there’s no way to expect characters being “on-model” because it’s a comic not an animation, they at least have consistency enough to recognize everypony (sorry, everyONE), while also being dynamic. Pretty much all the characters look (and for that matter speak) like they ought, and everything is very vibrant. The book even carries the show’s signature obsession with background ponies. In fact the pages are so packed with detail that I arrive at my only real artistic complaint: clutter. It’s a very packed book. Every panel is filled to capacity, which can be very jarring. The layouts are good in spite of the high density, though at least once a page failed to flow quite right. But when I mentioned dynamic earlier, I meant it. The book uses every opportunity to go beyond the regular limits of character expression, in order to do in comic form what might not have been possible in the show, amazingly enough.

Back to the background ponies, this comic loves them. The thing about the show is that it’s made in Flash, which means doing simple animations in the backgrounds is very easy. So easy that the show can populate its world with characters of many colors and themes, leading to many recurring “background ponies” that the fandom gets to obsess over. MLPFiM #1 not only puts a lot of ponies in the backgrounds of panels, it also gives closer and more numerous attention to characters. Biggest of course being fan favorite Derpy Hooves, who (sort of) gets several panels all to her cross-eyed self. And I don’t think DJ PON3 ever got as much panel/screen time as in the whole show (including a cameo on the Lone Star variant cover).

There I go blathering again. You’d think I liked the show or something.

Before I forget, the issue – like Adventure Time though they’re handled by different publishers (more on that later) – includes a side story by Katie Cook. On the one hand, I’ve accepted these side stories as necessary additions to the main narrative. After all, if the bulk of the issue is devoted to multiple issue spanning storylines, how are younger readers going to see how the characters work in normal life? On the other hand, like with Adventure Time, the side story is easily the weakest part of the issue. Pinkie Pie is modeling a dress for Rarity, resident fashioniesta. Being the equally resident wild card, Pinkie Pie botches things up within the span of two pages. End scene.

So what do I think of MY LITTLE PONY: FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC #1 as a whole? Initially the art style put me off because of how chaotic and heavy it was as compared to the show. But when I got past that, I enjoyed myself enough to want to keep reading. Not to mention it’s damn funny at times, owing a lot to the expressions. It’s a very wordy book, but since we have to not only establish at least a part of the mythos and reintroduce a villain, but also get the ball rolling and still have time for cool action beats, you kind of have to be. Naturally younger readers will have a tough time ahead of them getting through a comic with more text than they’re used to in a straight up book. Then again, we’re always trying to get the kids to read more, right?

I don’t need to tell you fans of My Little Pony should read this. If you’re any self-respecting fan, you’ve already bought and read this book. If not, go now! I’d also recommend it to fans of all-ages comics, which are a segment of the industry I like to see grow. Partly because the all-ages books are some of the only places to find light-hearted fare (especially with superheroes). And partly because this industry needs as many new readers as it can get if it’s going to survive.

But I’ve made that argument before. For everyone else, I recommend sitting in for a weekend to watch the episodes of the show before jumping in here. Special priority goes to the first three or four episodes of every season, and also the last couple. Everything else isn’t necessary to understand the comic, though it does help.

Did I spend far too much time gushing for your liking? Are you a fan of MLP, or have been thinking of becoming one? If you don’t like My Little Pony, by all means why? If you’ve gotten one of the many variant covers, which one did you buy? Did any of you give up reading after the first paragraph? Leave a comment below. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

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