The first issue of a comic book based on an animated series is not normally cause for excitement. My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is no regular animated series, and its comic book companion is much more than a throwaway cartoon tie-in.
It's incredibly easy to make a lazy cartoon-based comic book. Recycle some plot lines, drop in some art that looks like stills from the source material, drop in some word bubbles and wrap it up in a cover that catches the eye of the target audience — kids.
That would not have worked with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, largely due to the fact that a large portion of its audience — certainly the portion with the most disposable income — is adult men and women. Older fans might have flocked to a sub-par series for novelty's sake, perhaps kept up with the first few issues, but to truly capture our hearts a comic book has to do what Lauren Faust and company have been doing for more than two seasons of the animated series — cater to us.
I'm not just talking about dropping in fan-favourite characters like Derpy, DJ Pon-3 and Doctor Who homage Time Turner (though their appearances certainly help). I'm talking about art that captures the spirit of the show in an entirely new way; writing that's kid-friendly with the requisite winks. We want to be taken seriously as fans.
IDW has taken us very seriously.
If you've had doubts over a static image's ability to convey motion and life over a half-hour animated program, Andy Price's artwork will put them to rest. His deft, often whimsical lines communicate more in a single panel than a thousand frames. His versions of the beloved Rainbow Dash, Twilight Sparkle, Applejack, Rarity, Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy are more expressive and dynamic than their television counterparts, aided by black outlines that contrast strikingly with the show's coloured ones.
Price breathes new life into Ponyville and its denizens on every page, and it's quite obvious he's having a hell of a time doing so.
The energetic imagery couples well with the words of writer Katie Cook, who's quite the artist herself. I've been aware of Cook for several years now, my wife being a huge fan of her work. When I discovered she was handling writing duties on Friendship is Magic I was ecstatic, and not just because it helped me justify buying multiple copies to my spouse. Over the past few years I've seen many examples of Cook capturing the essence of existing characters in her drawings; I was excited to see if that talent carried over to her writing.
It definitely does. She voices the characters as sincerely as any handful of voice actresses packing scripts. She nails their personalities, right down to the cadence (not that Cadence) of their speech. It's almost too perfect, matching the tone and pacing of the animated series almost to a fault. I knew when the jokes were coming, I sussed how the plot would unfold only a few pages in. Perhaps I've just steeped myself in the subject matter a wee bit too much.
As for the story proper, it's off to a good start. A dangerous enemy from the second season of the television show sets her sights on Ponyville, and the Mane Six are the only ponies left standing. One would think the first thing any returning enemy would do would be to take out the heroes that foiled her evil plans previously, but if there's one thing comic books have taught me, it's that villains are incredibly stupid — even the smart ones. Besides, it's not like she can hire snipers.
Stay with me here, the My Little Sniper fanfic can wait.
There are battles fought. There are jokes flung. Pinkie Pie finds herself in a situation that strangely echoes a recent episode of the series. Rarity gets angry about fashion. Derpy... well, you'll see.
"No I won't!" some of you exclaim, slamming your fist angrily upon your desk. That's fine. IDW would love for you to pick up the book I'm sure, but with more than 100,000 preorders (one for every cover variant!) they won't be losing any sleep if you pass. The Bronies and Pegasisters got this.