My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Vol. 1 by Katie Cook and Andy Price – Comic Review [Bellarius]
Responding to demands, Bellarius examines another Hasbro franchise with the first volume of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by Katie Cook and Andy Price.
“I’m really not the right person to review this.” – Bellarius, The Founding Fields
This is going to take some explaining before we begin.
A lot of you are likely wondering just why this is on here. If you have not been reading my personal blog, fans of the cartoon started spamming requests and demands to cover the comic. After I laid out terms if they truly wanted me to review this, these demands turned into threats, insults and the occasional racial slur. After about a year of me having to censor this, someone finally agreed to my terms to review it and handed over a copy of the comic in person. So here we are now.
While my previous attempt to review this comic was effectively a rant which declared the franchise unworthy of being looked at thanks to the sheer fanaticism and psychosis of certain circles of fans, it was admittedly unfair on the comic’s creators. So while I do stand by that sentiment, this is going to be purely analytically and leaving any opinions of the aforementioned fans out of this.
Set at an undisclosed point within the series, the comic sees a strange change sweep through Ponyville. Multiple inhabitants are undergoing sudden shifts in personality, disappearing only to return as blank eyed and unresponsive figures who shun social interaction. As the characters gather, they soon realise this epidemic has spread far further than any would have guessed. With the threat of the entire population being lost hanging over their heads, they must find the source of this change and confront its origin.
Along with dodging the major art issues of the last Hasbro related IDW published franchise we covered, namely a lack of consistency, the comic has a good visual presentation on the whole. Along with being richly coloured and vibrant throughout, something to be praised in an age where publishers seem to be embarrassed to use bright tones, the visual presentation remains excellent at every turn. Surprisingly for the characters, it presents a great expressive range when it comes to their reactions and emphasising upon certain heightened emotions and points.
This is obvious even when it comes to the layouts of the pages, with a bold but effective design showing the literal fracture-point where the group splits up. Rather than taking the easy route of being a generic splash page, the panels are instead set up as if they were a fragmented mirror. It’s a bold method and a surprisingly effective one which does not come across as overblown or hammy despite everything. More surprisingly is the fact that there are extremely few splash pages at all, with usually have a page taken up in total to cover any particular scene of impact. It helps to free up a great deal of space in order to tell its story, and the way each page is presented is charged with obvious enthusiasm on the part of the creators, constantly shifting and changing to unconventional but effective styles. Some of the background work and minor details are specially worthy of note as, while they do often resort to blank coloured backdrops at many points, the style easily shifts between different visual tones.
One other minor thing of note is how the comic keeps the reader up to date. Small sections are presented in the manner of a 1940s fairground film to cover the events of the arc up to that point, ensuring new readers are allowed to keep track of things while recapping them in an entertaining manner. That and the very first page of the comic actually covers who is who with an image and brief blurb, useful for anyone who is not familiar with the comics. These are both good elements, so it’s a damn shame that the comic itself manages to undermine them entirely.
The foremost problem with the comic is that it has obviously been written for fans. There is no introduction at all beyond the initial character page, leaving huge elements of the world unexplained and the reader just expected to catch up. Even if you just shrug and try to piece things together for yourself as the pages go by, the fast pacing keeps throwing so many new things at you it’s hard to really get a grasp of the ideas behind the world.
This would be bad enough in of itself, but the comic also suffers from a severe lack of focus. It follows a few ideas we’ve seen in many comics, the team splitting leaving them separated, an ongoing arc, and an early sequence of seemingly unrelated events building up to a big villainous reveal. However, it moves so quickly and keeps jumping between things, it only ever manages to partially realise any one of these elements. Even by the end, you feel as if you’ve largely missed out on what was going on and lack any connection to the events or characters despite the author’s best efforts.
Oddly enough, it might have actually worked were it not for one thing which runs throughout the book: The references. Barely a page goes by when there is not some big reference being made to some film, comic or piece of media from somewhere. These can range from brief visual gags to mentions, to entire storylines. The opening issues are nothing but one massive lifting of plot elements from Invasion of the Body Snatchers with elements of Shaun of the Dead thrown in. Actually no, it goes even beyond that. The opening page of the issue actually has a character dressed as Indiana Jones purely so it can make a cheap reference to Indiana Jones.
Some people will no doubt argue how this is fine and that other comics do the same. There is one very easy answer to that: This is supposed to be an introduction to the world. It’s supposed to be the opening story, but rather than actually explaining its own tale, it instead just copies and pastes the best parts of others, making it feel extremely shallow. Rather than actually building up its own story, it instead opts to take great moments from other ones as if it’s saying “Hey! Hey! Remember how great these are? you love these right? So you must love this as well!” It’s a non-stop bombardment from beginning to end, and as a result it seriously lacks substance or reason for you to actually care about the comic itself, rather than your love for the things it references. When Family Guy of all things is showing far more restraint in using such shout-outs, or random out-of-the-blue humour for that matter, a comic has failed on a creative level.
The few times the comic does try to push for character moments or progression really feel underwhelming, as if they have been crushed down, and lack any real impact as a result. They don’t need to be complex, sure, but it’s so forced down and brushed over that there seems to be very little substance to their personalities in the comic. The few times it really does begin to push towards anything of meaning, it’s almost instantly destroyed by the comic going out of its way to reference some random bit of pop culture.
While there are good elements, the story is so lacking that this one really isn’t worth picking up. If you are already a fan of the show then you will probably find some enjoyment in this, but on the whole you’d do better to hunt down another comic. It might hold some interest for good artistic choices and good ideas when it comes to visual presentation, but it’s not something which can be recommended for leisure reading or just generally picking it up out of curiosity. Find something else to pass the time.