The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic gang now stars in its own graphic novel series! (Well, technically, more than one graphic novel series. This is just the first one.) Each volume covers one complete plot arc as Twilight Sparkle and her friends stand up to baddies, defending each other and their world of Equestria using all their unique skills and the power of friendship.
In volume one, enter Queen Chrysalis, ruler of the Changelings. The Changelings can take on the form of any pony and they are capturing the ponies of Equestria one by one, replacing them with copies. When Twilight Sparkle and her friends realize what’s happening, they set off to stop Queen Chrysalis. But the queen has a secret goal, and the ponies might end up playing right into her hooves.
In volume two, nightmare creatures capture the pony Rarity. They want to turn her into a queen who can lead them to conquer Equestria. Twilight Sparkle and her friends rush to the rescue. With them is Equestria’s Princess Luna, who was herself once conquered by the nightmares’ power, threatening all of Equestria as the dark queen Nightmare Moon. Each pony will end up facing her darkest fears, and Princess Luna will have to come to terms with her own nightmarish past.
These graphic novels are a madcap delight. Since different writers and illustrators created them, there is a lot of variation in tone between the two volumes. Volume One is snarkier and jam-packed with pop culture – it has several references to David Bowie and, in particular, to the movie Labyrinth. (You’ll also spot pony versions of the Phantom of the Opera, the creepy priest Mola Ram from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and even the clown from Stephen King’s It. These are all just one-panel cameos, and nothing likely to scare young readers, though some might be left a little confused.)
Volume Two has fewer pop culture references, but you’ll still see a couple if you’re looking. It has more emotional depth than the first volume, as the ponies struggle with their fears and come to realize that Rarity’s insecurities made her a target of the nightmare creatures. That said, it’s still lively and has plenty of humor.
The art is as colorful and fun as the TV show’s, but not quite the same style. The outlines of characters, objects, and scenery are black, rather than the color-coordinated soft outlines used by the show, giving the art a sharper feel. This is especially true of Volume One, which is, for lack of a better term, more line-y than Volume Two; it uses hatching and crosshatching, and isn’t afraid to contort the ponies’ faces and bodies into some pretty crazy expressions and postures. Volume Two still uses black outlines, but the shading is done in a smooth, painted-looking style, and the ponies look softer and more like the ones in the TV show.
The panels are packed with wacky action, but easy to follow. Readers will have fun picking up zany details in the backgrounds, like the activities of other ponies and the decorations of settings. They’ll also enjoy the gallery of pony art by various illustrators at the end of each volume. Visually, my only complaint is that both volumes one and two include extended sections in which everything is so dark – dim lighting and even dark-colored speech bubbles for bad characters – that it can be a little hard to see what is going on.
The intended audience for the books may include a wide range of people. The youngest fans of the show will not be up to reading the text and may have trouble following the action, but kids old enough to be interested in graphic novels will like the humor and action. And as the Bowie references illustrate, there’s plenty here for older readers, too. Each book compiles four volumes of the floppy comic into a plot arc that stands alone.