The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic gang is back in comic format! Yes, they have a graphic novel series already, but Pony Tales is different: instead of one overarching plot in each book, it packs a collection of six short stories, one starring each of the main ponies from the TV show.
Each tale does a great job highlighting the character it follows. Studious Twilight Sparkle makes a discovery while working in a library. Competitive Rainbow Dash shows off her skills and defeats happiness-stealing gremlins. Glamorous Rarity helps upgrade the image of a struggling skin- and hair-care company. Shy Fluttershy learns to maintain her self-esteem and focus on the positive when meanies criticize her artwork. Goofy Pinkie Pie convinces her favorite clown not to give up on comedy. Hard-working Applejack realizes that she sometimes has to let other ponies help her out with a tough job.
The tone of each story varies with the subject matter – Rainbow Dash’s tale, for instance, is action-packed, complete with news anchors speculating on her success against the gremlins, while Rarity’s story is full of gags that contrast her sophistication with the conditions at Flax & Wheat’s New Age All-Natural Wellness Center. All share a certain level of silliness, and it’s no spoiler to say that all have happy endings.
Since the tales have different illustrators, it’s no surprise that the art varies from story to story. Some feature the soft outlines that are used in the show, with the characters’ outlines drawn in different, coordinating colors; others use hard black outlines. They include visual interludes that go along with the stories’ themes, like the seventies-themed lettering and stylistic touches in “How Rarity Got Her Groovy Back” – oddly, the only story to have a title – and Applejack’s Hearth’s Warming Eve holiday montage, complete with song lyrics and vaguely reminiscent of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. Each story is sandwiched between pieces of pin-up art of that story’s character, drawn by different artists in different styles. All of the art has a colorful, bouncy cartoon look that works well for the My Little Pony characters and setting, and the book holds together well.
This volume makes a lot of pony-themed cultural references. I wouldn’t call all of them “pop” culture, exactly, and am not sure how many young readers will understand — Ponyacci the clown, for example, or Twilight Sparkle’s favorite book, Canter in the Sky (written by the mysterious and reclusive pony Jade Singer). The hippie-caricature ponies Flax and Wheat from “How Rarity Got Her Groovy Back” are pretty funny regardless of how well readers understand what they’re based on. All the references will be fun for the readers who do pick up on them, and missing them shouldn’t affect other readers’ experience too much. As with the other My Little Pony graphic novels, this will be most successful with readers a little older than some fans of the TV show – readers need to be able to follow the panels visually and deal with a fair amount of text. If they can manage that, My Little Pony fans will enjoy these wacky, upbeat stories.
My Little Pony, vol. 1: Pony Tales
by Thomas Zahler, Ryan K. Lindsay, Katie Cook, Barbara Randall Kesel, Ted Anderson, and Bobby Curnow
Art by Tony Fleecs, Andy Price, Ben Bates, Brenda Hickey, Amy Mebberson, and Sabrina Alberghetti