My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Books 1 and 2

I never would have thought I’d be reading, let alone recommending, a My Little Pony comic. (Thanks, review copies.) I’ve never seen the show, but these stories are fun and entertaining. I occasionally wonder about how horses, with their hooves, manage to do everything we see, but as long as I can suspend my disbelief, I enjoy the character interactions and humor.

The first book (reprinting the first four issues, plus an art gallery) starts with a character rundown, a help to new readers in understanding just who these ponies — magical Twilight Sparkle, fashion designer Rarity, animal-loving Fluttershy, hard-working Applejack, friendly Pinkie Pie, spirited Rainbow Dash — are. The gang that really won me over, though, were the Cutie Mark Crusaders, young ponies (?) who don’t yet have their “cutie marks”, the flank stamps that indicate a horse’s special talent. They’ve formed their own scout-like organization to try out all kinds of occupations and hobbies on their way to determining what makes each of them special.

Queen Chrysalis is the bad guy trying to take over Equestria, this time by turning ponies into possessed zombies, starting with the little Crusaders. The six I mentioned team up to figure out what’s going on and stop it, which involves a journey through scary caves and enemies trying to make them hate each other (but remember, “friendship is magic”).

It’s the way the story is told that makes it fresh, with plenty of jokes, whether puns or visual references or pop culture notes, including David Bowie songs and, surprisingly for a “kids’ book”, The Shining. The cartooning is also great, with plenty of action and expression, easy to follow and share in the adventure.

The part where a giant troll captures the ponies, only so he can brush their manes and put them, dolled up, on his toy shelf, was goofy but amusing. The way they escape, by creating dummies of themselves to distract him, was both imaginative and classically referential. There’s clearly been a lot of effort and attention put into this comic about colorful horses, from Bitey the carnivorous rabbit to the ponies wearing ridiculous costumes of themselves to pony-eating posies.

The second collection starts with the ponies having nightmares. Since they’re not sleeping well, they’re not operating at their best. Pinkie Pie decides to have them all over for a slumber party, hoping the fun will relax them, but Rarity is kidnapped and taken to the Nightmare Dreamscape. The gang will have to face their fears in order to recover their friend and defeat the dark forces as they voyage to the moon with Princess Luna.

This volume is more straightforward, without as many outside references and more obvious messages about caring for each other. Spike, the baby dragon, gets more of a focus as well. I didn’t find it as exceptional. While I’d recommend the first book widely, this one seems more generic, more suited just for fans. (The publisher provided digital review copies.)

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