April 26, 2016

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All-Ages or Small-Ages #4 (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic by Katie Cook, Andy Price and Heather Breckel)


There are a wide array of all-ages comics out there from the classic Archie comics, through the  Sonic the Hedgehog and Disney, all the way to the original properties such as Lumberjanes. You might look at one of these books and think that, as an adult, it doesn’t have much to offer you. As someone who has discovered a deep fondness for titles such as this, I’ve been surprised by how rich and complex the stories can be. All-Ages or Small-Ages? is a feature that takes a look at the books that fall under this banner and attempts to analyse whether or not their assigned label is apt; is it a book that you can read along with your children?

My Little Pony is a franchise that has gathered quite a reputation in most online communities. You hear that consuming it as an adult is a sign of mental immaturity, but you also hear that it contains a bunch of surprisingly astute cultural references. A Comixology sale on all-ages comics last month included the first volume of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and I decided that it was time I took the plunge into the world of luminescent colours. This first volume contains four issues that connect together to make a continuous arc: the troupe of ponies head on an adventure through the deep forest, into the dark and doom-filled valley, to rescue a few of the younger members of their herd from the villainous Queen Chrysalis.


While that plot may sound relatively straightforward and mundane, it grows into so much more than that. This is one of the most relentlessly insane series that I think I’ve ever read. Once the main plot gets going at the end of the first issue, it’s a non-stop express train right into the heart of madness. If you try to resist it, it’ll grate on you so quickly; it’s best to turn into the skid and just enjoy it. If the TV series is at all similar, this is the core quality that will make you decide if this is something for you. Katie Cook does not hold back with the speed and quantity of her jokes and it makes the book unrepentant in its silliness and attempts to make you laugh.

During the introductory chapter, the exposition needed to set up the world for people unfamiliar with it creates a very dry beginning. Each member of the cast has a brief moment where their name is revealed and they demonstrate their abilities or defining characteristics; it draws direct parallels to those classic Danger Room openings to Claremont’s X-Men. When the story eventually gets going, it’s not the most complex of plots, but, honestly, it’s not trying to be. There’s an inherent innocence to this franchise, making it follow cartoon logic in the most expected way; there’s never any doubt that all of the characters are going to be alright in the end.

There’s such a large cast of core characters that there’s guaranteed to be one that you latch onto. As much as I can’t believe I’m about to write this sentence, Pinkie Pie is definitely my favourite of the bunch. She epitomises the enthusiasm and unrivaled ability to make leaps in logic that makes this series what it is. There’s a definite element of repetition in the humour that Cook relies on; once you’ve seen a character’s shtick, that’s what it’s always going to be and you have to put up with it. That’s not a component of Cook’s writing but of the franchise itself. There’s never any true change in children’s cartoons and that’s part of what makes them work so well.


When you look at a piece of My Little Pony art, there’s no doubt as to what you’re looking at. Andy Price has captured the essence of what the franchise has always looked like and is definitively working within that house style. He maintains a level of animation in the faces of each cast member that makes you forget for a second that you’re looking at a static image. His use of layouts plays up those quick zooms and cuts that you get in television cartoons, mirroring the continuous push of more madness and more quirkiness in the dialogue. There isn’t really anything about the art that could possibly turn you off; if you don’t appreciate the style of the story, then the art isn’t going to do anything to assuage you.

It would be impossible to talk about this franchise without mentioning its vibrant colours provided by the talented Heather Breckel. Beyond the unquestionable dollop of deep pink on the opening pages, I appreciate that each pony is given their own unique colour theme. While I understand that this has not been created specifically for this series, it allows the reader to easily identify each member of the cast from a distance, even if you don’t actually know their name. One component that worked really well at elevating the depth of the series was the colouring of the backgrounds; they added a certain sense of movement to the closer zooms that kept the blank backdrops from feeling superfluous to the overall story.


A lot of media that has been created for a younger audience often finds a viewership in an older section of the populace. Although I don’t need my narratives to be hard-hitting and consequential, it’s far easier to appreciate something that approaches storytelling in a new and creative way. However, this is something that this volume of My Little Pony lacks. This might be a statement that you look at with blatant disregard that it was ever in doubt, but it’s difficult to truly judge something until you’ve read it for yourself. A series that is as fundamentally weird as this one loses that ability to become something more substantial; that’s not an inherently bad characteristic, but it stops this series from growing.

There’s a strong chance that you’re going to read through this series and think that it falls into the category of throwing a bunch of random things at the reader and hoping something sticks. Honestly, you wouldn’t be too far from the mark. Humour is a very subjective thing and there’s a really high chance that this kind of thing isn’t going to work for you. If you’re looking for something to read through incredulously that doesn’t take itself too seriously, this is unquestionably the book for you. However, if you need some substance in your fiction, then that is honestly something that this hasn’t really got much of. Personally, I found this to be a volume that was charming and humourous in spades, but isn’t really something that I’m going to want to read again. Your mileage may vary, but this is something that only young fans are going to appreciate at the level that it was intended.

Let me know if there's a comic that you think I should be checking out. I'm always on the look-out for some more hidden All-Ages gold. Contact me at mark@thegreengorcrow.com or head over to thegreengorcrow.com for a daily dose of comic reviews, interviews and more!