Ponies Divided and a Queen Delighted: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #3 Review

The Mane Six are split up as they continue their rescue mission.

The Mane Six are split up as they continue their rescue mission.

Comic Written by Katie Cook,  Art by Andy Price, Heather Breckel, Letter by Neil Uyetake, and Edited by Bobby Curnow

It’s hard to describe how much I love this series without sounding like a broken record.  The writing is great, the art is spectacular, and it matches the charm and fun of the animated series it’s based on while still feeling new and original.  After only three issues, it’s become my favorite comic book series in a long while, and I can’t tell you how delighted I feel with every new issue that arrives in the mail.

In this issue, Queen Chrysalis reminisces about her defeat from “A Canterlot Wedding” and her plot to get revenge on the pony who brought about her downfall, Twilight Sparkle.  Chrysalis, along with her loyal minions and Cutie Mark Crusader prisoners, continues to spy on Twilight and company, who have since split into three separate groups to get to the Changeling Kingdom.

Katie Cook has her deck full on the character side in this issue, having to juggle the pairing of Twilight and Fluttershy, Applejack and Rarity, Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie, as well as Spike, Queen Chrysalis, The Cutie Mark Crusaders, and a few others.  Luckily, not only is she able to give each pony their due time on the page, she makes it look easy.  The dynamics between the ponies is spot on, with Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie bringing the most laughs (and yes, I laughed while reading this issue.)  The separation of the ponies allows each group to discuss their current situation while at the same time reflect on what’s happened already.  Cook does a good job of keeping these moments entertaining as well as fleshing out the characters in the quiet, and not so quiet moments.

Cook knocks it out of the park, however, with the interaction between Chrysalis and the Cutie Mark Crusaders.  Applebloom, Sweetie Bell, and Scootaloo get more screen time here than in previous issues, and it’s just funny to see them bounce off the charismatic Queen Chrysalis.  The trio’s random thoughts about past adventures combined with their heartfelt defense of their would-be rescuers helps round them out nicely.  Chrysalis once again steals the show with her indelible charm and venomous remarks towards Twilight and her friends, and makes her one of the most entertaining, and likable, villains I can recall from a comic.

Once again, Andy Price and company bring great artwork to every panel on the page.  His expressions really let’s us know what characters are thinking or how they’re feeling without any dialogue necessary.  Seeing some of the reactions is part of the fun as you really have to look at the characters to make sense of some scenes, like when one of the Crusaders tells a bad joke while the other Crusaders look at her, almost disgusted.  Not only that, the amount of visual variety and colorful environments really give a pleasant atmosphere to the issue.  While this issue is full of happy and funny moments, there are some really dark and eerie moments to go along with them.  There’s one panel of an angry and carnivorous Queen Chrysalis that looks so cool, and is unlike any other image of her in the entire issue, it just has to be seen to be believed.

Once again, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is a comic book series well worth the time of any fan of the animated series or all ages comic book adventures.  It really is a great book, and one I look forward to each and every month.  I hope you check it out; if you’re in the market for some good old-fashioned fun in Equestria, you won’t be disappointed!

Review by Andrew Mathieu

Friendship in Peril! My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #2 Review

The Mane 6 against... each other?!

The Mane 6 against… each other?!

Story and Art: Katie Cook (writer), Andy Price (art), Heather Breckel (colors), Robbie Robbins (letters), and Bobby Crunow (editor).

After a month hiatus, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic returns for issue two.  Twilight Sparkle and her friends begin their journey to rescue the Cutey Mark Crusaders from the lair of Queen Chrysalis.  Meanwhile, the Queen herself does her best to drive a wedge between ponies, while also contending with constant chatter of the Crusaders.

Katie Cook has the distant voice and personality of everypony down pat.  Each pony gets more attention than last issue, as their adventure begins in earnest.  The dialogue flows naturally between characters, like a scene early on with Twilight giving directions, Rainbow Dash huffing not being able to fly over a mountain, Applejack keeping her focused, and Pinkie Pie being excited about their quest.

I’d like to point out that the are very few caption boxes in the entire issue, with the dialogue driving the story forward.  The banter of the ponies, coupled with the on looking Chrysalis keeps the pacing of the issue quick and smooth.  I didn’t have and trouble reading this comic from cover to cover twice, and there wasn’t a dull moment to be had.

As good as the writing is, the artwork absolutely steals the show.  The character look as they do in the animated series, but rather than emulate the art from the series, Andy Price adds to it with expressive characters, a more cartoony style in some places, and a dark and brooding style in others.  One particular panel with Queen Chrysalis makes her look more menacing and vengeful than she ever did in the cartoon.

Colorist Heather Breckel uses a bright palette so every panel stands out.  I can’t remember a comic with more color that this, but it’s very clean and never feels clutter. Last but not least, letters by Robbie Robbins has some nice effects throughout, especially a scene in which the ponies are surprised by a tremor which the word “RUMBLE” features the visage of each ponies, each with their own reaction.  This is a gorgeous comic book.

Not only that, but the writing and artwork complement each other perfectly.  Something I didn’t elaborate on in my review of issue one are the visual gags and easter eggs scattered throughout the issue.  This issue goes further with references that range from Transformers to Spider-Man to Looney Tunes and a few that I didn’t get, but I noticed them.  These little visual gags and homages are cool to spot, and make multiple reads of the comic that much more enjoyable.

I can’t stop singing the praises of this comic.  It’s funny and suspenseful, the artwork is gorgeous, the characters are delightful, the ending leaves the ponies in a very different place from the start, and the entire issue reads like a stand alone adventure, despite being part two of a four-part story.  Fans of the animated series owe it to themselves to pick up a copy.  Everyone else will find an enjoyable all ages story from an awesome creative team that deserves to be read.  I can’t wait to read more!

Verdict:

Story:  Five out of Five

Art: Five out of Five

Overall: Five out of Five

Review by Andrew Mathieu

From TV Series to Ongoing Comic: My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 Review

A comic book for everypony!

A comic book for everypony!

By Andrew Mathieu

If you follow my Cartoons and Cartoons blog, it will come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic animated series.  With lovable characters, awesome animation, and heartfelt stories for all ages, Friendship is Magic has become one my favorite cartoons of the last few years.  IDW Publishing has the honor of launching the very first My Little Pony ongoing comic series, from writer Katie Cook and artist Andy Price.  I’m happy to report that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 captures the spirit of its animated source material while adding its own bit of magic!

The story begins with the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Apple Bloom, Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, trying to gain their Cutie Marks in Zoology.  The trio find themselves in a dangerous situation, and it’s up to the “Mane 6”, Twilight Sparkle, Fluttershy, Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie and Rarity, to help them out.  As if that weren’t enough, the inhabitants of Ponyville have been invaded by the Changlings, creatures capable of taking on anypony’s form.  At the center of all this is Queen Chrysalis, fresh from her defeat from “A Canterlot Wedding,” making a startling return.

I very much enjoyed this first issue.  The art style uses exaggerated expressions for the characters and bold colors throughout the issue.  Katie Cooks absolutely nails the dialogue between the various ponies.  With only a few exceptions (Applejack and Rainbow Dash sound odd in some places), everypony sounds like they do in the cartoon.  Twilight is reasonable and forward thinking, Pinkie Pie and hilarious and over the top, and the Cutie Mark Crusaders are boastful and persistent.  The entire issue is full of visual references from the series, with multiple character cameos, and visual cues that callback previous episodes.

The thing I love about this comic the most is how seamlessly it fits in with the series it’s based on.  I know this will only be apparent to those who watch the show, but the story captures the spirit of adventure, comedy, and fun so well.  Using Queen Chrysalis as the main villain was a bold move considering her character debut was only a few months ago.  I loved her evil nature in “A Canterlot Wedding,” and she is by far the best villain from the series to date.  Getting to see her here for the first storyline of this series is a great bonus to an already great comic.  A shout out to Andy Price and colorist Heather Breckel on Chrysalis in her debut panel, with a great use of shadows that make her look extra eerie!

This comic is off to a great start.  Despite a few some dialogue hiccups, the beautiful artwork, great characters and compelling story makes this one of the best new series I’ve read all year.  With a solid first issue that nicely complements its animated source material, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #1 is an great comic for all ages.

Story: 5 out of 5

Art: 5 out of 5

Overall: 5 out of 5

Marvel NOW! Preview: Uncanny Avengers

Marvel announced the October launching initiative Marvel NOW!  Similar to last year’s New 52 from DC Comics, MN! plans to release new ongoing series and new jumping on points to many of its beloved franchises. Unlike the New 52, continuity will not be removed and the titles (about 20 or so) will be released on a weekly basis for four to five months, rather than just a single month.  DC kicked off the New 52 with its flagship title Justice League by the dream team of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.  With Marvel NOW!, in the wake of the ongoing Avengers vs. X-Men event, Marvel combines the two franchises for the first time in the new series Uncanny Avengers.

UA has one of the most unusual and potentially awesome creative teams I’ve seen in a while.  The series will be written by Rick Remender, current writer of Secret Avengers and the critically acclaimed Uncanny X-Force.  With a team comprised equally of Avengers and X-Men, Remender seems to be a great pick to lead this series towards it’s October release.  Remender is joined by superstar artist John Cassaday, who worked with Avengers movie director Joss Whedon on Astonishing X-Men.  Remender and Cassaday also worked to redesign costumes for the key characters including Havok and Captain America.

The premise of the first arc (which is being kept mostly under wraps) involves the return of the Red Skull, or at least his mind.  His brain is preserved from WWII and put into a new body, which leads him on a new conquest: the death of all mutants.  Meanwhile, Captain America is trying to put together a team of Avengers that will better help end conflict between humans and mutants.  Though it isn’t revealed how the team comes together, the Uncanny Avengers will be composed of Captain America, Wolverine, the Scarlet Witch, Rogue, Thor, and team leader Havok.

Since this takes place after the massive war between the Avengers and X-Men, tensions are still running high between both teams.  Remender has commented on Thor not wanting Rogue to be a part of this unit, given her past as a villain (she’s fought the Avengers on more than one occasion).  Remender has also commented on Captain America feeling as though the Avengers haven’t done enough to help mutants through their hard times.  One member, Wolverine, will be greatly changed from the events of AVX (and the ongoing Uncanny X-Force storyline “Final Execution”) that will lead directly to the start of Uncanny Avengers.  How Havok, younger and lesser known to his older brother Cyclops, fits into the leadership role of this team remains a mystery.  Finally, Scarlet Witch will continue on her road to redemption, which won’t be easy given her villainous roles in “Avengers Dissembled” and “House of M” which caused the deaths of three Avengers and the depowering of all but 200 mutants, respectively.

I remain mildly enthusiastic about this series.  Remender has been praised for stories with high stakes and huge payoffs, so having him held this new flagship series is a smart move.  While Cassaday is set to draw this series, for how long remains a mystery (Uncanny X-Force features a growing list of rotating artists).  I really enjoyed his work on Astonishing X-Men and look forward on his take on this team of X-Avengers.  The goal of this series, uniting the Avengers and X-Men worlds, is an ambitious one, given how separated the two universe have been up until AVX.  I look forward to seeing how this dynamic duo pulls this book off when it launches in October.

TBC

The Future of Marvel takes shape NOW!

Over a year ago, DC Comics stepped up their game with the “New 52.”  Continuity was changed, characters got major makeovers, creators took classic characters to new and interesting directions, and ever title got a new #1 and same day digital release.  Since them, they’ve given Marvel a run for its money in both units and dollars.

Ever since Marvel announced their Avengers vs. X-Men event, they promised major changes for the entire Marvel U.  This week, we finally got a glimpse of Marvel’s future with the announcement of the Marvel NOW initiative.  Through media outlets like Entertainment Weekly, Comic Book Resources, and the official Marvel Website, Marvel has announced several changes to its publishing line starting in October 2012 and ending in February 2013.

So far, four titles have been announced:   First is the flagship title, Uncanny Avengers; written by Rick Remender (Uncanny X-Force) and drawn by John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men), the series has stars X-Men and Avengers, with AvX fresh in everyone’s mind, taking on the Red Skull whose on a crusade to kill all mutants.

Next up is All New X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen (Ultimate Comics Spider-Man, New Avengers); starring the time displaced first class of X-Men: Beast, Cyclops, Angel, Iceman, and for the first time in years, Jean Grey.  The team arrives in the present and are not pleased with the current state of things regarding themselves and the world.

Finally is Avengers and New Avengers, written my Johnathan Hickman (Fantastic Four).  The Jerome Opena illustrated Avengers will feature a massive 18 member roster (including Master of Kung-Fu Shang Chi) and cosmic level storylines.  It will feature multiple artists and ship on a bi-weekly schedule.  New Avengers will be drawn by Steve Epting (FF), but Marvel is keeping everything else under wraps.

While similar to DC’s “New 52,” these creative changes won’t come at the expense of continuity, though Marvel promises new titles will be new reader friendly.  One or more new series will release weekly for five months, giving creators time to wrap up ongoing  stories.  Characters will also be sporting all-new costumes to go along with this new era.

Marvel continues to tease fans leading up to Comi-Con International, where more information will be shared.  With AvX past its halfway point, the landscape of Marvel is sure to look very different in the months to come!

Avengers vs. X-Men: My Thoughts so far

Avengers vs. X-Men kicked off this month with the first two issues.  While this event had an easy hook and an ambitious creative team (five writers and three artist across three acts). I still had my doubts.  Despite some good moments and some great tie-ins (Youth in Revolt being my personal favorite) Fear Itself was probably the worst event comic I’ve ever read.  It felt unnecessary in almost every way and came out at a time where the comic book landscape was being properly tested with DC’s New 52.  It didn’t help that Marvel tried to milk the series for all it was worth with it was worth with three epilogues and two post-Fear Itself miniseries.

The good news is that Avengers vs. X-Men is off to such a promising start that it almost makes me forget about FI.  The first two issues had a real emotional core with Hope Summers, the mutant messiah and possible Phoenix host caught between two warring factions who have legitimate concerns for what her fate will mean for everyone else.  John Romita Jr. is producing some of his best work on this series, and with a book that will also feature Oliver Coipel and Andy Kubert, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Bendis on issue one really sets the stage, gathering all the necessary players in the calm before the storm.  Aaron on issue two handles his sizable cast flawlessly in the battles, accompanying banter, and moves the story along at a brisk pace.  The biweekly schedule for this book helps keep the momentum on the up and up, but it remains to be seen if the remaining ten issues can keep it going to its inevitable conclusion.

I wish Marvel had done more with Fear Itself in the long run (in terms of story and aftermath) but I don’t feel cheated (so far) with Avengers vs. X-Men.  Unlike FI, this feels like a story that needs to be told; it feels like years worth of storylines have been building towards this, and the amount of polish shows.  I do hope Marvel gives the whole “yearly event” thing a much-needed rest after this is all said and done, but so far this feels like an event worth reading for the story, as well as the spectacle.

(I’ll be back next month to share my thoughts on the next two issues of Avengers vs. X-Men)

Andrew Mathieu