Andy Price, in this first story arc) have found a successful "middle ground" between the flat, stylized, two-dimensional look of the TV show and the solider, more three-dimensional look that is required in order to make the characters seem more "real" on paper. Now, admittedly, the Colorforms aesthetic has some distinct advantages, especially when the characters are as well designed as these. If you're clever enough and your animators and designers are skilled enough, then the stylized approach can make for some arresting visuals. For example, which of the following images is more effective at getting across the onset of an outburst of insanity?
Katie Cook's script for the first story arc mirrors the artwork; in terms of wit and cleverness, it's a step up from the already-impressive writing for the TV series. The ongoing byplay among the "mane 6" pony heroines is the highlight, of course, but Cook adds significantly to the fun by giving the villainess of the piece, the evil Changeling Queen Chrysalis, a bit more of a humorous edge. There is a certain danger in this, of course, in that a wisecracking villain can quickly lose credibility if there is insufficient menace to balance the equation, and I think that Cook gets close to crossing the line on a couple of occasions here. The comic script also resembles a number of the animated stories I've viewed in that, for all the bells and whistles, the underlying plot is really rather elementary. But, on balance, these first four issues were truly a pleasure to read.
On to the individual issues...
Anyway... Queen Chrysalis' Changelings are back after their defeat in the TV two-parter "A Canterlot Wedding," once again seeking to suck souls and leech off of others' happiness. But wait, there's more... Chrysalis has an even more devious plan in mind and intends to use the three "Cutie Mark Crusaders" as bait to lure the six major heroines to her lair. For the uninitiated, the "Crusaders" are three little ponies who have yet to determine their passions in life and thereby earn their "Cutie Marks." You can imagine how such youthful sincerity might turn an evil queen's stomach... and, in fact, Chrysalis' increasing impatience with the girls is one of the arc's comedic highlights.
In #2, the "mane 6" go all "There and Back Again" on us as they embark on a quest to Queen Chrysalis' realm. We even get some possible shoutouts to Gummi Bears in the form of a cave troll with a fetish for ponies and some decidedly goofy-looking arachnids. Changelings try to sow confusion by disguising themselves as members of the "mane 6" and trying to turn our heroines against one another... and, completely forgetting that the Changelings had done just that in their first encounter, the "mane 6" fall for it hook, line, and sinker. Given the series' constant harping on the importance of sticking together in friendship, you'll forgive me if I didn't find this contrived conflict to be all that convincing. Surely one of our heroines should have tumbled to the possibility that such out-of-character behavior was a hoax?
The "Power of Friendship" conquers all! Queen Chrysalis plans to drain Twilight Sparkle of her magic with the help of a celestial conjunction caused by the "Secretariat Comet." (Insert "it's not Saturday, it's Friday") joke here. Better yet, she'll drain Twilight of her love for her friends and then have her destroy them. Twilight fights back and batters Chrysalis into submission, monologuing all the while about how the selfish Chrysalis can't possibly understand the power of friendship and love, etc. Yes, we're quite familiar with such an approach from the toy-commercials-with-morals-tacked-on era of TV animation, but very rarely has the sentiment been ladled on with such slick efficiency. The defeated Chrysalis gets the ultimate punishment: having the irritating Pinkie Pie serve as her jailer.
I think that this one's a keeper. Who knows, I might even be able to attend the upcoming BronyCon in Baltimore and not embarrass myself.