This failure is basically on Katie Cook, almost 100%. There's nothing at all wrong with Price's artwork. Cook, however, seems to have forgotten rule number one about dealing with well-established characters: Never let the desire to tell a particular story tempt you into pulling one of the characters completely OUT of character in order to achieve the goal. The damage that Cook inflicts in her handling of Twilight Sparkle here, combined with the problems we saw with Rarity and Applejack in FF #8, have combined to make me a little apprehensive about future stories by this creative duo. Why is Cook suddenly having so much difficulty getting the "Mane 6"'s characterizations right? And make no mistake, this was a BAD misstep... so much so, in fact, that some people immediately declared that they'd NEVER buy the comics again if the comics could get things THIS wrong.
** SPOILERS **
Given her magical powers AND her status as an alicorn princess, you would think that Twilight would be well-equipped to help Applejack and her other friends handle an invasion of the tiny town of Canter Creek by the massive steer, Longhorn, and his beefy buddies. Even if Twilight were too nice to get really rough with them, surely she could magically imprison them, or put a protective force field around the town and Applejack's Great Granduncle Chili Pepper's ranch, where the rustlers have squatted in Chili Pepper's absence. Evidently, however, things are more... um, nuanced than that:
Mutually Assured Destruction" doctrine from the Cold War years. When it comes to using magic against either "sentient non-magical beings" or "Equestrian citizens" -- Cook doesn't seem to be certain as to which -- Twilight appears to think that there's no alternative between doing nothing and using overwhelming force.
The "logic" behind this... uh... operational paradigm is simply mind-boggling. If you're a magically endowed villain, like Tirek in the season four finale "Twilight's Kingdom," then it's perfectly OK for Twilight to use any and all magical means to deter you, including... well, if there's a magical equivalent of advanced weaponry, then she certainly used it at some point during her battle with Tirek.
The Phantom Blot... OK, I know that his "garden" is far more varied than most, but you get my point... then getting the best of Twilight and the other unicorns and alicorns of Equestria is cake. Simply find some way to get yourself declared an Equestrian citizen, and then, violate laws with impunity. St. Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship for a good cause, to demand a trial in Rome, so it would make perfect sense for a villain to use the same tactic for evil. Actually, the Blot would probably go it one better and get himself attached to an embassy in Canterlot. It's not as if he hasn't tried that before.
Spike to the Pony Trek convention (now, there's one real-world Equestrian parallel that didn't need to exist...) and leaving Applejack to take the lead in fighting back against villains who have, after all, taken over HER relative's ranch. In fact, that's what Applejack eventually does, picking up the defeated Sheriff Tumbleweed's discarded star at the end of MLP #25 and becoming the sheriff herself. For AJ, this represents quite a nice bounceback from the "all ya gotta do to sell apples is sell apples" dumbitude that hamstrung her in FF #8.
The ponies' resulting plan to foil Longhorn, while it pleasantly brings to mind ideas from one of the most-beloved Western spoofs, isn't without its own share of nits. It only works because Longhorn, having basically already won the battle, decides to figuratively "sweep around the telephone poles" and legally take control of Chili Pepper's ranch. Uh, why? Why do the "Mane 6" figure that it's all right to temporarily kidnap a clerk and impersonate a legal official in order to flummox Longhorn, right after Twilight had freaked out over the others trying to destroy Longhorn's (notarized) paperwork? (Twilight definitely was schizophrenic in this story, wasn't she?)
Aside from Applejack and, yes, Rarity -- who flirts with multiple stallions, contributes more than her mite to the anti-Longhorn scheming, and gets to use her generally finesse-oriented magic to move houses, knock down water towers, and perform other intriguingly unladylike operations -- the rest of the gang walk through the story as if they're in a daze. Twilight's deficiences here are manifest, but Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy contribute virtually nothing -- you would think that both of them, especially the former, would be hacked off at the sight of their friend Applejack getting knocked through a barn wall by Longhorn, but no joy -- and even Pinkie Pie is somewhat lacking here. (A joke about a character eating a red-hot chili pepper, making faces, and then saying that they like it? That has SO been done... and, therefore, it probably isn't worth wasting Pinkie on.)
So... yeah, a really bad one. I'm not going to bail, of course -- Cook and Price are doing the very next arc in MLP #27-28, and I'll be interested in seeing how well they can bounce back. There is some work to be done here, though... if nothing else, to reassure those who, like me, have been on board from the very start.