By Aaron Kashtan
Katie Cook and Andy Price are the most important creative team in mainstream comics right now. They have accomplished the previously unthinkable task of creating a commercially successful comic book whose primary target audience is young girls, a demographic that the comic book industry has traditionally served very poorly. Admittedly, one reason Cook and Price were able to succeed at this is because their comic also appeals to adult male fans like me. At heart, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic #10 is a very simple and didactic story: Big Mac goes on a quest for a nail, discovers his quest was futile because he already had nails at home, but realizes that the experiences he had while searching for the nail were more valuable than the nail itself. (Cf. T.S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration,” etc.) But this story is interesting because of all the fascinating incidents, gags, and inside jokes that the creators cram into every panel. Their stuff is simple enough to understand on the first reading, but dense enough to reward multiple readings. In that it almost reminds me of Carl Barks or Don Rosa, I can’t wait for the next issue.
I am not as enthusiastic about issue #11, only because the amount of fanservice is slightly excessive. It seems a little too convenient, given Cook and Price’s interests, that Shining Armor was a gamer in high school. This decision is too obviously motivated by their personal geekdom and their desire to appeal to adult readers like me. Still, they’ve been engaging in this sort of fanservice since the start of the series, so it’s hypocritical to start complaining now. The actual story here is another entertaining piece of work from a great creative partnership. Cook and Price are clearly having a lot of fun with this story, which is a send-up of all the old high school romantic comedy clichés. One thing that particularly struck me as I read this issue was Price’s skill with facial expressions; in the framing sequence, even if the comic had been in black and white and all the ponies had had the same hairstyle, I would still have been able to tell them apart.
This is a very fun comic which also has a serious message, in that it addresses American society’s prudishness about sexuality, especially female sexuality. The premise is that the protagonist, Suzie, and her boyfriend, Jon, have the power to stop time when they have orgasms, and they use this ability to commit crimes. Watching Suzie discover that she has this power is both funny and unsettling, since no one is willing to talk to her honestly about it – in one disturbing scene, Suzie tries to ask her mother “sex questions,” but her mother replies, “Great, now I’m raising a whore.” This material never becomes too heavy, though, because Matt Fraction writes about it in a very witty and metatextual style – the backstory is narrated by an older Suzie who frequently inserts herself into the panels and comments on everything from a more experienced perspective. Chip Zdarsky’s artwork is fantastic; his characters are very easy on the eyes and his page layouts are complex but never confusing. Besides Lazarus, this may be the best debut of 2013.
I bought this because of what it says on the tin. Unfortunately the title character only appears on about three pages, though he is indeed a six-gun gorilla, and is just as awesome as one would expect. Nonetheless, the six-gun gorilla is not the only interesting thing about this comic. Simon Spurrier, a British writer whose work I have not read before, tells a fascinating story set in a bizarre dystopian future where hopeless people commit suicide on reality TV. Even though I hadn’t read the first two issues and the storyline is rather complex, I was able to mostly figure out what was going on, which suggests that Spurrier’s writing is highly accessible. The artist here, Jeff Stokley, is a notable emerging talent. His work reminds me a lot of Paul Pope but with a certain added softness to it, and there’s one sequence where he draws in three entirely different styles in as many pages. I look forward to reading more of this series.