Twilight Sparkle and her friends have to travel through a cave system to reach Chrysalis' domain. While traveling through the caves they come across a pony loving troll, an angry giant tarantula thug, and mischievous changelings bent on tearing their friendship apart. Thanks to some fabricated overheard conversations the six ponies believe their friends secretly hate them, and by the end of the issue they all split up.
I know I'd probably be laughed at for saying this comic was dark. So I'm not going to say that. What I will say is that it's certainly aimed a few age groups higher. Not only is the art a few steps away from the brightly colored animation artwork, but in a world where concepts such as death are never mentioned in the show, this book has Pinkie playing with a skull within the opening pages. It's never going to reach the level anyone would actually consider dark, but nonetheless, these aren't quite your candy colored ponies.
Part of what helps emphasize this is the artwork. While it still maintains all necessary levels of cuteness, it actually manages to portray certain scenes as unsettling. Where the art of the show, while beautiful, is candy colored and wholesome, the art of the comics is candy colored, but with a slight edge to it. Nothing shown in this book ever descends to nightmare fuel levels, but it certainly takes it a few steps closer than the show ever does.
This is certainly still readable by the target audience of the show, but it has a more grownup feel that I am certain will appeal to said target audience. After all, we always love the stories that seem just a little bit above our age range. It's part of why protagonists of books and TV shows tend to be just a few years older than the intended audience. We like to look up to someone a bit older than us, but not so much older that we can no longer relate to them. And I think the same principle applies here, no matter what our age, we like reading something that we think was meant for someone older.
The comic still works for an older audience, just because even though we don't have that same sense of, "this is meant for someone older" we can still appreciate when something is well crafted. We can appreciated how a story is taking its target audience seriously. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with having immature taste. It's all about know when something is done well, and can appeal to a wider audience. At least that is how I feel I can enjoy this comic so much.
My favorite part of this issue, was most definitely the troll. It's not even supposed to be slightly subtle. The troll is a brony, and he is the clearest shout out to the adult fandom of MLP:FiM that I have seen in official Hasbro created material. Sure the troll is slow, just like your average troll is, and I can't help but wonder why exactly the brony parallel is a troll in the first place (perhaps it is meant to be an allusion to the vernacular definition of the word troll?), but I enjoyed his addition so much that I was unconcerned by any subtext that could be read into his appearance.
What I wasn't so keen on was how readily Twilight and her friends separated. Granted, emotions ran high and perhaps they weren't all thinking straight. But they knew they were going against Chrysalis. The fact that changelings might try to stop them should have been at the forefront of their minds. Considering that this is set after the end of season two, these ponies should have been good enough friends to not think the worst of their friends so quickly. I know that this could be explained, but ultimately I feel that it happened because the plot required it. And as always I am more than a bit wary about characters' actions being dictated by the plot, rather than their own personalities.
While this isn't a big enough problem to keep me from fully enjoying this issue to the fullest, it is still a pretty major issue with the storytelling. I have to dock a point from the overall score, but more because from a scholarly viewpoint I know this is a problem, not because it affected me in any kind of emotional way. So really this issue is just as good as the last one, and as far as my personal enjoyment went it gets full marks. But objectively the fight between the ponies is a pretty glaring issue, and not one I can rightly ignore.
Still, this was a wonderful issue, and really should be ready. Not only by fans of MLP:FiM, but by anyone that just likes good comics. Consider this a series that is a must read. Perhaps it is not for all, but you never know. I never knew I would like the cartoon, but here we are. The choice is really up to the individual, but sometimes you need to make an unusual choice to discover something wonderful.