Et Review, Brute?
Here's a review that cropped up in the just-released Redeye #5, courtesy of Adam York:
If you're one of those people that skipped through the text in Alan Moore's Watchmen because it looked boring alongside Dave Gibbons' fabulous artwork, I have two things to say to you. The first is this: go back and read those pages, they're fantastic and thought provoking and add so much to the story, you really missed out there. The second is: whatever you do, don't do the same with Pony School, because if you do, what you will find is a strange comic with an odd visual style and a seemingly inappropriate storyline. But that would be missing the point...
Pony School is a little piece of postmodern satire, wrapped up neatly in a comic. The passages of text that punctuate the story itself tell of the (fictional) history of the comic itself, from its initial incarnation in 'Fairytale Princess' where the story centred around 'Jenny's attempts to come to grips with the minutiae of pony riding', through successive buy-outs and mergers, ending up in a violent boys comic where Jenny is 'a government spy'.
The absurdity of both stories is handled brilliantly with a dead-pan, faux documentary approach and you feel that rather than reading a comic, you are reading a history of the mainstream British comics industry. One moment you are reading about the tragic life of the publisher P.T. Dunbar, the next you are following Jenny towards an explosive climax of violence and gymkhana. It is an odd mix that works surprisingly well. There are some nice touches too: there's a glossary of terms including entries such as 'bridal', 'dressage' and 'The Intelligence and Security Committee'. There's also a letters page, taken to be an excerpt from one of the many incarnations of the comic, which made me laugh out loud several times before I managed to finish it.
As I mentioned, the artwork is a little strange though suitably uses a mangaesque style to depict both the espionage action and the pony riding with some competance and wit. The shading is a bit patchy and seems to be a mix of hand-drawn and CGI, whilst the lettering is a little ugly, but perfectly readable. In a way this adds to the back-story that Pony School fought long and hard to appear in comics for the general public, despite a rough edge and some questionable content. I don't think I have ever read anything that manages to address the moral issues involved in pumping our children full of commercial comics in such an elegant way. It makes a serious attempt at witty satire and I think it pulls it off perfectly.
If you are of a naturally cynical disposition, this will make you laugh from start to finish.