Or – “The Biggest Question: Will They Use Orko?”

“I am Adam, Prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Greyskull.  Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said: “By the power of Greyskull!  I have the Power!”  I became He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe!  Only a few others share this secret… Our friends: The Sorceress, Man-At-Arms and Orko.  Together we defend Castle Greyskull from the evil forces of Skeletor!”

Did anyone else think that He-Man sounded just like Morris the Cat?

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Writer: James Robinson
Penciler: Philip Tan
Inker(s): Ruy Jose/LeBeau Underwood
Cover Artist: Philip Tan and Dave Wilkins
Colorist: Richard and Tanya Horie/Carrie Strachan
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
Editor: Kwanza Johnson
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe:  Harnesses, fist-fights and fuzzy drawers, plus enough homoerotic subtext to launch a thousand slash-fics.  Say it with me: 

“BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL!!!”

DOROTHY GALE SYNDROME.

Having read the original DC Masters of The Universe comics recently, I wondered whether this series would relaunch the He-Man story (which, even though the cartoon depicted it somewhat simply, has a lot of decent hooks and characters) or perhaps join the characters already in progress.  James Robinson zigged on me, opening the story with a mighty battle between He-Man and his forces and the evil armies of Skeletor…  before a much-less-mighty Adam awoke from his dreams of battle and glory.  The reveal that Adam is nothing more than a penniless woodsman, caring for his ailing father is a little bit unnerving, leaving me unsure whether we’re even going to see any reference to the previous incarnations of the character at all.  Adam’s dreams become more and more compelling, and he sets out to prove Joseph Campbell right, seeking his destiny outside of the woods.  With his dreams still fresh in his mind (and a mysterious but familiar-colored hawk that he somehow knows is called Zoar) Adam sets out, with his axe on his back, to find out what is really going on.

“AND, FOR SOME REASON, NORM FROM CHEERS!”

What’s going on turns out to be a monstrous creature, part-beast, part-man (a Beast-Man, if you will) who attacks him to keep him from leaving the woods.  The battle proves that Adam knows a bit more about combat than even he suspected, and also establishing that we’re not dealing with the bumbling Lou Costello Beast-Man from the Filmation cartoon.  Their battle is bloody, and well-drawn by Philip Tan, with great detail given to the monstrous-but-still-recognizable design of Beastie.  The battle ends with a stunned Adam having defeated the creature, but with many questions, the most important being ‘Why did Beast-Man want him not to leave the forest?’  We end the story with the first big reveal (Raise you hand if you know who Keldor is) and a cliffhanger that makes it clear where this story has to take place, chronologically.

THE VERDICT: A TOUGH SELL, BUT A DECENT STORY.

There are, in my experience, multiple kinds of James Robinson stories.  There is the Robinson who created the sublime Starman, which takes cast-off bits of history and ephemera, and welds them into a seamless continuity which creates its own reality.  And then, there’s the Robinson who gave us ‘Cry For Justice,’ a tale which makes the Justice League alternately thuggish, unpleasant and useless, while killing the most sympathetic characters in what felt like a transparent bid for relevance.  Thankfully, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe #1 bears more resemblance to the first example, treating thirty years of backstory with respect, and positing a mystery about what in the world has happened in Eternia, earning a hopeful 3 out of 5 stars overall.  If this book continues being this interesting, I’d welcome it becoming an ongoing series…

Rating: ★★★☆☆

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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4 Comments

  1. Dave
    July 10, 2012 at 12:02 am — Reply

    I just finished reading this and the prelude. Like most folks my age, He-Man was Ncessary watching growing up. However, likes lot of things from that time frame, it didn’t age well for rewatch value as anything except for a joke or a drinking game.

    Nevertheless, like many other recovering He-Man fans, I picked up this book and the prelude on the strength of Robinson, Johns, Porter! And Tan.

    With these two issues, I’m already excited. The art reminds me of the old mini-comics that Mae with the action figures and the story is far above the Star Comics stories from the 80s. Is it the greatest comics story I’ve ever read?

    No.

    Is it some of the best He-Man I’ve read?

    Yup.

    Plus, the art is pretty.

    I’m looking forward to issue 2 sowe can see where this is going.

  2. July 10, 2012 at 4:34 am — Reply

    I might have to read this. When I heard you describe the set-up on your podcast, though, I was bugged that they basically stole She-Ra’s whole plotline (fighting to free the world from a villain that won when no one was looking). Still, I’ll give it a shot – it might mean SHE gets a revival, too.

  3. Slappy
    July 10, 2012 at 12:15 pm — Reply

    It’s on my pull, but have not picked it up yet. (Been a few weeks, but that is how I pick up).
    Looking foreward to reading this with my kids, (4,4,&3) who are into He-Man and She-Ra presently.

  4. hectorbustnuts
    July 10, 2012 at 8:19 pm — Reply

    He-man will never again reach the dizzying heights of awesome that is his cover of 4 non-blondes “What’s Going On”.

    http://youtu.be/32FB-gYr49Y

    Now is time for cake!

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