REVIEW: He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #2

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All Adam knew was his simple existence as a woodsman until an encounter with a bird and a fight with Beastman made him feel like there was something with this life that wasn’t quite right.

HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #2
WRITER: JAMES ROBINSON AND KEITH GIFFEN
ARTIST: PHILIP TAN and HOWARD PORTER
COLORIST: ALLEN PASSALAQUA and THE HORIES
LETTERER: CARLOS M. MANGUAL
EDITOR: BEN ABERNATHY
PUBLISHER: DC COMICS
COVER PRICE: $2.99

Previously in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Skeletor used his magic to alter Eternia. Now he’s in charge and none of the Masters of the Universe remember who they are. Thanks to the Sorceress, though, The Most Powerful Man in the Universe has started on a quest to regain his memories and his destiny.

NOT THE MISHMASH I EXPECTED

James Robinson was writing this book. Then he wasn’t. Then it was delayed a month. This recipe for disaster could have resulted in a verbal chimera—a literary beast neither wholly of Robinson nor his replacement Keith Giffen. Glory of glories, however, the story flows well and picks up a lot of speed from last issue, which had to perform the twin labors of reintroducing the character and doing so in an unfamiliar setting.

The story moves at a good pace with the exception of the first five pages, which serve as the denouement of Beastman’s failure to kill Adam in the first issue. It’s essentially exposition disguised as a long dressing down from Skeletor. It felt unnecessary at first, but with the gap between this issue and the last it was probably a good move to front load all the recap information.

This issue finds Adam taken by a desert tribe after wandering through the desert and rhapsodizing on the wonder of the world outside his forest. While with them he discovers his heretofore unknown skill with a sword while fighting for his life and meets a new (old) friend who also seems to have an inkling that things are not right with the world. I hope the next issue finally leads Adam to the truth about himself; the slowly unraveling mystery has worked for the past two issues, but I worry it will go stale if carried on beyond the third.

BEYOND SATISFYING

Let me get this out of the way right upfront: This issue’s art, a combination of Philip Tan and Howard Porter, is excellent. My only criticisms are nitpicks.

Skeletor’s rule has ravaged Eternia and the art is tremendously effective at portraying the landscape as hopeless and barren, especially Skeletor’s stronghold at Castle Greyskull. The first issue was limited to Adam’s forest, so this is the first wider glimpse we get of this “Alternia” which has never had He-Man to check his uncle’s ambitions.

The first few pages are a conversation between Skeletor and Beastman in which they both look particularly monstrous. It’s nice to see these guys drawn with the kind of menace they were denied in the cartoon. What’s more, looking behind them in these panels you can see the utter desolation they’ve wrought upon the world—the landscape has two features: ruins and dunes. On their own, each of these panels are wonderful, but there’s a sameness about them. Consequently, they lack definition and kind of melt together in the two-page spread.

Trapjaw’s presentation lacked detail and was kind of a disappointment for me. Despite being the issue’s chief antagonist, he never really gets a panel to himself; nothing where we can see him in full and absorb who he is and what he represents. Instead, he just feels like a monster of the week.

BOTTOM LINE: IT HAS THE POWER

I thoroughly enjoyed the first issue of this mini, but wasn’t totally sold until this one. I wouldn’t mind seeing an ongoing grow out of this If the next couple of issue can hold up, but it would likely lose some of the magic if Eternia is reverted to its status quo. This book, like some other 1980s-based titles, is taking poorly written, toy-hawking premise and turning it into a grown-up, three-dimensional work we never could have hoped for on television. Buy this series if you’re a man child He-Man fan, or if you just have fond memories of watching the cartoon from your high-chair—you’ll enjoy it. Four and a half stars.

Rating: ★★★★½