REVIEW: Masters of the Universe: Origin of Skeletor

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Skeletor earned his place as He-Man’s arch nemesis through various and sundry failed plans to overthrow the Eternian government and rule the planet. Megalomania is as megalomania does, but how did the dark wizard of Snake Mountain sink to the depths of his insanity? Read on in this Major Spoilers review.

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: THE ORIGIN OF SKELETOR #1
WRITER: Joshua Hale Fialkov
ARTIST: Frazer Irving
LETTERS: Dave Sharpe
EDITOR: Michael McCalister
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
COVER PRICE: $2.99

Previously in Masters of the Universe Keldor was slighted, there was a war, he did some betraying. It’s a one-shot, so we may find ourselves wanting for the backstory at which this issue hints.

FORMULAIC BUT FUN

Skeletor is Prince Adam’s uncle and King Randor’s brother, a man once known as Keldor. This has been implied in comics since the mid-1980s and was even an explicit part of the 2002 animated series’ continuity, so I didn’t expect a miniseries subtitled “The Origin of Skeletor” will grace us with much new information. I was kind of right and kind of wrong.

 

The tale of Keldor’s metamorphosis into Skeletor is anything but revolutionary; the story structure makes heavy use of flashbacks and follows all number of character tropes. These things instantly jumped out at me while reading, but I was enjoying it so much I didn’t care as the literary devices were well used.

 

It’s your basic story of betrayal: Blue-skinned Keldor is Randor’s half-breed brother who, while older, is denied the throne of Eternia because of his origins. He naturally feels slighted and apparently betrayed his family started a war against Randor after his little brother ascended the throne. The tale begins after the war and it’s implied Keldor is dying and thus made a Faustian bargain with Hordak to become his minion if allowed to live. Randor’s blood is a necessary component in this scheme.

 

As tropey as it all is, the dialogue is engaging and I enjoy Randor’s portrayal as a kind-but-foolish monarch. Yeah, it’s a completely archetypical story, but it’s quite well done. It’s dark and doesn’t paper over the horror of Keldor’s transformation or the deep insanity required for him to become Skeletor.

 

VISUAL MASHUP

The first page just smacks you in the face—it’s an excellent portrait of Keldor just as his face has begun burning away. It immediately lets you know the horrors he’s experiencing during his slow metamorphosis into Skeletor. It’s full of detail, especially in the eyes which gives the reader a glimpse into his burgeoning insanity. This page is kind of the high-point of the issue’s art, though.

 

As we flit back and forth between the present and childhood, we’re treated to a couple of different art styles. The past is rendered in black and white, save for Keldor’s blue skin and an accent color on one of Hordak’s minions. I very much enjoyed this style, but to me the book suffered from the juxtaposition of this and the more detailed look of the present.

 

My biggest and most pleasant art surprise was how Frazer Irving chose to render Skeletor’s extra-dimensional mentor Hordak. As opposed to his goofy character designs from the “She-Ra” animated series, this Hordak is much more organic and almost dendritic—think evil Groot. I look forward to seeing more of this look for the villain in the main “He-Man” book.

 

BOTTOM LINE

DC has done a great job with its small stable of He-Man titles. They’ve taken a property that could easily descend into foolishness and managed to create some solid titles. Even thought it’s a one-shot, I hope to see some of the war and other events leading up to Keldor’s betrayal and descent into madness. 3.5 stars.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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