The Good: Good character story for Adora, Wonderful artwork, Interesting emotional moments
The Bad: A few mediocre panels, Simplistic resolution
The Basics: He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull illustrates well how Adora makes the journey from outcast to She-Ra while helping Adam fight Hordak's forces!
One of my more pleasant surprises of late has been the rediscovery of Masters Of The Universe. The Masters Of The Universe franchise evolved from a toy line into a television show when I was a child and I enjoyed both. I have recently discovered, happily, that the franchise continued to evolve and it grew with its original audience. Now, as a graphic novel series, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe is a heavily-serialized sword and sorcery fantasy series that is alternately witty, grim, and explores adult themes like death, loss, and the struggle to liberate an enslaved people. As I sat down to readHe-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull, the adult level of commitment (if not, sadly, diction) in reading the series was nailed home immediately to me. Anyone who has not read He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 4: What Lies Within (reviewed here!) prior to He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull will be completely lost. This is a story well underway.
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull is an anthology of seven comic books (issues 13 - 19 of the 2015 DC Comic book line) and it tells a story that is complete within the larger context of narrative; it is an episode in a longer and more complicated story. Indeed, those who simply pick up He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull are likely to be surprised that the conflict that rules the book is between the Masters Of The Universe and Hordak; Skeletor is long-since defeated by this point! A further surprise for those who were strictly fans of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe; He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull prominently features She-Ra, He-Man's sister!
Fortunately, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull manages to not simply give readers what they expect in terms of the universe and characters; the book develops some new characters, locations, and races to get the heroes out of their dire predicament. He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull moves the focus off the continuing war to explore Adora, Adam's twin sister and the story is surprisingly engaging.
Opening with the story of how Grayskull defeated Hordak and his horde a millennia ago, the Gar - a race of brilliant craftsmen and philosophers from the island of Anwat-Gar are introduced. The Gar aided Grayskull in defeating Hordak, but a prophecy from the Sorceress and manipulations from the disguised King Hsss lead Grayskull's Gar handmaiden to slay the King! A thousand years later, Adora dreams of Saryn (the Gar assassin) and prepares to continue her quest to find Anwat-Gar when she is visited by He-Man and Battle Cat. Adam comes bearing a message from Teela and the sad news that their father is dead and he asks Adora to join her quest for Anwat-Gar. Together, the pair makes the journey to Althra Port, a Horde-occupied harbor. There, they discover that Althra Port is now part of Hordak's Fright Zone and Adora informs Adam just how Hordak consumes the lands he conquers.
Learning that the citizens of the port will be consumed to feed Hordak, Adam uses the Sword Of Power to bring the fight to the Horde. Liberating the citizens, Adora and Adam face the land itself attempting to kill them. Rescued by a Pegasus and guided by Teela, the twins make it to the forbidden island. There, they encounter the Gar and are separated. While Adora follows Swiftwind (the Pegasus) into the forbidden woods, Adam grants amnesty to the Gar. But the Gar are not done betraying the line of Grayskull as they turn He-Man over to Tri-Klops, the bounty hunter! Adora, under the influence of the cursed blade that Teela had Adam give her, returns and slays Adam! Fleeing in terror at what she has done, Adora receives a magical communication from Teela, who informs her that there is a second power sword - The Sword Of Protection - and if Adora can find Saryn and wrest the Sword from her, she will have the power to save Adam and help defeat Hordak!
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull ends with a one-chapter flashback story that serves only to truly remind readers who the primary characters of Masters Of The Universe are. The incongruent chapter, supposedly, leads into The Eternia War, but within this volume it is a pointless non-sequitor.
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull is largely successful in that it acts as a character study for Adora. Back in the day, She-Ra was essentially "He-Man for girls" without much depth - it was a half-hearted way to get girls to play with toys similar to He-Man, much the way that Freud phoned in his analysis of women and theories of female psychology. But in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull, Adora gets the focus and she is anything but a token character.
In fact, when Adora enters the narrative of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull, the book does something quite uncommon for a comic book; it devotes almost an entire issue to Adora and Adam simply talking. In trade paperback anthology form, it is actually somewhat disappointing that the chapter devotes any time to moving Adam and Adora away from Adora's camp. In addition to the transition to an action point coming very abruptly, the chapter was doing an excellent job of offering Adam and Adora a chance to organically connect and differ from one another. One wishes there were just a little bit more of that.
That said, in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull, Adora and Adam play off one another well. Adora has knowledge Adam lacks, while Adam is guided by a sense of compassion that is alien to Adora. Together, they make an interesting pair of traveling companions in the book and when Adam falls out of the narrative to let Adora spread her wings, the book works incredibly well. Adora has a great internal character struggle that Adam lacks, so she becomes a much more conflicted and interesting character.
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull continues to hint at the bond between Teela and Adora and it is enough to entice readers to see where the authors go with that relationship.
The artwork for the six primary chapters of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull is quite good. The characters are all recognizable and look decent, the flow between panels is good and the movement between panels is smooth. The coloring is vibrant and the pages look decent, making good use of the medium.
Despite being part of a larger story, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 5: The Blood Of Grayskull is the first volume in the series that I have read that feels essential, like it has a great character story to tell. This is the volume that sells the readers on the adult merit of Masters Of The Universe and makes us want to keep returning to this universe as adults!
For other Masters Of The Universe books, please check out my reviews of:
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Volume 3
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1
DC Universe Vs. Masters Of The Universe
For other graphic novel reviews, please check out my Graphic Novel Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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