Saturday, March 18, 2017

An Appropriate Crisis Begins He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3!

The Good: Generally good banter, Interesting characters, Most of the artwork, Fairly good plot
The Bad: Simple plot, Packs a lot of reversals and revelations into the short volume, A few moments where the acerbic dialogue feels forced.
The Basics: He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 renews a more mature Masters Of The Universe storyline when Hordak uses a mysterious new lieutenant to lay waste to Eternia.

I'm not exactly sure why, but lately, I have been seeking out more Masters Of The Universe material. I had a pretty profound love of Masters Of The Universe growing up. I was a big fan of the toy line and the television series and I recently recalled that I had some of the early books from the franchise in my childhood library! I had heard that Masters Of The Universe was being revitalized as both a more mature comic book line and a more sophisticated toy (and statue) line for adults who were seeking a retro fix. As one who has definitely matured since I first watched and played with Masters Of The Universe, I liked that concept. So, it was that in mind that I picked up He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3.

He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 is an anthology of six comic books (issues 1 - 6 of the 2013 DC Comic book line) and it tells a very complete story, though some of the players and circumstances are set up as reactions to events unseen and very obliquely referenced. And it is all right, even if some of the character dynamics are not quite what fans of the classic Masters Of The Universe might remember.

Opening the day of the Sorceress's funeral, with Teela dying her hair red and Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms contemplating the loss of Teela's mother, Despara leads an invasion force in attacking Eternia. Despara, daughter of Hordak, leads her forces on an attack on Eternos, the capital of Eternia. But, when He-Man and Teela confront Despara, she reveals herself to be Adora - Teela's imaginary friend from childhood! The fight for Eternos goes poorly, forcing King Randor to order a retreat back to Castle Grayskull. While King Randor contemplates the all-out loss of Eternia, a projection of Adora materializes to offer her terms for surrender.

After Teela tells her comrades the story of her childhood encounters with Adora, right before Despara breaks her word and attacks Grayskull to abduct Teela. Reeling from the loss, King Randor orders He-Man to defend Castle Grayskull, but when the Sorceress appears to Adam, he disobeys his father to rescue his friend. In Despara's camp, Teela and her old playmate face off while Adam forges a new power sword in the heart of Grayskull. But when Despara stabs Teela and lays seige to Castle Grayskull, the Sorceress appears to Despara and leads her to a deeper truth. Despara is told her true identity by Shadow Weaver, who is killed by Hordak to keep her in line. But while He-Man and Teela try to save Hordak's warrior from herself, Hordak achieves an unthinkable victory on Eternia!

He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 is a surprisingly compelling starting point for a new, mature Masters Of The Universe story as it does what all beginnings ought to; it creates an impossible situation for the heroes and makes the reader want to read more. Hordak is given adequate characterization in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 to make him an ancient evil that is set to lay waste to Eternia and Castle Grayskull. Hordak is characterized as an ancient evil who was an enemy of Grayskull . . . the man. He is a vampire who is not supposed to be able to return to Eternia and who has made Etheria into a wasteland while developing technology that could entirely enslave Eternia.

Hordak's methodology is both villainous and long-term. Hordak is not characterized as a childlike villain. He is cruel, has a goal of domination and is willing to pit people against each other all to meet his needs. Hordak is powerful and enters the fray for Eternia with a plan that has built-in fallbacks, which make him smarter and more resourceful than most villains. When he slays Shadow Weaver because she has outlived her usefulness, he illustrates that no one is safe from his wrath. In fact, outside of simple vengeance for ancient wrongs, the only real question from Hordak's character is why he actually wants Eternia under his dominion!

On the protagonist front, He-Man is characterized fairly simply in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3. Teela is much more integral to this first volume. She is the character who is given most of the best lines (though Mechanek's evaluation of the quality of He-Man's plan is the book's biggest laugh-getter) and who has the most personality. Unfortunately, Teela also falls out of balance sometimes in her back-and-forth with Adam. The source of the friction between Teela and He-Man is unclear and so some of their barbs make Teela seem more mean than witty.

But Despara and Teela's relationship and past history serves as the turning point for He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 and it is compelling enough to make readers invest and appreciate the journey. The artwork in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 is good and the writing is solid enough that when a character appears without much of their armor, another character almost instantly ways their name in order to make clear who they are.

While the artwork tends to have a decent sense of movement in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3, there are a number of panels where the flow and dialogue is awkwardly arranged. Despite that, surprise of surprise, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, Volume 3 actually tells a fairly adult story for an adult audience who might still crave something from the Masters Of The Universe!

For other Masters Of The Universe products, please check out my reviews of:
2016 He-Man Hallmark ornament
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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