The Good: Good interviews, Some fun stories, Moments of artwork
The Bad: Massive continuity issues, Simplistic dialogue, Erratic artwork
The Basics: Fans of the Masters Of The Universe toy line are likely to get a real kick out of the anthology He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 . . . even if it is not the greatest work of literature ever!
Growing up, the toy line I most consistently responded to favorably was Masters Of The Universe. I loved the Masters Of The Universe toy line and I also quickly became a fan of the television show He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (Season 1 is reviewed here!). Memories of both remain with me well into my adulthood and lately, I've been seeking out Masters Of The Universe merchandise and books. As a fan of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe, I was instantly intrigued when I learned of the existence of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1.
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 is a collection of more than thirty of the mini comic books that came in various Masters Of The Universe action figures during its initial production run from 1982 onward. The original minicomics were included with each toy and the collection is intended to appeal to the fans who grew up on the Masters Of The Universe toyline and might be looking for a way to channel their desire for nostalgia from their beloved toys. For me, the Masters Of The Universe minicomics were memorable in that I recall even to this day that it was in one of the issues - where Ram-Man was introduced - that I first learned the word "eh?" I was so confused as a child - "are they misspelling 'he?!' . . . that doesn't fit . . ."
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 is a collection that is so high on nostalgia for the fans that it is hard to believe there are many truly unbiased reviews of it out there. The anthology is cool as a historical document, but it reveals very clearly that the concept behind the minicomics was untested and one that Mattel - the manufacturers of the Masters Of The Universe toyline - were unsure how to effectively execute.
The minicomics collected in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 show a clear evolution as the stories and narrative become more coherent and develop a sense of continuity. At the beginning, though, the stories of He-Man and the other Masters Of The Universe have glaring problems in how they attempt to define the world of Eternia. So, while the story of He-Man is relayed fairly clearly - he is a barbarian who goes off to protect Castle Greyskull and is given advanced tools to fight evil by the Sorceress - much of the rest of the early story is unfortunately jumbled. So, for example, in one early story, He-Man instantly knows Skeletor and Skeletor has Beast Man as a henchman, but in a later story, Skeletor recruits Beast Man. In the early issues, the artwork is based on prototype figures, but the characters are also a bit mixed up. The prime example of this is that in the early issues, Teela is a blonde and the Sorceress looks identical to the Teela action figure! As the issues progress, Teela comes to look like Teela and the stories begin to take on a more coherent narrative.
Ironically, in the early issues, He-Man has a very different story from the television show He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe. It is several issues in before He-Man ever adopts the persona of Prince Adam, for example! Obviously, the unstated purpose of the minicomics for the Masters Of The Universe action figures was to sell other toys in the line - vehicles and characters pop up to make consumers want them to join the character they already bought - but as their own entities, the books collected in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 start to develop as their own, legitimate, entities.
The artwork in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 gets better as the book goes on and the minicomics develop from attempting to be little picture books (like Little Golden Books) and transition into being much more traditional comic books. The dialogue in the comic books enhances the stories beyond the expositional stories that begin the book. Most of the stories in He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 follow a similar format - He-Man meets someone, Skeletor (and later, Hordak and his Evil Horde) attacks and He-Man makes a new friend or enemy. The world of Eternia blends effectively sword and sorcery and science fiction!
The benefit of He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 - outside nostalgia and having almost the full collection of minicomics - is that the book is curated by people who care about the franchise and are experts in it. The minicomics are footnoted with very cool details - like an annotation pointing out that the page shown is the only time He-Man is depicted using a gun or explaining that color schemes for characters in the minicomics were based upon promotional artwork for specific toys or notes on the planned toyline (Stratos, for example, was originally conceived as a villain!). The footnotes are enhanced by interviews scattered throughout the book. The subjects of the interviews include writers, artists and product developers for the Masters Of The Universe toy line and they all clearly recall with enthusiasm their work on the minicomics project!
He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 is an interesting-enough anthology, but it is average-at-best for its content and it gets off to a very rocky start! He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe Minicomic Collection Volume 1 is a tribute to the fans of the Masters Of The Universe toyline; reading this book is not likely to make new readers into fans.
For other Masters Of The Universe reviews, please check out my reviews of:
DC Universe Vs. Masters Of The Universe
Masters Of The Universe Season 2
Masters Of The Universe
For other book reviews, please check out my Book Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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