Masters of the Universe #1 is the first issue of Marvel Comics’ bi-monthly He-Man comic under their Star imprint, which was used primarily for licensed children’s properties. This issue, “The Coming of Hordak,” was written by Mike Carlin and illustrated by Ron Wilson and Dennis Janke. Here, Skeletor tries once again to break into Castle Grayskull, this time to obtain magic that will keep Hordak from entering Eternia.
There’s a great deal of monologuing and expository speechifying going on here, as though anybody was buying this comic who didn’t already have some familiarity with He-Man. Yes, this is the first issue, but let’s keep things moving. There are also some niggling dialogue problems: Teela calls Man-At-Arms “Man-At-Arms,” not “Father,” and characters say hip, jivey things like “Orko m’man” and “sez you.”
There’s plenty of action, as the issue amounts to little more than a huge fight scene that serves to highlight all the selling points of every bit of Evil Horde merchandise. There’s some silliness going on here, too, starting with Skeletor digging in the ground with his Terror Claws, which don’t actually have any claws on them. And then we have, contrary to what Hordak says, Orko unleashing Hordak on Eternia by the power of his magic. Seriously?
But it’s not all bad. In spite of everything, we get the impression that Carlin (who wrote most of this series’ few issues) is going give us somewhat more well-rounded characters than we’ve had in the past. In the midst of all the pontificating, we get some reflection by He-Man on the moral implications of his actions (it’s nothing new, but it’s competently done), as well as some rare and interesting introspection from Skeletor, who also has strong opinions on getting help from He-Man (and which contradict certain depictions in other media).
The art is pretty good, and exceedingly faithful to the toys. I count this as a plus, although Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain are drawn to look exactly like their playsets, and the Royal Palace looks like it was copied from a Filmation cel. The full-page He-Man transformation is excellent. There are some issues, though; most notably, He-Man’s sword is wildly inconsistent from panel to panel, and exactly what He-Man does to defeat Hordak at the end isn’t clear at all.
There’s some potential here, but we’ve got to do better.
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