Saturday, March 23, 2013

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #1-4 (DC digital comics)

These four digital comics, by a variety of writers and artists, feature backstory vignettes with Sir Laser-Lot, Man-At-Arms, Battle Cat, and Randor.

In “The Lost Knight,” Sir Laser-Lot saves some kids from a pack of beastmen. Geoff Johns is a big-time comic writer, so he gets to do a comic about the fan character he made up when he was eight. Smoke it if you got it.

Storywise, there’s not much going on. The red Skull of Power that Skeletor was talking to in the mini-series is here. There’s also a little King Grayskull-era backstory.

Without his armor, Sir Laser-Lot looks he like belongs in a ’90s X-Men comic. The art is passable, I suppose, although a lot of the time, posture, musculature, and facial expressions make characters look like zombies. Evil-Lyn looks ridiculous, and Skeletor is absurdly gigantic.

Another fan character who got his own MOTUC figure, “The Mighty Spector,” is mentioned here, so I guess we’ve got these characters becoming an established part of this particular mythos to look forward to (Spector isn’t shown here, but, continuing the X-Men reject theme, he looks like a cross between Cable and Deadpool). How this series thinks it can go full badass while introducing characters with names like these is entirely beyond me (and it’s clearly not the silly names that don’t fit).  

It’s not terrible, but this one doesn’t do much but give some vague backstory and setup; it’s hard to care too much about these new characters. This was not the best way to start the series.


In “Man-At-Arms,” Duncan is sent by the Sorceress to retrieve a powerful relic from a magical monastery.

It’s hard to know what to make of this version of Man-At-Arms – this comic is all about showing off his gadgets, and doesn’t do much character-wise but show us that he’s a determined badass and that he has a strange disdain for magic that feels profoundly un-Eternian.

As explicitly stated by the Sorceress, this story centers on one of the most powerful relics in “the Everything.” “The Everything”? That’s the best we could come up with? We’re supposed to take “the Everything” seriously?

The art is fair, although the inks are a little heavy and the running poses are bad. Unlike (most of) the mini-series, Castle Grayskull actually looks like it’s supposed to. But this new Sorceress design is just awful. Put some clothes on, lady.

After receiving no next to development in the mini-series, Man-At-Arms receives next to no development here; once again, we seem to be trading character for badassery. Disappointing.


In “Battle Cat,” Cringer/Battle Cat recalls how, when he was a cub, his family was slaughtered by a pack of purple Panthor-type cats.

So we’re explicitly sticking with the not-talking Cringer/Battle Cat. Another disappointment, if not the least surprising. From a storytelling standpoint, then, having him think in sentence fragments is a nice try, and while it kind of works, it feels a little off.

But what, exactly, are we supposed to take away from this as far as the relationship between Cringer/Battle Cat and Adam/He-Man? Yellow Cross He-Man just happens to wander by in Cringer’s hour of need and zaps him with the power of Grayskull? And that’s it? This is a significant dropped ball.

The art on this one is very solid. The cats all look good, and the heavy inks and color selection fit well with the tone of the piece.

A talking Battle Cat is too much to ask for in this day and age; fine, I understand that. Even so, while this one does some things rather well, it misses the mark by not addressing Battle Cat’s key relationship in a meaningful way – or, honestly, at all. And who does Cringer curl up with at the end? Teela. How do you tell a Cringer story without Adam? What are we doing here, guys?


In “Randor,” Prince Randor leads a band of soldiers against a monster that’s been terrorizing the countryside.

I love what they did with Leech. Turning him into a horrific creature that turns its victims into zombies? That’s badassery that works. And the story itself is well told: Costa gives us a compelling full-circle narrative in just a few pages. From a storytelling standpoint, this comic is by far the best of these four.

The art is a strong fit for this issue. The heavy inks and dark colors set the tone for this blood-soaked issue perfectly. However, some of the figures are very clunky, as Nguyen frequently has perspective-related trouble with the size of arms and legs.

However, all of this comic’s strengths are in vain, as in the last few pages, this story does unforgiveable damage to the character of Randor. Every previous incarnation of Randor was a man of integrity, courage, and compassion; this Randor is a self-admitted “monster,” brooding, continually haunted by his secret atrocity.

If this comic were about any random character, I’d give it a RECOMMENDED, maybe even, with some better drawing, a HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Costa tells a great story. But because of the irredeemable harm it does to Randor, I repudiate it utterly.


These comics’ archive page is HERE