He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1-3 (DC) are written by Keith Giffen and illustrated by Pop Mhan. Here, the Evil Horde, led by Despara (Adora) invades Eternia.
The murderous rampage of an unstoppable Horde army is a compelling plot – if we could ever focus on it. But Giffen’s focus is always on the Most Powerful Bickering in the Universe! Just like in the miniseries, Giffen feeds us page after page of inane banter and petty bickering between Yellow Cross He-Man and Teela (in issue #2, it’s page 7 before we get a meaningful line of dialogue). This is certainly annoying in its own right, but it’s particularly bad in juxtaposition to Randor’s high fantasy speechifying. Giffen might not be able to deliver a compelling twist, cliffhanger, or narrative, but he is the undisputed king of immature sarcasm.
We’re also sticking with the no-secret-identity business, which is idiotic for a number of reasons, including the fact that Adam still runs off to transform (because he “needs space”? Seriously?) and, most egregiously, that there’s no reason for him to ever be Adam for any reason.
There’s still no development of any of the supporting characters. Roboto gets some significant screen time in #3, but he talks just like everybody else. And here we come to the foundational problem of these comics: Giffen has swept away decades of backstory and characterization, but made only a perfunctory effort to replace them. There is, therefore, no foundation upon which to relate to any of these characters or to care about what happens to them.
On a more positive note, I’m okay with Pop Mhan as the regular artist for this series. His work generally ranges from competent to above average, and even if the backgrounds can be as scanty as Teela’s outfit, it’s the consistency – which was missing from the miniseries – that makes the difference. There are some nice touches with the design, too, as various buildings, characters, and vehicles hearken back to either the Filmation series or the 200X series. To that I say: the more, the better. But while we’re on the subject of the art, why on earth are Skeletor’s minions on the cover of #2?
One more thing. Here’s the alternate cover to issue #1, the one I got from my DC subscription:
That’s right, it’s an ad, complete with the website where you can buy all those toys. It’s terrible. It’s shameful. It’s insulting. It’s the new DC.
In conclusion, then, Giffen isn’t really hammering the square peg into the round hole any better than he did with the miniseries. You just can’t trust him with this property, nor should you. Just because these comics are slightly less terrible than the miniseries doesn’t mean they’re worthwhile.