Monday, October 14, 2013



He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #4-6 (DC) are written by Keith Giffen and illustrated primarily by Pop Mhan. Here, He-Man tries to rescue Teela and Adora learns the truth about her past.

Well. They couldn’t get rid of the classic vestiges fast enough, could they? Doing away with the classic He-Man outfit and Power Sword is pretty stupid on its own, but this sin is compounded in that the replacements are incredibly awful. He-Man’s new outfit looks like something Tony Stark would have come up with if he lived in the Gears of War universe. Never mind that we all know that He-Man’s not supposed to wear pants; the last time he wore pants, we got Space Ponytail He-Man, and look how that turned out.

The new Power Sword is just as bad. A forced attempt to match the sword to the chest armor results in the most ill-conceived cross-guard ever – you wouldn’t be able to use that sword without gouging your wrist to the bone or losing some fingers. But don’t take my word for it; look at the illustrations in these issues – it’s such a stupid concept that Iron Pants He-Man can’t even be drawn holding it believably.

What’s also remarkable is the fact that this style change was tacked on after the initial redesign: check out the before-and-after of the cover for issue #4:

Because why would we ever keep something the same when we can make it stupid? Ugh. Let’s move on.

This series is so much more tolerable when Teela and He-Man are apart and we don’t have all that god-awful bickering, although Giffen puts dumb chit-chat in the mouth of nearly every character. Based purely on their dialogue, the supporting Heroic Warriors are completely indistinguishable from one another.

Bickering aside, though, the writing’s really not any better. The plotting is a mess. Giffen makes some needless and stupid changes to the Adora backstory (and hell, with DC being what it is these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if they trotted out some Adora/Teela homoeroticism down the road). There’s a lot of farting around with “secrets” most readers have known for years. And why is the Sorceress just now getting around to dropping all this knowledge on everybody?

Like much of this series, the climax in issue #6 features a lot of pointless talking and not a lot actually happening. Hordak’s speech is ridiculous. What is he doing? What is his plan? Does he even know? I guess it really doesn’t matter, because Iron Pants He-Man doesn’t ever actually do anything – he’s just another guy.

I’m not through. Having slogged through all the yammering in the first eight pages of issue #6, I flipped to page nine, blinked, and uttered a blank-faced “Really?” Here, abruptly, without any lead-up or logic or dramatic effect whatsoever, in a single page that perfectly symbolizes precisely what he’s done to this property, Giffen destroys Castle Grayskull. Jesus, Giffen, what the hell? Did one of your children get beat up by a bully in a He-Man shirt twenty-five years ago? 

I said last time that you can’t trust Giffen with the Masters of the Universe property because he obviously doesn’t like it or care about it on its own terms, and he continues to prove that this is absolutely true. It’s kind of amazing, really – in a little over a year, DC and Giffen have managed to trample over the established personality of nearly every character and kill off the Sorceress and several minor characters, He-Man’s secret identity, his classic costume, the classic Power Sword, Castle Grayskull, and the very premise of the franchise.* And in just six issues of the monthly, they’ve obliterated all the setting that made Masters of the Universe what it is.

Everything Giffen does is cheap; nothing is paid for, nothing is earned. He walks away from this smoking, rancid wreckage of an arc leaving us with the scenario of a band of heroic rebels hiding out and fighting the Horde. That’s right, Giffen’s turned it into She-Ra: Princess of Power. All we need now is frigging Loo-Kee (oh, and She-Ra; despite what the cover to issue #5 might lead you to believe, there’s no actual She-Ra here anywhere).

If there’s any light at the end of this trainwreck-filled tunnel, it’s that Giffen’s not writing the next six issues. Storywise, I don’t know how much of this disaster is Giffen and how much is DC’s powers-that-be, but either way, it’s hard to imagine that Dan Abnett can do any worse.

So remember, kids, just because it says “He-Man” on the box doesn’t mean there’s He-Man in the box.


*Here’s where we’re at right now on the original** premise:

“I am Adam, Prince of Eternia and defender of the secrets of Castle Grayskull. This is Cringer, my fearless friend. Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my magic sword and said, ‘By the power of Grayskull! I have the Power!’ Cringer became the mighty Battle Cat, and I became He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe. Only three others share this secret: our friends, The Sorceress, Man-At-Arms, and Orko. Together, we defend Castle Grayskull from the evil forces of Skeletor.

**Obviously, by “original,” I mean the Filmation mythos with Adam and Randor and everybody else, as these comics clearly have never had a thing to do with anything pre-Filmation.