Poe’s Review > The Powers of Grayskull Part One: The Legend Begins

"...and maybe my loincloth."

Story by Scott Neitlich
Written by Tim Seeley
Art by Wellinton Alves
Cover by Eric Powell
Colors by Michael Atiyeh
Letters by Nate Piekos of Blambot 

2012 is the thirtieth anniversary of the Masters of the Universe toy line, and it’s also the busiest year for MOTU media since the cancellation of the Millennium cartoon. We get not one, but two comic series – one a miniseries published by DC Comics due out this summer, and this, a three-issue “minicomic” miniseries. The minicomics are set in the Bio Universe, and the first issue was included with Thunder Punch He-Man. The second issue will be included with the infamous Snake Man-At-Arms, while the last will be included with a figure yet to be announced.

I actually got my hands on this comic way back after San Diego Comic Con and have no excuse but laziness for waiting this long to review it. It should be noted that the DC miniseries will not take place in the same universe as this comic, which is very firmly set in the overarching story set up in the bios. (I’m a bit disappointed Geoff Johns isn’t writing the DC series, given his admitted interest in doing so as revealed on this very blog, but what are you gonna do?)

This new “Powers of Grayskull” minicomic is loosely based on the vintage minicomic of the same title; in fact, Eric Powell’s cover is simply a redo of the vintage cover.* The story itself follows the same basic outlines as the vintage tale, but with plethora of scattered references to the events discussed in the Bios.

The story takes place in what I would say is the last third of the Bio storyline, somewhere around the Second Ultimate Battleground (I’m not sure if it’s before or after, yet) but before He-Man and Skeletor head off into outer space for new adventures. The Heroic Warriors are now renegades, skirmishing with the Evil Warriors, the Snake Men and the Horde. Note He-Man is in his Thunder Punch garb in the above pic.

Guns = dinosaur zits.

Duncan is already a Snake Man, while Kings Miro and Randor have returned from exile in Despondos and Teela is now the Sorceress. Teela senses that the Heroic Warriors are lacking something necessary for victory, and via the Cosmic Key she sends He-Man into the past. As in the vintage comic, Skeletor somehow manages to sneak into the past behind He-Man undetected (presumably with a puerile tap-the-other-shoulder gag to Teela).

"...I'm busy reading Fifty Shades of Grey! Get lost!"

Spotting a Bionatops being wrangled by Snake Men, He-Man jumps one and dons his tunic, thereby becoming Preternia Disguise He-Man. Skeletor and King Hssss team up, He-Man and the Snake Men fight again, and finally, a mysterious figure intervenes. We know it’s He-Ro, but in the vintage comic, his identity was left tantalizingly unclear (to those unaware of the He-Ro prototype) for nearly thirty years.

A bit disappointingly, this first issue really is just a retelling of the vintage comic, with some small changes to bring it in line with the bios. The remainder of the story, to be told in the two future minicomics, is supposedly based on old Mattel outlines for how the rest of the tale was supposed to develop. Already there’s at least one major difference between the 1986 story and the new one: in the vintage comic, He-Ro returned He-Man to his own time, whereas in the new version he remains in Preternia.

"What did you just say?" "Nothing." "No, something about my being destroyed? You JUST said it out loud! And who's He-Man?"

Wellinton Alves’s art is on par with what we got in the better minicomics, particularly the earlier ones and anything by Alfredo Alcala. But it suffers from excessive detail that looks a bit too cluttered on the small pages. There’s not one splash page in the whole comic, but plenty of tiny lettering. I suppose there was probably a certain technique used when drawing those old minicomics, a spareness of style, with larger panels and lettering to make them easier to read. I hope Mattel offers a full-sized trade paperback of the collected three issues at some point (preferably not as a super-limited-edition San Diego Comic Con 2013 exclusive, thank you very much).

Writer Tim Seeley is best known for his comic Hack/Slash, about a teenaged girl hunting down slasher monsters a la Jason and Freddy. His scripting is, well, I hate to say “serviceable,” but there’s just nothing to make it stand out, either. I would have expected a bit more humor beyond He-Man’s awkward “Uh, I like what you’ve done with your hair” to Teela.

He-Ro, Heroic Master of Blooming Onions

I get the sense Seeley was asked to stick closely to the story he’d been provided with. Here’s hoping he gets more room to play in the next issue.

“The Powers of Grayskull Part One: The Legend Begins” tries to cram in a lot of Bio-related exposition in the first few pages, then settles in to a pretty straightforward rehash of the vintage “Powers of Grayskull” minicomic. While it’s great to be getting minicomics in MOTU packages again, I wish this one could have been a bit more exciting. Maybe next issue!

11000

* Which was inked by Bruce Timm of Batman: The Animated Series fame. And the lettering for the minicomic was done by Stan “Usagi Yojimbo” Sakai.

Comments now closed (9)

  • The look of Tundaria doesn't really match the sound of it. It's kind of dirty, and Australia-y looking.

    Can we cast Wolverine from Tundaria? Do spiders chase you?

    Great review, thanks

  • i found the comic pretty disappointing in the overall. the story was "bleh" the art was awful (i apparently like very different aesthetics to my comics than you do poe… i would not have made a comparison to alcala's art if held at gun point.), and the colors were bland as well. it was eating a bowl of overcooked veggies, everything was limp and bleached and devoid of essence. i intend to acquire SMAA so we'll see if they get any better, but this first one… the most utility is has provided me is the chance to list it's faults in detail.

    • I don't really feel qualified to judge comic art, honestly. It's like how some sculptors come on here and criticize the anatomy of action figures that looked perfectly fine to me…you're talking to someone who totally thought Rob Liefeld was a good artist when he (i.e., I) was twelve years old.

        • Haha… 🙂 No shame in it! I think most kids loved X-Force.

          I guess sometimes I find artists I really like (Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Cary Nord) and the rest all just sort of blur together to me.

        • here's the thing on that… there is a world of difference between what is good and what we like. mr liefled presents the perfect example. i loved x force too, and you better believe i marked out all over youngblood, supreme, prophet, bloodstrike… marked out for the entire imageverse, pretty much. but even then, he never drew feet, the hands weren't positioned to actually hold the weapons they were carrying, and often times, the weapons themselves had no handles or triggers… so in an artistic sense, it was fun, but it lacked a crapload of technique. the guy was certainly not even on par w/ jim lee, let alone a serious talent like a bernie wrightson or a jack kirby.

  • The only thing that bothers me is that this is pretty much glorified "Fan-Fictiony" retelling of The Powers of Grayskull… and NOT the real Powers of Grayskull 3-part story… (Some Mattel Employees are a bit confused about that)

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  • This was a good comic!!! I love He-Man and the Masters of the Universe!!! Snake men are cool and I love dinosaurs and He-Man!