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.
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).
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.
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.
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!