A good piece of advice for living one’s life in general is, “If you haven’t anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” There are many blogs and websites that would immediately vanish into the ether were their authors to subscribe to this philosophy. However, in general I have always tried to be as fair and reasonable as possible on PGPoA. There have been a few times where I’ve simply skipped a review rather than having to write something really negative.
I also just don’t like getting down on someone when they’ve put time and effort into creating a piece of art. I think of all the effort, by one person or the combined work of many people, that goes into making a toy, or a movie, or a novel, and the idea of bashing the end product and making light of their efforts bothers me.
But sometimes I just can’t let it go by without comment, and DC Comics’s He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic – which recently wrapped up its initial six-issue storyline and will become an ongoing title next month – is one of those times.
So settle in, folks. While I’m going to try to avoid clicking into full-on rant mode, I am going to be honest in my opinions. There were six main issues of the comic, plus two one-shots (the Origin of He-Man and the Origin of Skeletor) and, most annoyingly, eight Web-exclusive short comics that are pretty important to following what the hell is going on, but won’t see print until (presumably) the collected edition.
I started to write a whole background piece on the history of MOTU comics for this post, but I decided that was both time-consuming and beside the point. In general, though, I think it’s hard to write a comicbook (or make a cartoon or a movie) about a character named He-Man and attempt to make it palatable to savvy modern readers (never mind how to handle characters with names like Two Bad, Ram Man, or Rio Blast).
I can give you some quick context for how I’m approaching this comic: my favorite MOTU comic – actually my favorite MOTU story in any medium – is the 1982-3 three-issue miniseries from DC Comics. Other favorites include the Millennium-era “Shard of Darkness” miniseries and the Beast Man and Trap Jaw “Icons of Evil” one-shots.
I’ve already reviewed the initial Web-exclusive comic, “The Lost Knight.” Written by Geoff Johns, it did not prepare me for what was to come.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1
Release Date: July 2012
Writer: James Robinson
Penciller: Philip Tan
Inkers: Ruy Jose, LeBeau Underwood
Colorists: Richard and Tanya Horie, Carrie Strachan
Letter: Carlos M. Mangual
Cover: Philip Tan and Dave Wilkins
Assistant Editor: Sarah Litt
Editor: Kwanza Johnson
You know what’s never a good sign on a comic book? Whenever any of the artistic duties are split between multiple people. We’ve got two inkers and two colorists here, and that’s just the first hint that DC may not be all-in for He-Man.
Plot Synopsis: Adam, a simple woodsman, has dreams of being a hero fighting evil forces. One day he’s befriended by an orange-and-blue falcon. Shortly after, for reasons he can’t articulate, he’s compelled to wander into the woods, where he’s immediately attacked by Beast Man. Using fighting skills he’s surprised to find he has and some quick thinking, he defeats Beast Man and continues on his way. In the last panel, we see Skeletor telling Beast Man to tell “everyone” that Adam must be stopped.
And that’s it for issue #1. Ten pages out of twenty – i.e. half the issue – are spent on the Adam/Beast Man fight.
James Robinson is a prolific writer and while I’m not personally all that familiar with his work, he appears to have written many great comics that people enjoy. That said, I really have to question his approach here. I don’t know how much of it was Robinson’s idea and how much was concocted in some sort of editorial meeting, but the decision to use a storyline in which Skeletor has conquered Grayskull and erased the memories of the heroes is just bizarre.
Oddly enough, it does have echoes of the Four Horsemen’s original concept for the Millennium era of MOTU. I’ve discussed it often but I’ll briefly recap it here: the Four Horsemen envisioned a world where Skeletor had conquered Eternia by obtaining the Power Sword and the heroes, still led by He-Man, had gone underground and formed a rebellion. The so-called “Keldor swords” were in fact the good and evil halves of the Power Sword. (The “techno-sword” carried by He-Man in the Millennium era was supposed to be a replacement sword created by Man-At-Arms and enchanted by the Sorceress.)
There are similar ideas at play here – some of which will be discussed in more detail later, such as the fate of the Power Sword. But I really have to question the decision to go with the “erased memories” idea. What this means is it’s going to be months before we get to see He-Man in action in a comic called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I understand that the comic industry is currently obsessed with the idea of multi-issue story arcs that can be collected into trades, but if you’re going to do that, for heaven’s sake, just finish the whole thing – preferably with a consistent crew of creators – and release it all at once, rather than making us read an entire issue of a comic where barely anything happens except for a fight between Beast Man and He-Man’s alter-ego (never mind the Web-exclusive stuff).
My copy of issue #1 is the SDCC exclusive one that included the “Lost Knight” prologue, and man, does Philip Tan’s art look weak next to Howard Porter’s. I suspect Tan was rushed, as was the whole project, given the multiple inkers and colorists, but I don’t know enough about his art to say whether this is up to his usual standards. All I can say is I don’t much like it myself – it has an unfinished, sketchy quality to it, and his human faces look terrible in most panels except for a few where he seems to have spent more time on them.
But I’m more concerned with the story, and the indications from this first issue is that it’s gonna drag. As I read the first issue I had a sneaking suspicion it was going to be a long time before I saw He-Man fight anyone (despite the fact that every single cover of the series would feature He-Man in full armor).
Strap in, people. We’ve only just started.