Like you, I watched every episode of He-Man and had every action figure as a kid. My friends and I would play endless hours battling for the fate of Eternia. So, when I heard DC was starting a new line of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comics I was pumped. Maybe too pumped.
Right from the beginning the story lines shows problems. Writer, James Robinson, begins the story in what seems to be the middle. Prince Adam is living as a woodsman in the forest, with his ailing father. He has no memory of his life as prince of Eternia, much less that he was the indomitable He-Man. He does have recurring dreams of his former power, but writes them off as simply that, dreams.
Normally I am okay with the whole starting in the middle style. Done well I actually prefer it, as it usually means that the story starts with action. In this case however, it means that the story starts after the action and no action shows up until much later. Adam mainly wander the woods for the first chapter pondering life and the meaning of his dreams.
The other thing I would expect from a story started in the middle is that at some point there would be a satisfactory answer to why the character is in this situation. Robinson does give the explanations, but it is weak. Before the story begins, Skeletor already defeated He-Man and the rest of the Masters of the Universe. He then put a curse on them that wiped away their memories, before he put them to work doing menial tasks around his new kingdom. The story then becomes a quest in which Adam must rediscover who he is and reclaim his rightful place as the power of Eternia.
This set up begs a question that even Skeletor asks over and over again as his minions such as Trapjaw, Mer-man, and Evil-Lyn, fail to stop Adam. Why not just kill him and be done with it? If we are to believe he was defeated before the story started, then why is he not dead? There is no satisfactory answer to this question, and Skeletor’s character loses credibility every time he punishes an ally for something he himself didn’t do when he had the chance.
As Adam quests and fights his old enemies, he also rediscovers his past allies like Teela, Man at Arms, and Battle Cat. None of it seems very genuine though, coming across as nothing more than an excuse to reintroduce characters we already know. Somehow Robinson has taken what shouldn’t be an origin story and given it all the worst qualities of an origin story. This is all made worse by the fact that this doesn’t need to be an origin story. They didn’t noticeably change anything critical in the back story, so why reboot? For the new fans? Be serious, what non-fan is buying He-Man comics?
There was one other thing that irked me about this comic. Once Skeletor’s plot has been unraveled and the Masters of the Universe have figured out who they are, there is a throw away line indicating that Orco had something to do with the enchantment that stole their memories. Then nothing is ever said about that again, and Orco never shows up to defend himself, or validate the accusation. It’s just left hanging there for no reason. I always kind of liked Orco, and can’t think of any logical reason why he would turn to evil. Like so many things about this book, it just makes no sense and doesn’t have a the smallest bit of credibility.
One might think I am complaining for no reason. He-Man, after all, is not known for it’s great literary accomplishments. The original TV show was created to sell toys, and often took far more liberties with logic than Robinson’s script. However, I was also eight at the time and didn’t pay $15 an episode to watch it. This should be better product.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, written by James Robinson and Keith Giffen with art by Philip Tan, Howard Porter and Pop Mhan was released by DC Comics, July 10, 2013. It is rated T for Teens. It collects title Issues 1-6. There are 160 pages in this soft cover edition. USR $14.99