Thirty years ago, I know what toys I wanted for my birthday – a new range called Masters of the Universe. I remember it quite vividly – I received the good guy (He-Man), the bad guy (Skeletor), the bad henchmen (Beast-Man and Mer-Man) and the good friends (Teela and Man-At-Arms) along with the good guy’s fortress, Castle Greyskull. I was excited beyond belief and loved the toys, which spawned a number of additional characters and toys, a really good (for the mid-1980s) cartoon which introduced even more characters, and subsequent attempts at a cartoon which (to me anyway) just didn’t hit the mark. There were several comics about the series – first, with Superman landing on Eternia in a DC miniseries, and then Marvel‘s STAR lineup picking up the franchise and running with it for a while. And, of course, let’s not forget the spin-off of She-Ra, Princess of Power.
Fast forward to 2012. DC has once again embarked on bringing He-Man back to the comics page. Although I knew the title was coming, I suppressed any urge to read anything about it before its release date. I loved this franchise when I was a kid and I wanted to see what was going to happen to it again. And I will say this… I think DC hit the bulls-eye for a long-time fan.
What I loved was that this was not the same He-Man story we’ve seen in the past – where He-Man is really Prince Adam, an aristocrat on Eternia who walks around in this uber-pink shirt (which sets off all sorts of fan speculation about Adam… but I digress). Instead, he is still Adam, but that’s it – just Adam. There is no prince part – he is simply a woodsman trying to make ends meet and look after his ill father. It gets revealed that Adam has been having visions of a man who looks somewhat like him, but the dream and the understanding stays at the edge of his mind. He begins to figure out that he has a destiny outside of being the simple woodsman when he encounters Zoar, a brightly-colored falcon (and long-time MOTU fans will know the secret of Zoar), and the feelings get stronger. To seek out this destiny, Adam leaves his home to venture and try to understand the meaning behind all of these visions.
Near the beginning of his journey, Adam gets an uncanny feeling that he is not alone in the woods… and is soon attacked by none other than a very violent looking Beast-Man (which is actually quite cool looking here). Adam, armed only with his little hatchet, makes a break for it but Beast-Man stays close on his heels. Call it instinct, but Adam is able to use the hatchet to create a kind of spear from a sharp-looking tree branch and wound Beast-Man so that he can make his escape – much to the surprise of them both! While Beast-Man is out for the count, Adam continues on his journey.
At the end we see Beast-Man reporting to his boss – the evil Skeletor. Skeletor is not happy with Beast-Man’s performance and orders Beast-Man to prepare his entire horde to attack Adam. (Obviously, Skeletor knows something about Adam and his destiny…)
Series writer James Robinson (whom you know from such little known DC titles as Earth-2 and Justice Society of America) has done an amazing job of taking characters who are 30 years old and starting fresh with them. The writing is great and keeps the energy of how I remember playing with the toys, using the personas of the characters from the 80s but without modernizing them too much (no language, no Wolverine-like violence, and no death) – it was simply a fight from an animal-like creature against a man. It had just the right feel to the title and I applaud Mr. Robinson for not changing the feel but giving us something new. (My only request: do not let Superman visit again. Keep MOTU out of the DCU…)
The artwork was also amazing in this book. The art team of Philip Tan (Savage Hawkman and Final Crisis: Revelations) and Ruy Jose (Teen Titans and Justice League: Generation Lost) have pulled out an amazing job. These are characters who were originally established as toys but are able to have their personas brought out in print by this team. Again, their views and how they made the characters act reminded me of playing with the toys as a kid. I cannot think of any higher praise than them succeeding in allowing me to relive some of those happy elements of my childhood.
I loved that this was a new take on the character, not just a rehashing of the same story but with slight differences and a new outfit. This comic took me back to the 7 year old at his birthday, receiving the toys, and not knowing the characters’ backstory. It was fresh, it was new, but it was still the Masters of the Universe. And I am excited to see what the next issue will bring.