Wednesday, July 4, 2012

He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe #1 - A Review

In a round about way, I think He-Man and the Masters of The Universe was responsible for my eventual interest in comic books and superheroes.  I imagine the same holds true for many other comic fans who grew up during the 1980s.  The action figures all came with mini-comics.  The animated series - while largely a fantasy affair - did center around a hero with a secret identity, a flashy costume and magical powers.  At the very least, Master of The Universe it was responsible for developing my love of the fantasy genre and, more than likely, my fetish for women warriors in impractical armor. 

Mattel Has A Lot To Answer For... 

Given all that, you can imagine my excitement when it was announced that DC Comics would be doing a He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe comic book mini-series And given my own fondness for the Starman series, you can imagine that "excitment" was too small a word to describe my feelings once it was announced that James Robinson would be writing this new series.  Throw in the fact that the artwork would be by barbarian artist extraordinaire Phillip Tan (most recently of Savage Hawkman) and it sounded like a license to print money, if only in the name of nostalgia for everyone in my age-range who stripped down to their Batman Underoos to watch Superfriends as a kid.

Despite the opening pages - and the preview on DC Comics's website - those expecting a straight-forward adventure of He-Man thwarting Skeletor's latest attempts to steal the secrets of Castle Greyskull will be sorely disappointed.  Our story opens upon a humble woodcutter named Adam, who has dreams of being a hero and fighting a great evil.  Inspired by these too-real dreams and the repeated visits by a hawk he somehow feels is named "Zoar", Adam leaves his senile father in the care of a neighbor and prepares to leave the woods that are the only home he's ever known seeking something he cannot define.

So far, this is Joseph Campbell 101.  The story thus far is decidedly generic and offers no real surprises.  This is particularly true for those of us who read the early interviews where James Robinson said his story would be based in an Eternia where - somehow - Skeletor had proven victorious and made the heroes of Eternia forget who they were, trapping them in ordinary lives.  It's not the most original idea but Robinson's writing makes up for a lot

Phillip Tan's artwork also helps prevent this book from collapsing into a mundane malaise.  Tan's redesigns of the classic characters are brilliant, capturing the basic look of each character while still making them seem harsher and rougher.  Rather than a clean-cut body-builder with a bowl-cut, Tan's savage He-Man looks like he could give Conan a run for his money.

In the final analysis, He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe is shaping up to be an inoffensive bit of fun for fantasy fans of all ages.  I'm not sure if I'll be picking up Issue #2 just yet, but I'll definitely be picking up the inevitable trade-paperback collection.  

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