HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE #15, written by Dan Abnett with art by Pop Mhan and colors by Mark Roberts, is more like the He-Man bombast that I want.
Since reviewing last month’s issue of HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, I’ve gone back and read most of the current volume of the series. It started out pretty rough, but it grew into a fun take on the franchise. Sure, it’s pretty ridiculous to take an 80s toy franchise, grim-dark it up some, and dive deep into its weird mythology and cosmology, but Abnett has a natural feel to his writing that makes what he’s doing never feel forced.
I enjoyed Pop Mhan’s art and storytelling in this issue much more than in the last. The battle scenes in this issue are given much more room to be big and epic. There’s one really great scene in particular mainly shown in big splash pages where He-Man gets angry and calls down the power of Grayskull in the form of lightning bolts that rain down on Hordak’s Horde’s city. While the lightning bolts are raining destruction we see him in a vicious fight with members of the Horde. Next it shows us his sister, Adora, freeing some captives, and when it cuts back to He-Man, the ground is littered with a huge amount of dead bad guys. This doesn’t feel like a cheat the way last issue’s battle did because we actually got to see a great set-up and opening for the battle, rather than just cutting to the end. Roberts’ colors are also very effective here. The areas with Horde machinery are blanketed with oppressive light, and this is contrasted with our heroes hiding in panels of blue shadows. Then of course there are the panels of He-Man fighting washed in gold light. Simple, yet effective.
This issue is also the one where Adora finally gets her ridiculous, rainbow-winged unicorn, Swift Wind. There’s a couple of good things about this. One, as I said, it looks absolutely ridiculous in this darker He-Man world, but that is totally welcome. It shows they are willing to have a little more fun with this series, and they are not backing down from the “He-Man, but for girls” premise of the old She-Ra show. I don’t believe She-Ra and He-Man have ever really shared much screen time in any of the iterations of the franchise, so I’m really looking forward to the two halves finally fully coming together. Along with the brightness of this unicorn, there’s another bright aspect to this issue; the good guys actually win. This is not such a common sight in this series, so it’s pretty refreshing.
For the first half of this issue, He-Man and Adora are whispering. The borders of their word bubbles have a very hard to see dotted border and the words are shrunken down. It took me a while to realize that they were representing whispering. The first time I read the issue, I just thought the lettering was rushed. It looked like how it does when somebody on the internet takes a comic book page and then photoshops in cuss words into all of the panels. It was off-putting for a while, and I wish the effect had been done better.
I really hope that She-Ra gets her powers soon. The cover blurb says, “My brother…. my savior,” and she is in awe in the issue of He-Man’s power and goes to free the prisoners while he is doing battle. This is understandable, He-Man wielding the power of Grayskull and all, but still it is a bit of a bad look. Maybe it would sit better with me without that blurb and with perhaps appreciation rather than shock and awe. The sooner she gets her power and gets back on equal footing with him like she was in the beginning of the series before his power up and her turning good, the better.
This was a fun issue. HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE isn’t quite a consistent series, but I think it’s getting there.
Buy this issue if you like nostalgia, great colors, and big, epic hits.