From The Pullbox – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Volume 1
Writer: James Robinson, Keith Giffen
Penciller: Phillip Tan, Howard Porter, Pop Mhan and others
Throughout its history He-man and the MOTU (Masters of the Universe) has been viewed as a kids show, that when translated into comic book form, kept up with the cliché fights and colorful world that was supposed to be a battleground for its eternity long struggle of good vs evil. This incarnation of the He-man story progresses the time to a point where the perpetual struggle of Skeletor and his evil minions have finally won and have claimed Castle Grayskull. With that being said, Skeletor is either mad with power or blind to the eternal struggle he and his nephew He-man are locked in. Which is a crazy twist to the plot of the MOTU that too seems cliché, but somehow works to have the symbols of good and evil related, but Skeletor does not destroy He-man but erases the memories of all the MOTU and plants false memories in their place. And that is really where this story begins.
Seeing Adam the woodsman (No longer Prince Adam or He-man) working hard for his ill father making an honest living in the middle of the woods lets you know right from page one of issue one that this is going to be a tale of self-discovery and eventually revenge fueled by rage. Like every story of He-man, he is never without support of his wonderful allies or some guiding force to lead him to his goal. Meanwhile Skeletor is trying to unlock the power of Grayskull (which he has just captured), but in typical bad guy form he becomes too narrow sighted and the sorceress of the Castle is able to use Skeletor’s mind erasing spell to subliminally urge the MOTU to quest and remember who they are.
Though the story is only 5 issues before the tides of the war shift in favor of good, there is a lot of drama and adventuring that occurs in between. It was really fun for me to jump back into He-man after such a long absence of being exposed to the hero. This was almost like a re-introduction of the heroes and the generals in Skeletor’s army, as each issue pushed seemingly helpless Adam to unlock the skills and memories he once had. You may be wondering why Skeletor or his henchmen didn’t just kill Adam or any of the other MOTU, but that is explained with such clarity that you would assume this course of mind wiping would be the case 9 times out of 10. In all the adventures and episodes, the evil forces of Skeletor are always beaten, bruised and thrown back. Killing He-man wouldn’t be as satisfactory for all the punishment, defeats and humiliations that the MOTU have put them through, so a slow torturous death is the preferred method that they would reserve for Adam and the others.
As mentioned, this character has always been stuck in the 80’s, with the over the top quotes and the artwork being very friendly and not a good representation of the barbaric nature this world is supposed to depict. This new run however, picks up He-man’s sword and slashes that world apart. This is a much more toned world with slight levels of adult topics being hinted at but never really explored. The art is still a barbaric high fantasy-like world with every other being having muscles on muscles, though the wiser women let the men do all the hard labor so they don’t develop “man muscles” as the line went. Each issue saw Adam and his allies coming closer together as they went from environment to environment (woods, desert, sea and witch mountain) where they fought various challenges in the form of old enemies and discovered long forgotten battle skills. Everything reached a boiling point for me as I wondered, will he or won’t he recover his memory, when his best friend Cringer the battle cat stood as the last line of defense against Adam regaining his power of He-man; which would ruin the spell as all other MOTU were linked to the one spell on Adam’s mind. The ensuing encounter was actually dramatic for me to see friend and feline unknowingly almost kill each other.
The story comes full circle seeing He-man gathering his now remembered allies and staging a counter attack to regain Castle Grayskull. All the while, Skeletor has been enraged at the inability to unlock the power of Grayskull for himself. Again, through some clear dialogue that is not as confusing as some plot hooks in other stories might be, it is revealed that He-man does not just “Have the power” but is the power himself. Though Skeletor was defeated expectedly (even though he looks like a bad ass ultimate villain worthy of fear, as opposed to his whiny self in the older version of the He-man story) he is brought to another location where it is revealed that even Skeletor was not the be all, end all evil in this universe, which sets up the next volume and eventually the current run of DC’s “He-man and the Eternity War”. In the end, I was glad to see a different light shined on He-man as the mythos and history that make up this character are grand and very well thought out as a timeline. I had originally picked up a handful of these issues for their covers alone (being a huge 80’s anything fan). There are even some standalone issues tied in for the origins of the characters; He-man, Hordak and Skeletor, that make the backstories even more epic.