This comic week was actually quite small, which is nice considering the fact that next week will be substantial with the new Think Tank as well as a cavalcade of Transformers titles (so look for that promised Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye review next week). It was therefore a good week to catch up with everyone’s favorite Eternian, He-Man, as he had two titles come out from DC Comics this month. The mini-series concluded with a thud after it failed to really get off the ground at all in the first six issues. The ending did set up the upcoming regular series (debuting in April if I remember correctly) pretty nicely, but if it wasn’t for my allegiance to the property itself, I wouldn’t even bat an eye at the comic, and wouldn’t expect it to last another 12-18 issues if the quality stays the same.
On a nicer note, Deathmatch #2 came out this week and it adds another layer to the mystery surrounding why the heroes and villains are captured and why they are being forced to kill one another. It is by far one of the best and most complete comics on the shelves right now and is some of the best work that I have read from writer Paul Jenkins in recent memory (and that’s saying a lot considering his pedigree). So while I am not reviewing #2 this week, I am declaring Deathmatch the winner, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this turns out to be one of the best comics of the year (so far, it has the crown).
Anyway, back to the reason we are here. With the release of Masters of the Universe Origin of He-Man #1, we are set to take a peek into what transformed Prince Adam into He-Man. While DC has basically raped the franchise with their printed comics (I haven’t read the digital ones so I can’t really comment on those), they do have a chance to redeem themselves with a quality origin tale. Let’s see how they do.
I like this cover by Ben Oliver. I like the simplicity of it and the fact that it really highlights the nature of He-Man himself. As much as Prince Adam doesn’t want to be defined by his sword, that’s exactly what He-Man is all about. Adam doesn’t become He-Man until he takes out the sword and says the incantation. The sword is the conduit and it is what transforms the man into the myth. That’s one thing that I always loved about He-Man growing up, the mythological quality of it all. The larger than life characters are a huge part of the story, but everything is basically centered around a guy and his sword. This cover illustrates that perfectly, and having the cover be completely white aside from that image ensures that the focus is on that imagery and nothing else. I am not even bothered too much by the fact that the sword is straight up and down because the image reflected in the sword is slightly tilted. Oliver did a great job of making everything on this cover work together to create the best possible image.
9/10 – Good stuff. The He-Man redemption project at DC is starting out well.
I spoke too soon. What this story by Joshua Hale Fialkov basically boils down to is that Prince Adam became He-Man because the Sorceress told him to. That’s it. This could have literally been done in one page. Sure, we see a battle between Adam and Skeletor, a very one sided battle as Adam is quite the pussy at this point, but it’s not very compelling or interesting. It’s just Skeletor looking for the power sword. Adam gets crushed by rocks (apparently, as we never actually see this happening but when he wakes up from his Sorceress dreamtime he is covered in rubble), which I find it hard to believe he could survive through without being He-Man, but whatever. The Sorceress then appears to him and tells him that he is He-Man and that he needs to grab the power sword (which conveniently lands next to him as he is crushed by rocks). The sword then awakens the power of Greyskull in him and he emerges from the rubble to fight Skeletor.
Okay. Here’s the issue with that. I realize that in the He-Man universe, there is a certain suspension of belief in terms of the Adam/He-Man transformation. They look exactly the same, I get it. How Skeletor and his henchmen, not to mention the people that are around both He-Man and Adam all the time don’t get it I will never understand. At least Clark
wears glasses! Skeletor (apparently)
actually buries Adam under the rubble.
There is no one else in the room.
No one at all. Then all of a
sudden He-Man emerges from where Adam fell and Skeletor doesn’t seem the least
bit skeptical. I get it, it’s hard to
say “how did you get there, where’s Adam” when you are fighting for your life
against a sword-wielding Barbarian, but come on. Eventually Skeletor loses (like he always
does) and he would have time to digest what happened. At that point, don’t you think logic would
prevail? Or is that the He-Man mythology
now, that everyone knows from the beginning?
I realize that in the mini-series they know, but I thought that was
because Adam was basically outed as He-Man when Skeletor took over.
I don’t know, I am still trying to wrap my head around the whole Skeletor is He-Man’s uncle thing. It just adds an unnecessary wrinkle to the whole mythology. What purpose does it serve? Skeletor thinking he got slighted as ruler of Eternia? Guess what, Skeletor is an asshole, he doesn’t need a concrete reason to want to take over Eternia, and even if he did, you could come up with a better one that doesn’t require rewriting the mythology.
1/10 – At least it was only $2.99, considering the fact that the bulk of the story was one or two pages in length with the rest being filler. It’s official, the He-Man redemption project failed. Thanks DC, first you take away Superman’s underpants and now you rewrote Masters of the Universe. Thank you for ass-raping my childhood with a salad fork.
The art by Ben Oliver is good. The problem is what makes the art good probably has more to do with the colorists Jose Villarrubia and Kathryn Layno than it does Oliver. Let me get this out of the way, Villaurrubia is a master, one of the best colorists working in the business today. His partnership with Jae Lee has produced some of the best work of both of their careers and I was not surprised that a beautifully “painted” comic like this was his handiwork.
Because of the masterful job by Villarrubia and Layno, it is hard to judge the artwork by Oliver. Where does his contributions end and that of the colorist begin? How much did they improve what he put down? Therefore the best judge of Oliver’s work is the pages themselves in terms of their layout, composition and storytelling. This is where Oliver loses me. Each page looks like he sat down with a checklist of panel types and just tried to fit them in. Closeup – Check. Extreme Closeup – Check. Longshot – Check. Mediumshot – Check. Silhouette – Check. And the silhouettes, good lord. He does a decent job with them, but when there are eleven pages with silhouettes in a twenty page comic, that is either someone that is using the technique as a crutch, or just doesn’t want to draw an actual picture.
I don’t even want to get into the layout that DC comics made them adhere to that made sure there was an ad for one of their crappy capes comics pretty much every other page. Talk about breaking up the flow of the story. Damn. This is one area that Image and independent comics have always and will always blow the big two away in.
This is the first page of the comic, and from the get-go you are asking "what the hell?" Both He-Man (as Adam) and Skeletor are reaching for the sword at the same time, He-Man comes up with it, and yet Skeletor (who put Adam under that rubble in the first place) asks "who are you?" on the next page. Give me a break.
This page makes no sense because there is no context. When does this happen? What does this lead to? Most of the book is a flashback except for maybe four pages (this being one of them) but while the present-day pages bookend the comic, this one gets thrown in the middle. Poor story and editing. The colors are pretty though.
Even though this page lacks any and all backgrounds, I still like it. However if Skeletor can just toss Adam around like a ragdoll, you would think that the stone pillar falling on him would have done more damage.
This is basically the only page this comic needs (minus the unnecessary silhouette). Adam: "Why me?" Sorceress: "Because I said so." There you have it, the entire origin of He-Man according to this comic.
5/10 – That’s five points for the coloring. It’s hard to take the comic or Oliver too seriously when each page almost looks like an art school assignment to try and fit in the various kinds of panels. I expected more, especially after that great cover.
Overall: 3/10 – A good cover is spoiled by terrible interiors. Great coloring on the artwork cannot save a bad, boring story that is best suited for a two to three page backup and not a headliner. I love silhouettes and when there are enough for me to stand up and take notice, then there are too many. In short, don’t bother with DCs treatment of this property unless you are a die-hard He-Man fan and don’t mind having your childhood squashed on a monthly basis.