By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
Dark Horse Comics
The history of creating He-Man to what it is now had its difficulties when Mattel, the toy manufacturer, didn’t take the deal of a lifetime. The CEO of the time, Ron Wagner declined to make toys for the upcoming Star Wars movie. Thankfully, that didn’t spell the destruction of this business. Recovering from that was hard. They looked to fashion a similarly competing product.
I still want the Emperor and Skeletor to fight each other but we won’t see that in any official media. If there’s a chance for an apprentice to defeat the master narrative in Kevin Smith and Rob David’s prequel comic, Masters of the Universe: Revelation, then I’ll be thrilled.
In the present, King Randor and Queen Marlena live in a mixed medieval and antiquarian world seemingly at peace. But before they know it, there’s an attack by a pink beholder-like creature. The king is wounded and rushed to Castle Grayskull so his wounds can heal. This setup shows Prince Adam learning about how the conflict and his sword came about. Before he became He-Man and guardian for all, there were others who took the mantle. We also learn the war with the serpentine has been a long one.
The fact this comic skips a beat by having no introductions is welcoming. Anyone familiar with the backstory can jump in. The artwork by Mindy Lee wavers between the classic animated design to modern. Teela looks more masculine in design, and The Sorceress is the epitome of feminine. Her line-work works very well to stress how the toys were designed–to highlight the thick muscle-bound physiques or be sexy when truly needed. Also, she makes Skeletor absolutely menacing.
In the story within the story, we meet King Grayskull teaching his own son D’are the ways of the fighting. I’m left questioning if there’s any nobility in fighting–or rather in recognizing the tenants of being a knight of Eternia (which doesn’t differ much from how King Arthur formed the Round Table). Sir Thomas Malory’s work set a precedent for stories set in a medieval world. There’s also the subtext with how to improve oneself which made the original cartoon enduring. For now, I don’t see any of that in Smith’s reimagining, but I’m hoping he injects a bit of this style when the animated series debut.
The comic book he’s crafted sees a science fiction medieval fantasy come alive. Like Hasbro’s Transformers and The LEGO Group’s Ninjago series, a collective manages the story bible. I don’t believe Smith has creative control, and the company has to approve his ideas.
I can’t wait to see Orlax of Primeria (the main bad guy) as a toy, if it happens. He attacked King Randor. To heal this ruler means delving into some crazy magic this character welds, and is not seen before. Or all this world needs is a symbol. It’s all about who wields that sword and for what purpose that user has. Much like how King Arthur chose between the sword or the scabbard as the extension of his authority, life is all about choices. The scabbard can heal all wounds, whereas the sword is like a standard bearer. Although we don’t get the same allegory with the comic book, the mythos being created will be worth analyzing when this mini-series is released as a complete trade paperback or I have the entire run in my hands.