As a child of the 80s I grew up on a steady diet of Saturday morning cartoons and superheros, and perhaps my all-time favourite was He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Every weekend I would love to see He-Man vanquish the evil Skeletor with the “Power of Grayskull” and it would all be wrapped up with a nice moral message at the end. So it was with some excitement that I started reading the new digital only relaunch of He-Man and the Master of the Universe from DC Comics to tie in with a new on-going series. What was even more exciting was the prospect of a first issue written by the one and only Geoff Johns!
Acting as an accompanying strand to the new He-Man and Masters of the Universe story which DC launched in July, Masters of the Universe are a series of landscape orientated, digital only one-shots focusing in on different characters from the He-Man universe, including a new character, Sir Laser-Lot, which is a Geoff Johns creation. Instead of the child-like cheesiness of the original TV series and unlike the origin heavy storyline of the new He-Man series, Masters of the Universe is a strange mix of genre studies from a variety of creative teams each focussing on a different memeber of the He-Man cast of characters.
The first issue introduces us to Johns’ new character Sir Laser-Lot who is a whizzened old veteran warrior, a bit like Aragorn in Lord of the Rings, and I’m sure we’ll find out much more about him in the regular series. Issue 2 is a more straight forward action adventure story, based around Man At Arms, while issue 3 is an origin story told from the point of view of Battlecat which feels almost Neil Gaiman-esque in it’s focus reminding me of the Sandman book told purely from the point of view of a cat! Issue 4 is a reflective piece on the young life of King Randor (Adam/He-Man’s father) as he recounts his war stories while issue 5 is a noir-esque look at Evil Lynn told in brooding and angular black and white. However the 6th and latest issue is perhaps the best and wierdest, centring as it does on court jester/magician Orko.
In this particular adventure he is gifted the power of the Morgog Giant’s Skull and must rescue He-Man and the Sorceress from the skull’s magical malevolence that sees artist Chris Gugliotti really go to town and take the story in directions that you would never expect from a He-Man book. Whether it’s turning them into anime style children, undersea pirates, children’s doodles or even 80s arcade game characters each page is wierder and wilder than the last. Perhaps my favourite scene, sees He-Man and co. transported into a Bill Watterson style Calvin and Hobbes parody (complete with Skeletor and Evil Lynn as the bullies who are making snowballs with rocks in) before Orko restores the natural balance to Eternia. It’s a tripped out masterpiece of weirdness and gives a depth and intrigue to what would otherwise be a very trad. book. After this I can’t wait to see what weird and wonderful genre they delve into next!
Masters of the Universe is available every fortnight on Saturdays for £0.69 via ComiXology while the regular He-Man and the Masters of the Universe title is available every month for £1.99