It is a time of distrust and confusion. Those who fight for the side of good now question their actions, due to a vocal movement that feels ignored by The Powers That Be – one that prefers the leadership of an unscrupulous would-be king, who offers a false sense of safety while actively encouraging the evils they claim to be fighting against. Such is the state of affairs in both the world-spanning kingdom of Eternia and the Earth now ruled by the tyrant Superman.
(What, were you expecting me to say something about Donald Trump and the current state of The United States?)
Thus begins the saga of Injustice vs Masters of the Universe – a crossover event that no one I know of asked for, but which we received anyway. Writer Tim Seeley and artist Freddie E Williams II team up for this crossover event that will span over six issues of what promises to be an epic showdown of power vs power, might vs magic and your wallet/nostalgia vs the comic book industry/’Member-Berries.
I stepped into this comic-book swimming-pool with only my knowledge of the classic He-Man cartoon series and the basic plot of the Injustice games. Fortunately, for those not familiar with Injustice, we get a Cliff Notes version of The Story So Far. Alas, we don’t get the same for He Man and his entourage.
We open in the middle of battle, as one of He-Man’s enemies, a robot known as Faker, has tricked Eternia into thinking he was the real He-Man. Apparently the whole of Eternia is now aware that Prince Adam and He-Man are one and the same, which is a point that may confuse old-school He-Man fans. An angry noble woman, who mocks Prince Adam for not remaining in his He-Man form all the time, conveniently provides some exposition on this point after Faker is deafeated, with a blink-and-you’ll miss it editorial footnote plugging the He-Man/Thundercats crossover comic from 2016.
Facing a sudden crisis of identity since the people of Eternia don’t seem to share his idealism and preferred the warmongering Faker’s rule to his own, Prince Adam is suddenly greeted by a team of freedom fighters from the world of Injustice. This team includes a new Batman, whose true identity is sure to be a plot point in the issues to come. It is revealed that through the shared power of Zatanna and Swamp Thing, the heroes of Earth came to Eternia to enlist He-Man’s help in defeating the evil forces of Superman.
Meanwhile, an increasingly erratic Superman and his team (which includes Wonder Woman and a technologically enslaved Bruce Wayne) are now joined by the likes of Skeletor, who informs Superman that he has the power to detect magic objects. This power could prove useful, Skeletor points out, since magic and sorcery can hurt Superman just like Kryptonite. How did Skeletor come to Earth? Does Skeletor know He Man and his gang are on their way? No clue. This is another point that isn’t explained, along with how this story is apparently set after the “Ultimate Power” ending of Injustice 2. This presumption that the reader will automatically know this and other details is one of the bigger issues with Seeley’s script.
Another problem is the oddly out-of-place references to political events in the real world. I am not one to dismiss any form of media that wants to use its’ platform to speak Truth to Power. That being said, the anti-Trump messages presented in the guise of the citizens of Eternia reacting negatively to the fall of Faker and Superman’s actions against protesters in Metropolis have all the subtlety of an elephant farting in a crowded swimming pool. The comments of the Eternian nobles praising the erection of a mystic wall to repel “outsiders from the dark hemisphere” and citizens of Earth being silenced with force for speaking against Superman go a bit too far in drawing parallels to real-world events.
The utter preachiness is just a minor annoyance compared to the artwork from Freddie E. Williams II. From drawing Batman to resemble the YouTube video heavy metal sensation BatMetal after eating sugar-frosted steroids, to depicting a range of expressions on He-Man’s face ranging from Droopy Dog to Constipated, Williams’ artwork is a bit too Mad Magazine meets Heavy Metal Magazine for my tastes. I know many like him, but I think his talents would be better applied to the sides of windowless party vans on their way to Coachella.
I wanted to like this book more than I did. The idea was so unique I wanted to get behind it. Unfortunately, while the basic idea is interesting, this first issue was a hot mess that left my brain and eyes reeling. Maybe things will improve in later issues, but I feel that not even The Power of Grayskull could help Seeley and Williams save this one.