MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE: REVELATION #1/ Story by KEVIN SMITH & ROB DAVIDI/ Script by TIM SHERIDAN/ Art by MINDY LEE/ Colors by RICO RENZI/ Letters by DERON BENNETT/ Cover by STJEPAN SEJIC/ Variant Cover by MIKE MIGNOLA With DAVE STEWART/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was my favorite cartoon as a kid. Something about the mix of fantasy and science-fiction just appealed to me and probably paved the way for my interest in such things as I got older. Despite this, I haven’t gone out of my way to check out the various attempts to revamp the Masters of the Universe line since then. I saw a few episodes of the 2002 reboot, but was too busily occupied with college to think much about it. Since then, I did glance through some of the DC Comics tie-ins, but gave those up after a single issue due to bad writing and worse art.
The recent announcement of a new Masters of the Universe series from Netflix did get my attention, for two reasons. The first was the involvement of Kevin Smith, whose films and comics I’ve generally enjoyed. The other was a list of top-notch voice talent, who promised that the new series would have good acting if nothing else. At the time of this writing, the new series is just under a month away and hither into this arena comes an official prequel comic, tying into the new series. One with a story co-plotted by Kevin Smith himself and a script by screenwriter Tim Sheridan, who has written a few DC Comics’ animated movies, including Superman: Man of Tomorrow.
Unfortunately, despite this pedigree, this first issue is largely inaccessible. Granting it’s probably a safe assumption that most of the people picking this issue up are established He-Man fans, one would think that a prequel series to a revamp of a classic show would take some time to introduce the ensemble. You might think we’d at least get a one-off page with Prince Adam giving his usual speech about how fabulous powers allow him to transform into the most powerful man in the universe, He-Man.
We do not get such an explanation, nor is it explained who Teela, Man-At-Arms, Orko or any of the supporting players are.
This is a minor problem compared to the fact that the story itself is low on action and high on exposition. The plot centers around a mysterious creature attacking good King Randor and leaving him in a dire state. In order to learn more of the poison that has infected the king, He-Man must travel back in time to the early days of Eternia, to confront the monster during the first time it apparently manifested. We get to learn a fair bit about the lineage of Eternia’s kings, from King Grayskull to the present, and the origins of He-Man’s Sword of Power, but there’s not much discussion of who these characters are and, weirdly enough, not a lot of fighting. Even the attack on King Randor takes place completely off page.
Established He-Man fans might be able to forgive the info dump of lore if the artwork were good. Unfortunately, Mindy Lee’s work seems rushed in several panels and some pages almost appear to have gone uninked. The colors by Rico Renzi help hide that fact, but this is an incredibly rough looking book that doesn’t resemble the finely crafted art of the animation stills from the series that inspired it.
All in all, only the most die-hard of He-Man fans need give this book a look-see. Newcomers will be completely lost, assuming they aren’t bored by the lack of action. The nicest thing that can be said about this book is that it definitely feels like a He-Man story, so those who feared that Orko would be trying to sell dime-bags purely because of Kevin Smith’s involvement can rest easy.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation #1 releases on July 7, 2021.