He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #10–12 (DC) are written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Michael S. O’Hare and Tom Derenick. Here, the Justice League of Eternia continues its journey into the underworld, where it turns out that Randor has secretly been dead for years and years and that it’s actually been King Hssss in disguise the entire time. No, seriously.
Well then. Maybe if anybody had ever given us any kind of foundation for these characters, I might care that Randor’s supposed to be dead. Instead? Meh, and profoundly so. (While we’re on the subject, is Man-at-Arms supposed to be dead? Does anybody know? Almost forgot about that guy.)
So here’s the big payoff, and while I’m tempted to say it’s the first interesting bit of storytelling we’ve had in this series, I have a feeling it’s going to turn out to be little more than a deus ex machina used to sweep the board clean (following a big, overlong army fight, of course) for the next round of foundationless, unengaging “storyline”: Teela becomes the new Sorceress—the old-timey green Teela snake armor one—so the JLE gets to have Snake Mountain as a base and have their own army of Snake Men. The irony would be great if this had been anywhere near competently set up.
Last time, I predicted skipping to get through this story—I was right. We go straight from Moss Man dying in the desert to Moss Man commanding a Final Fantasy-style airship with guns on it. All right, fine. But this is a comic book—why are we getting his recap with close-up face shots instead of with actual pictures of what happened?
The lack of grounding in this series is bewildering. It’s well-documented that DC’s not using any of the old mythoi—these absolutely are not those characters. If there’s any “foundation” to speak of, it’s the little paragraphs from the MOTU Classics figures’ cardbacks. That’s plenty to go on, right?
We’ve had a six-issue miniseries and 12 issues of the ongoing, and we’ve already gotten all three of He-Man’s Big Bads. What’s the almighty rush? You’d think they were still making toys. Whether Iron Pants He-Man’s chopping on Horde Troopers, nightmare creatures, or Snake Men for two straight issues, it gets old equally fast.
For these reasons and others, this arc feels slapped together. Abnett’s sticking with the tried-and-true fight-while-spouting-exposition approach to writing comics. Issue 10 is mostly just talking, while issue 11 is mostly just fighting while talking.
(Battlecat? Battle-Cat? It’s Battle Cat, Abnett, you should ask somebody, and let’s not even talk about Sarnscepter.)
While it’s certainly better than Giffen’s, Abnett’s dialogue is just too much at times (“This shot-cannon is most efficacious”? Are you wearing a monocle? Are you Sir Hammerlock?). And then there’s this, from Iron Pants He-Man: “You will all pay with your souls!” Like in a Hellraiser kind of way? What does that even mean?
On the art front, so much for O’Hare. He and his fine work are gone after issue 10. Derenick replaces him—his art is perfectly competent, although his faces are chunky. We’ve had a lot worse. More relevant is that He-Man gets a new outfit that’s even stupider than the one he’d been wearing. Dude looks ridiculous. Nice space boots, turkey.
Abnett’s not as flagrantly annoying as Giffen. My problem with him isn’t what he’s doing with the plot and the characters, it’s how he’s going about it. The bottom line is, these comics, these characters, this Eternia still don’t feel like any He-Man I know about, mostly because they’re so generic, so cookie cutter, so one-dimensional, existing only to dash heroically from one colossal melee combat to the next while lamenting the most recent apocalyptic turn of events the reader hasn’t been made to care about. So while these issues trot out some story elements that could be interesting, it seems pointless to talk about whatever potential this series might have as long as it refuses to invest itself in its characters or its storyline.