He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #13–15 (DC) are written by Dan Abnett and illustrated by Pop Mhan.
#13 is a standalone flashback story that sets up the rest of the arc: in the aftermath of his defeat of Hordak (that’s Regular Hordak, not Giger Abomination Hordak), King Grayskull has to deal with this series’ mess of a prophecy while King Hssss incites a coup.
It’s nice to see Grayskull with that classic look, and he seems like a more interesting character than Space Boots He-Man has been to this point, but again, this story is grim and gritty without much in the way of context, and thus what could have been a poignant moment here goes by the wayside for lack of backstory.
In #14 and #15, all the big developments from the last arc are packed away in the closet as Space Boots He-Man accompanies Adora in search of Anwat-Gar. (Why is she going there? Because she has a map, duh.) The covers make it obvious where this is all generally headed—but our problem has always been with the details. One hopes they at least leave the samurai stilts out of it this time.
Storytelling aside, Abnett’s writing is okay. The tone of his dialogue still isn’t consistent and the series still isn’t grounded at all, but at least now you get the feeling that he might get there someday, especially if he could condescend to tell some smaller-scale stories. No, the biggest problem remains the dark tone of the series, which just doesn’t work for me at all—not because I don’t like dark, but because with this tone, these characters simply cannot bear any real resemblance to their classic versions, the ones we know and actually care about. Here’s an example:
We get quite a good moment in #15 where Space Boots He-Man actually does something quite He-Manly (albeit after having to think about it for a while first). On the other hand, the Horde Troopers are now explicitly living beings rather than robots (which they certainly seemed to be in #1–6), and Space Boots He-Man is butchering them by the score in the process. So there’s that.
I have to say that Mhan’s art is definitely growing on me. It’s cleaner than it was earlier in this series, which helps a lot. The attention to detail is strong, and all the little throwbacks to the 1980s are delightful—the three towers of the old Eternia playset on Grayskull’s tapestries, for example, or Adora’s outfit.
On the whole, these issues are nothing to get excited about, but once again, I find myself cautiously optimistic going forward (and the cover to #15 earned this series the tiniest bit of extra goodwill). Stay tuned.
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