Multiverses have become big things in recent year. Franchises like Marvel and DC Comics have always used the ideas of multiple universes to justify continuity changes, alternate versions, and radically different stories all existing together. And it’s in part down to the growing popularity of these two companies’ content beyond comic books that have helped to push the idea of multiverses with the general population.
More and more stories featuring multiverses have begun to crop up, with the multiverse being used in film and TV such as The Flash, Star Trek, Everything Everywhere All At Once, Rick and Morty, and Supernatural. Everything seems to have one now, and fans will talk about upcoming shows and franchises needing them (please no more talk about the Disney/BBC team up for Doctor Who meaning we can have a Doctor Who multiverse). And now Masters of the Universe are getting in on it too!
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The new comic series from Dark Horse sees the popular 80’s toy franchise getting in on the action when Zodac, the cosmic enforcer, arrives at Castle Grayskull and witnesses He-Man repel an attack from Skeletor and his evil forces. Unsure whether or not Prince Adam is a good choice to wield the powers, he tells the sorceress about his doubts. To convince him that Adam is a worthy bearer, she takes him to the Nexus of All Realities, where they’re able to look through magical doorways at other universes, to see what the Adams in those worlds are like.
The first of these worlds takes readers to a very dark version of Eternia, where Skeletor and his minions have plunged the land into eternal darkness, and horrors stalk the shadows. When the caravan carrying Prince Adam falls under attack he flees into some nearby ruins to try and draw the monsters away from the others. There he dispatches a number of the more horror-themed enemies from the list of villains, but without accessing his powers. This Adam is reluctant to do so, and when he finally does transform it might be one of the most shocking reveals in the book.
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This section, with art by Kelley Jones, Brennan Wagner, and Deron Bennett, is my favourite of the three presented in this issue. It leans into the horror elements that are present in Masters of the Universe, but that are never really given centre stage. This is a universe where it’s not a sci-fi fantasy adventure, but a horror story. The shift is very well done, and whilst there is a big departure from the normal universe to justify it, most of it is done without much difference, and really goes to show that the series can work as a horror story. The art helps to sell this too, with the environments and the monsters made to look very spooky.
The second universe we get to look at is, sadly, completely different, and ends up being quite unenjoyable. The art, by Sergio Aragnones, Rico Renzi, and Deron Bennett, is kind of messy and rough. Much of it looks more like quick doodles, and it has the feel of the kind of comics you’d get in the back of the newspaper. The tone is very, very different too, and takes on a kind of silly, farcical style that feels like it could have been a story that a child made up on the spot. The fact that it’s written by the same writer as the horror based story, Tim Seeley, is a big shock.
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The two featured universes couldn’t be more different from each other, and whilst this does show the versatility of this comics set-up, it also worked to the book’s detriment. I really enjoyed the framing story, I absolutely loved the horror story, but I hated the third story. Something about it just felt too silly, too boring, and like it was almost trying too hard to be different. I’m glad that the horror story came first, because if the other one did I’m not sure that I’d have continued through the book. As such, this leaves me in a strange position where I really enjoyed part of the book and hated another.
With the series looking set to continue presenting different version of these characters and worlds, and with it now clear that not just art style, but tone can vary drastically, it leaves me wondering just how this series is going to end up going. This could be a series that ends up being really entertaining, or it could quickly wear out its welcome. Only time will tell.
Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #1 is out now from Dark Horse.