In the previous issue of Masters of the Universe: Masterverse we were introduced to the main conceit of the series: the sorceress of Castle Greyskull is trying to convince Zodac, the cosmic enforcer, that Prince Adam is a good choice for the powers that he wields; that he is the kind of hero that the world of Eternia needs. Using mirrors that give glimpses into other worlds, Zodac and Teela Na hop from world to world, like channels on a television, seeing how each universe fares with Adam as their hero.
In the first of the two tales in this new issue we travel to an Eternia where the vast land is covered in water, and the locations that fans are used to seeing characters travel to with ease have become islands instead. Upon a ship we encounter General Adam, son of the King, who has been sent with his troops to find the mythical isle of Greyskull, in order to attain the secret power housed within. Along the way the crew will have to contend with threats from beneath the ocean waves.
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This story feels like a decent enough twist up on the already established Masters of the Universe formula that can easily be established in on sentence: He-Man as a ship based adventure. With the concept being that simple, most of the changes come in the smaller details, such as the different personal relationships in this world, and the new role that Skeletor takes on. The story also includes an appearance from the character Jitsu, who takes on a somewhat important role in this tale.
The art style on this story fits the tone really well, and E.J. Su and Michael Wiggam have a much more traditional comic style than the book’s second story. Things are clear and easy to make sense of, with the moments of action being full of energy and movement. The character designs are decent, and the faces seem very expressive and it’s easy to see the emotions going on in the character’s heads via the art. The only real complaint about this first story is that it ends very abruptly, and that it would have been nice to see a bit more of it.
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The second story takes a very different turn in both visual style and tone. Presented in complete black and white, this is a noir detective story more than anything else, set in a world where He-Man and Skeletor have long since vanished in battle, their respective power bases gone with them, and the heroes and villains left behind have had to adapt to their new world. Man-At-Arms has been thrown out of the palace in disgrace for hiding Adam’s identity as He-Man from the king, and has opened a detective agency with ‘Evil’ Lyn Powers as his secretary/assistant.
When Duncan is approached by Orco, who has accidentally made the King vanish, he sets out on a case that could have huge ramifications for the kingdom. Along the way he’ll have to contend with former foes, and sinister magic in order to save the kingdom that has turned its back on him.
Out of the two stories presented here this is by far the most interesting because it’s so different from what we’ve come to expect from the franchise. Mashing together this setting with the tone of a 1930’s detective story is a move that I’d never have seen coming, and Seeley has managed to make it work pretty well. Man-At-Arms being the cast out detective looking to make things right fits well, and the fact that Lyn is his assistant is the icing on the cake as far as weirdly ridiculous choices goes. The thing that stands out as odd about this story, however, is that it doesn’t feature He-Man at all. With the main conceit of the book being seeing what He-Man is like in different universes it feels odd that he’s not here for this one.
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The art style for this story, created by Victor Santos, works perfectly for the tone that the story is trying for. Everything is presented in moody black and white, with thick shadow and heavy darkness shrouding almost every panel of the book. Things look and feel oppressive (perhaps the intention of a world without He-Man), and we’re often left with the vague impressions of the images we’re being shown, rather than detailed art. The hard silhouettes and shadowed features convey the barest minimum at times, but manage to give you everything you need.
The framing story also takes a new development by the end, and it looks like perhaps the next issue will be taking a slightly different approach as far as the kind of stories that we’re going to be treated to, with the possibility that we’ll be getting some darker versions of He-Man. Perhaps most excitingly though, the cover reveal for the next issue hints that we might be getting a female He-Man too (She-Woman?).
Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #2 is out on 15th March from Dark Horse.