Masters of the Universe: Masterverse is a series that allows the creative team to play a little fast and loose with the concept of Masters of the Universe. Thanks to the myriad possibilities that a multiverse adds, we’ve been given several unique and different version of Eternia, as well as its heroes and villains. But, as we enter the third issue, it’s beginning to feel like there’s perhaps not a whole lot to the concept, and that the series is running out of steam as it heads towards its end.
This latest issue begins in dramatic fashion, with the Sorceress and Zodac coming to blows over their different stances on what makes a good protector for the Power of Greyskull, and what should be done about Prince Adam. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last long, and the two ultra-powerful beings put aside their fight to the death to start looking through windows into other universes once again.
The first world we come to takes us to a more primitive and savage version of Eternia, where the kingdom that mixes magic and machines that we know doesn’t exist, and instead there are warring tribes that wear little more than loincloths and animal furs. It’s here that we meet Teel-la, a warrior woman who can hear the voices of ancestral warriors who came before her. When a group of men, who she describes as ‘superstitious barbarians’, capture a shaman of the Beast-Men tribe, she sneaks in at night to free the prisoner. However, when she is confronted by their best warrior, He-Man, she’s forced to battle against him.
This story features on the cover of the book, and the cover gives us a woman who looks very similar to He-Man, with the same kind of hair, muscles, and a big sword. Because of this I thought that we might be getting a universe where He-Man is female, where the power was given to a gender swapped version of Adam. Instead, the story is about Teela, and she looks nothing like the woman on the cover. Her build is different, her hair is different, she’s not as muscled, and she doesn’t have a sword. That, coupled with the story not actually really doing much, leads to this first tale to be hugely disappointing.
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The art for this story is pretty strong, however, and is provided by Claudia Balboni and Rico Renzi. The art is very crisp, and very clear, and it’s easy to tell who characters are and what they’re doing, though mostly because they’re the most detailed thing on the page. A lot of panels have very minimal backgrounds, with some having none, and so the characters often stand out of the page as the only thing to draw your eye.
Beastman looks pretty cool, and his design here is understated compared to some versions of him. He-Man is just a guy in furry underwear, however, and there’s nothing distinct about him, and if he didn’t give his name you could be forgiven for not knowing who he is. Tee-la’s design is one that I’m not sure about. She’s wearing the small fur undies like He-Man, and that’s about it. She’s got some bracers on her arms, and her breasts are sitting inside metal cups that are somehow attached to her chest (magic?) that look extremely uncomfortable, and impractical as hell. It’s like an attempt was made to make her a sexy savage, and it just ends up coming off as a bit exploitative.
The second story introduces us to a He-Man who’s part of a group of travelling adventurers who have called themselves the Masters of the Universe. The group consists of Adam, Ram-Man, Man-E-Faces, and Stratos, who awaken to find that their ship has run aground on the Isle of Gray Skulls, and is sinking. Grabbing their gear, they head onto the mysterious island. Following the sounds of hammering metal coming from up the mountain, they go deep inside a cave where they discover a horrific, skull-faced man forging a magical sword, with a woman held as his prisoner. Whilst his friends want to help the woman, He-Man sees no reason to risk his life for a stranger.
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This story is a bit of an odd one. For the majority of it Adam is painted as something of a selfish coward and a dick. He doesn’t want to help others out, he seems to be constantly drinking and seems to sleep through important stuff; and in the end he only really steps up when he’s got no other option. I’d question why the Sorceress would be showing Zodac this particular world, as it really seems to be helping his argument that Adam is a dick who shouldn’t be given the powers. There is also a lot of inconsistency with the Isle of Gray Skulls, where at various points we see the team traipsing up snowy mountains, or making camp in the woods, but when we see the entire island come the end of the story neither of these environments are present.
The art for this story is by David Rubin, who provides both the line-work and the colours. It definitely has a style distinct from the first story, and the framing story, and looks wholly its own. It has an odd mix of making things look somewhat gritty and realistic, yet also at times giving characters big, cartoonish expressions, or just big white ball eyes whenever they’re surprised. These moments often feel at odds with the rest of the art, and gives a weird mixed message as to what kind of tone the story is supposed to be. Is it a serious tale, or it it supposed to be a humorous one?
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Come the end of the issue it seems like the Sorceress has finally convinced Zodac to stop being a bit of a dick, and to see that He-Man is a decent choice to be her champion. With that done, what else could the two of them need to argue about for the final issue? Well, it looks like the Sorceress is going to show Zodac worlds where He-Man inspired other heroes (though that would be most surely?). We get a small hint in the final panel, and a huge hint in the next cover preview, that one of these worlds is going to be from the new Netflix series. It’ll be interesting to see what other world they showcase, and if its going to be based on another known interpretation.
With the series getting ready for its final issue it’s a real shame that the penultimate one feels so lacklustre and dull. The stories collected here don’t really do much for me, and it feels like neither one really does much with the concept. Hopefully the last issue will throw in a bit more excitement so that the series doesn’t end on a sour note.
Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #3 is out now from Dark Horse.