Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #4 – Comic Review

When Masters of the Universe: Masterverse was first announced it seemed like an interesting series. Having grown up watching the original cartoon, it’s a series that I have a passing familiarity with, and I thought exploring the world it had created and all of the various alternate versions could be quite fun.

And the series started decently enough, taking some bold creative decisions to show off some very different version of characters that fans will know. But over the course of the series it seems like the general creativity and overall quality have steadily been declining. Unfortunately, this holds true for the final issue of the mini-series, which proves to be the worst one yet.

As with the other issues, the book uses the framing device of the Sorceress and Zodak peering through portals into other universes so that the Sorceress can make her case that the world needs a He-Man, and that Prince Adam is a good choice of hero. This time, the conceit for the universes chosen is that Zodak has found a pair where the heroes are actually villains. Sadly, this falls apart almost instantly in both cases.

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The first world we see is from the 2021 Masters of the Universe cartoon; a series that received criticism due to its very different design and animation style. Being passingly familiar with the He-Man mythos, I’ve been able to tell who characters are in these re-imagined worlds, but this is the first story where I honestly had no idea who some of the main characters are meant to be.

This is obviously something that this comic can’t control, as these designs were created for the TV series, but the fact that it doesn’t take a moment to really tell you who anyone is until towards the end makes it feel like a jumbled mess. It took me a while to figure out who one of the lead characters was, and I still don’t really know about another two of them.

Is this a deal-breaking thing? I can see it argued not, but the fact that there are two sets of the characters and they’re all fighting, with no visual distinction between the good and evil versions, doesn’t help you to figure out who characters are meant to be either. The dialogue also seems to constantly reference other events and people, which I can only guess are from the series. By the end of this particular story I was more than ready to move onto the next one.

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That next one is also, sadly, a little confusing. The very first page of this story features the Skeletor, Man-At-Arms, and Teela of the 1987 live action movie. However, their hero isn’t a Dolph Lundgren He-Man, instead it’s a character called He-Sol. After fighting Skeletor, He-Sol jumps through a portal that lands him in another universe, in the middle of a huge battle where all red versions of heroes and villains are fighting against another He-Man-like character called Hi-Ra.

It’s slowly, very slowly, revealed that this story is dealing with a villain that’s trying to take over the universes of the multiverse by corrupting heroes and villains (making them red in a similar way to the Transformers animated series ‘Return of Optimus Prime’ story).

A lot happens in this story, and the reader is thrown from world to world and fight to fight with zero explanation, as more He-Man type characters turn up. You eventually get an explanation as to who they’re fighting and why, much too late into the story, but there’s still little explanation as to the other He-heroes. Context suggests it’s a Shazam film type situation where He-Man has shared his powers to empower his friends, but this is not confirmed in the book. The fact that this final story bleeds into the framing story makes the severe lack of explanations even more egregious, as it seems to be the most important one in the series.

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The art on the book, provided by Eddie Nunez, Rico Renzi, Daniel Lopez, and Fico Ossio is really good throughout, and the art for the first story captures the look of the new television series very well. The action packs the pages for each story, and things certainly look exciting throughout. The art isn’t the issue on this book, as it all looks great. Sadly, it’s the quality of the writing that harms these tales, and drags appreciation for the artwork down.

This is the end of Masters of the Universe: Masterverse series, and it feels like a rushed one. This final issue felt like it had been created from a first draft, and that a bit more time spent on keeping the audience up to speed could have benefitted the book greatly. I’m not one to normally get lost with comics, but this book seemed to expect me to keep up as the writer sped on ahead doing his own thing. It’s a shame, as the series started really well, and it would have been nice to have ended the same way. Sadly, I think that this book will be putting me off trying any further Masters of the Universe titles in the future.

Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #4 is out now from Dark Horse.

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