Once upon a time in the eighties, kids known as Generation X came home from school and watched a crudely animated syndicated TV series called He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, based on the popular toy line by Mattel. For half an hour, they were transported to the fictional fantasy realm of Eternia to see the adventures of Prince Adam and his allies Battle Cat, The Sorceress, Teela, Man-At-Arms and Orko. The series lasted only two seasons, but featured a total of 130 episodes, and launched a spinoff series, She-Ra: Princess of Power, centered around Adam's sister Adora.
Well, there's nothing that now-fortysomething Generation X loves more these days than reliving childhood nostalgia, so it's no surprise to see He-Man and the Masters of the Universe making a comeback in comic book form. After an initial six-issue limited series last year, He-Man finally returns in a new monthly ongoing format by writer Keith Giffen and artist Pop Mhan.
In this first issue, "Desperate Times," we return to Eternia for the funeral of The Sorceress, who was killed and beheaded by Skeletor in the previous limited series. Teela, who has recently learned The Sorceress was her mother, apparently copes with the news by giving herself a drastic hairstyle change from blond to traditional animated series red. She also learns that she was named after The Sorceress' real name, Teela Na, which doesn't exactly sit too well either. Meanwhile, Despara has arrived with a Horde invasion force and launches an attack on Eternos that culminates in a surprising revelation for He-Man and Teela.
The script by Giffen is well-paced, as you would expect from him, with plenty of action balanced with the right amount of lighthearted humor. He has a solid enough grasp on the characters without writing them too rigidly and wisely focuses most of the first issue on Teela and Despara, who have more interesting storylines right now than their male counterparts. It was also nice to see Skeletor put on the backburner for a while in favor of the less obvious Hordak. My only minor concern is that for a first issue, some parts aren't friendly to new readers and may require picking up the previous limited series to bring them quickly up to speed.
As for the art, Pop Mhan produces some excellent work here. I first started noticing Mhan on the SpyBoy series for Dark Horse and The Flash for DC Comics and it amazes me how much he's grown as an artist since then. His depictions of Eternos are big and lavish as you would want them to be, and they look even better with the solid color work by Kathryn Layno.
All in all, a very promising return for the Masters of the Universe characters. With this new monthly format, Giffen and Mhan have the power -- Yeah, I went there -- to craft a great fantasy series and I can't wait to see what happens next.