Writers: Kevin Smith, Rob David, & Tim Sheridan
Artist: Mindy Lee
Publisher: Dark Horse
WHAT IS IT?
A prequel to Netflix’s adaption of the beloved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Think Dungeons & Dragons meets the story of Frozen II.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
King Randor is attacked by a mysterious creature that isn't harmed by conventional weaponry. Before He-Man can strike the foe, it disappears in fear of his sword, leaving the King poisoned. To save the King, He-Man travels through the Cosmic Corridor to learn the origins of his sword and the monster’s relationship.
Traveling to the past, He-Man witnesses the forging of his sword by King Greyskull to defeat King Hiss and the Orlax, the same beast that poisoned King Randor. Learning the true nature of the Orlax and its poison, He-man makes a plan to save the king and capture the creature. Little does he know, Skeletor is forming a plan of his own, and his efforts to save the king will not pass without resistance.
Prequels can often feel like filler material that is loosely tied to the main story, but the writing team of Masters of the Universe manages to expertly avoid that. The flashbacks are placed naturally within the narrative and prompted well by dialogue while never halting the story's progress.
The script by Tim Sheridan is absolutely stunning. He peppers narration throughout, bringing a mythic air to the story and enhancing the emotional meat of each event. In the issues focusing on Skeletor and Evil-Lyn’s past, this technique makes the reader feel like they’re being read a great tragedy from a saddened storyteller.
Mindy Lee’s linework excellently sells the majesty of this story. The many settings, including Castle Grayskull and the Sorceress’s lair, are magnificently designed and leave the reader in awe. She also shows great versatility in making certain characters, like Skeletor, hard and angular, while others are softer and smoother.
The primarily flat color choices by Rico Renzi are a lovely homage to the colors of the original show, but he shows amazing versatility in his use of shadows for the more dramatic moments in the story, such as He-Man defending Greyskull or Evil-Lyn conquering her first master.
Deron Bennett’s letters amplify the drama of the narration and add much to the voices of the characters. His use of color and misplaced capital letters brilliantly invokes the supernatural voices of multiple characters.
The panels are also incredibly detailed, leaving almost no negative space throughout, and make each scene feel alive. This is most prominently displayed in these issues' many two-page spreads which makes the characters feel small in comparison to the setting’s grandeur.
The ideas expressed by the narrator and the characters are connected well and display a holistic world. Every main character, good and bad, produces a different perspective of the story's themes concerning power and its use allowing it to be explored in multiple ways.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK
Some transitions between settings are a bit awkward, shifting suddenly or not being set up as well as they could.
The second issue's move from the present day to a flashback feels less natural than the first and third, but not terribly so.
Some pages contain lots of narration and dialogue which slow down the story briefly.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Masters of the Universe: Revelations is an excellent read for anyone wanting fleshed-out versions of their favorite characters, but also for those unfamiliar with previous iterations.
The writing team takes the simple "good vs. evil" structure of the original TV show and adds shades of grey throughout. What is most brilliant about Smith and David's story is how the "good" and "evil" characters contain parallels in their stories. This is seen most when the reader compares the backstory of King Greyskull forging the sword of power and Skeletor’s origins. Both made “deals with the devil” to meet their ends, which makes both characters feel more nuanced and interesting. One could even claim that Skeletor is now a sympathetic or tragic character. The story suggests that the line between good and evil is very thin and that it is a person’s actions when pursuing power that shape who they become.
Overall, the source material is taken to new heights and given much more depth and meaning. Sheridan's dialogue and narration sell this story even more by providing the action-packed conversations longtime fans expect while sewing some sadness and regret throughout. This combination of story and dialogue demonstrates an effective collaboration.
The art toes the line of nostalgic and new expertly. At times, the style is reminiscent of the original He-Man, but subtle changes in shadowing and linework for the more dramatic moments bring the story into the 21st century. Readers feel immersed in the world of Eternia largely thanks to the detailed artwork, subtle coloring, and creative lettering. No space is wasted in the backgrounds and the minimalist approach to shading makes big moments where it is heavily utilized pack an even bigger punch. For newcomers, this is an excellent story full of emotion and deep ideas, and for diehard fans, it is a fresh take that raises these characters to new levels. These issues aren't essential for any fans of the show, but it definitely isn't filler and adds a lot to the experience.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Green Hornet by Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, & Ande Parks
Shazam! by Tim Sheridan & Clayton Henry
He-Man/Thundercats by Lloyd Goldfine, Rob David, & Freddie E. Williams II
If you like the art:
Crimson Lotus by John Arcudi & Mindy Lee
Ascension of the Starless by Josh Tierney & Mindy Lee
Dungeons & Dragons: Evil At Baldur’s Gate by Jim Zub & Max Dunbar
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Kevin Smith (@thatkevinsmith) – Writer
Most known for his films, Smith is the writer of the Clerks franchise and Mallrats.
Smith made his comics debut in 1998 publishing Clerks: The Comic through Oni Press, and has also written Batman & Green Arrow for DC, Spiderman/Black Cat & Daredevil for Marvel, and The Bionic Man & Green Hornet for Dynamite.
In 1999, Smith won the Harvey Award for Best New Talent in comics.
Rob David – Writer
He is a veteran screenwriter for animated television having contributed scripts for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Max Steel, and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!.
As a comics writer, he wrote issue #19 of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 2014 and he joined Lloyd Goldfine in 2016 for DC’s He-Man/Thundercats miniseries.
David currently serves as the Vice President Content Creative for Mattel.
Tim Sheridan (@iamtimsheridan) – Writer
Sheridan is a frequent contributor to DC’s animated television and films including Teen Titans Go!, DC Super Hero Girls, and Batman: The Long Halloween.
A relative newcomer to comics, he has also written Teen Titans Academy, Shazam!, and Future State: Teen Titans for DC.
Going outside of comic properties, Sheridan has also written scripts for Legend Quest and two Scooby-Doo movies.
Mindy Lee (@mindyleedoodles) - Artist
Lee is multitalented, serving as a storyboard artist for multiple video games companies, and a background designer for Warner Bros Animation.
She made her comic debut in 2016 on Dark Horse’s Bounty.
Lee is also a cover artist and produced one of the variant covers for Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee’s Fire Power #12.
Rico Renzi (@whoisrico) – Colorist
Having a prolific career, Rico has worked for every major publisher but is most known for his work on Marvel’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Spider-Gwen.
He has also done cover art and pencils for Marvel.
Rico designs apparel and stickers which he sells through his site No Longer Mint.
Deron Bennett (@deronbennett) – Letterer
A seasoned veteran, Deron has done letters for nearly every major publisher including DC (Batman), Marvel (Spider-Man Family, Wolverine: First Class), Image (Excellence) Boom! Studios (Something is Killing the Children) and Vault.
He was nominated for the 2015 Harvey Award for Best Letterer for his work on Boom! Studios’ Hacktivist and the 2021 Eisner for Best Letterer.
Deron also designs covers and interiors for children’s books through his company Andworld Design.
HOW DO I BUY IT?
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All Masters of the Universe characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright of Mattel or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.