Ed Benes or Terry and Rachel Dodson adorn the covers of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” #1, and, despite Keith Giffen and Pop Mhan listed as the creators for the book, the real magic stops with the cover art. It seems as though DC has been trying to figure out what to do with this brand, so naturally putting a pair of recognizable names on the cover would help bring in some readers. Clearly those names are more geared towards comic book fans than to He-Man fans.
It’s a decent enough read, but “Masters of the Universe” is a property I’ve never been especially invested in. I’ve watched some cartoons and I’ve certainly sampled the comics, but this book is a thick read, guarded against new readers and rewarding for those more familiar with the characters depicted herein. “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” #1 is a dense read, filled with cameos and references to the beloved characters as Eternos bids farewell to their Sorceress moments before a brutal attack from Despara, who bears a striking resemblance to Hordak, although not everything is as it seems.
Unfortunately, that through line of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” doesn’t stop with the story. Pop Mhan’s art is nowhere near as stylized as I remember it. Very heavy with shading and extra lines, the characters frequently stand in front of color fields and the action they partake is unclear or partially concealed to play more directly to a potential all-ages audience. Instead, the art just appears unpolished and even hurried. Additionally, there is some distinctly weird coloring applied by Kathryn Layno. Everything except many of the characters’ hair is outlined in black ink, as is tradition for comics, but the hair on the main characters, however, is “inked” in a darker tone than their fill colors. Yes, there is a bit of story directly connected to hair color, but this choice just seems weird and adds to the overall shortcomings of the art. Mhan and Layno do a great job with the money shots of the characters, but there are sixteen pages of story before He-Man appears.
In addition to being a thick read due to the civilian attire the primary characters sport throughout most of the issue, the lineage of characters and relationships is not something new readers are going to easily discern. Once again, however, I find myself reiterating that perhaps newer readers are not the target audience. “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” #1 is a niche book reaching out to a niche audience and I hope fans of the franchise enjoyed this first issue more than I did.