“He-Man: The Eternity War” #1 is an easy jumping-on point for new readers. Writer Dan Abnett lays out all the necessary backstory and mythology — but unfortunately, that means recaps and inevitable actions take up the bulk of the issue. For new readers, this approach will read as a whole lot of summary; for readers who’ve been keeping up, it won’t feel particularly eventful. All that aside, it’s a clear, promising setup for the rest of “The Eternity War,” and in that sense, succeeds as a first issue.
Abnett lets the Masters of the Universe mythology take on some interesting new concepts in this story. He’s running with the Grayskull origin myths and reassembling Eternia’s traditional alliances. The threat of Hordak provides an exciting complication to the usual Skeletor dynamic, and I’m definitely intrigued to see where the story goes from here.
However, despite the success of the overall direction, the issue itself is mostly Teela reciting Eternian history and Hordak speaking to his troops. There is a subplot where Man-at-Arms fights through Teela’s Snake Men generals to see his daughter, but that reads as a pointless device to bring more action into a relatively motionless story. (It doesn’t even seem to have consequences.) While I didn’t find the issue engaging to read, I do understand its value to the arc overall. Abnett can go forward seamlessly from here.
The dialogue also occasionally reads as self-serious. Hordak and Teela both use repetition, like speakers in an epic poem, to emphasize particularly foreboding or boastful points. This is an intermittently successful approach.
Mark Roberts’ colors, on the other hand, are lively and cartoony in the Snake Mountain scenes. The Snake Men are lime green and fuchsia; Man-at-Arms’ chest is hale and pinkish; the assembled Resistance is full of purple and turquoise. This sword-and-sorcery palette feels very “Masters of the Universe,” but it can sometimes make Abnett’s dialogue sound out-of-place. That said, Roberts does a phenomenal job on the splash page where Hordak gives the famous cry, “I have the power!” The spewing magenta, red and purple feel epic and awesome.
Roberts’ colors are a strong complement to Pop Mhan’s artwork. Mhan draws outlandish, oversized figures that fuse sci-fi and fantasy as “Masters of the Universe” characters should, and Hordak and Skeletor are particularly imposing and larger-than-life. Unfortunately, the figures don’t always look as if they’re actually in motion. Many of the scenes feel posed, though I’m not sure if they seemed that way because they were often illustrating things that happened in the past.
Letterer Deron Bennett uses a great diversity of text treatments, with captions designed like scrolls, light green words for Teela and scarlet word bubbles for Hordak. Eternia is peopled with so many different species and groups; it’s fun to see that reflected in the variety of lettering. However, as with Roberts’ colors, though I appreciate the full “He-Man” aesthetic, it can wax cartoonier than Abnett’s dialogue suggests.
“He-Man: The Eternity War” #1 is a great setup. It doesn’t rise much above that, but it paves the way for an exciting series to come.