Masters Of The Universe #1
Marvel/Star Comics (May,1986)“The Coming Of Hordak!” WRITER: Mike Carlin PENCILER: Ron Wilson INKER: Dennis Janke COLORIST: Bob Sharen LETTERER: Janice Chiang EDITOR: Ralph Macchio
For centuries Skeletor has managed to hold back his former teacher, Hordak, and his Evil Horde. Now the barrier is weakening and Skeletor makes a desperate attempt to dig into Castle Grayskull with the Terror Claws. The Sorceress brings He-Man to the rescue but it’s too late…for Skeletor! Hordak breaks through the barrier and after battling hero and villain alike Hordak sends his men as well as He-Man, Battlecat, and Orko to the Fright Zone. Our heroes escape and Orko manages to bring the trio back. Joined by Man-At-Arms and Teela they drive off both villains but things on Eternia just got rougher.
I have no complaints about the story. Geared for a younger audience than, say, DC’s current take, the story is done well. You can tell Carlin was asked to put in as many toy references as he could, and he does a good job at that. The art isn’t the greatest, but it isn’t bad. Star’s art wasn’t in line with most of Marvel’s stuff at the time but it was decent enough.
The main reason I’m breaking format is that I have a lot of…not so much nitpicks (although there are a few) but observations from a fan perspective with how the story is presented. This doesn’t appear to be set in either the Filmation or mini-comic continuities, which shows in both the differences and the things borrowed for this tale. For example, Castle Grayskull is sitting on the ground instead of a rock stand surrounded by a bottomless pit. Teela is wearing her toy’s snake armor instead of passing off to original character the Goddess. These all came from the mini-comics. We also have the Evil Horde as a third faction as the toys suggested rather than being the ruler of Etheria as he was in the cartoons.
The Sorceress is guardian of Grayskull, which the mini-comics had switched to but turns to Zoar the falcon, which she didn’t always do in the mini-comics. He-Man’s Power Sword can fire mystic blasts, which Skeletor used to do with his half of the Sword in the earlier mini-comics but He-Man didn’t do until The New Adventures Of He-Man and then never again. (I actually like that change.) The Royal Palace looks like it does in the cartoon and Man-At-Arms has his cartoon mustache. Leech looks exactly like his figure, which actually makes him look stupid.
Then there are the things Carlin gets wrong from the continuities. Man-At-Arms doesn’t appear to know Adam is He-Man, which the original DC comics had. Modulok’s two head don’t have their own personalities (I always thought it was more like a hive mind of one) and didn’t work for Skeletor before defecting to Hordak’s side, which not only did both the toy and mini-comic have, but in the cartoons Modulok actually flees to Etheria to defect on She-Ra’s show. And while I like seeing Teela finally wearing her toy accessories we had already accepted that the snake armor character was a separate one and some kids may have bought two Teela figures at the time to have both Teela and the Goddess (which may have been the plot, considering toy companies insist boys don’t want female characters in their toys). Finally, the Horde are so scared of the Fright Zone that they decide to hide in his cell and hope Hordak returns for them after beating Skeletor, but it’s supposed to be the Horde’s base of operations. It’s like Beast Man being scared of Snake Mountain or Stratos afraid of Castle Grayskull. I’m not sure Carlin did enough research before making this series, possibly to create his own continuity apart from the others that came before and during it.
Minor nitpicks aside it’s an interesting story and not a bad introduction to the new characters. It’s worth checking out for the curiosity but older fans who don’t like “kids stuff” may not get the experience they want out of it. I liked it, though, and there are a few more issues from this run to go.