Chris Weber took over starting this storyline, and he would remain the writer for the rest of the strip’s run. One change that I noted in this issue is that it feels even less like it’s trying to match the show, and just sticks with things that Filmation, Marvel’s Star Comics, and the minicomics have made into multiversal canon, like the Sorceress’s bird motif and transformation, plus Man-At-Arms having a mustache. (The toys and previous comics didn’t have a mustached Man-At-Arms.) And Snake Mountain matches the show instead of the toy, which will be important later.
And as I guessed the Snake Men will be making their debut in this comic. We’ve already seen two different takes on the Snake Men. This would be the second take, the first being the mini-comic, so what will be done differently this time the Snake Men re-invade Eternia?
Vengeance Of The Viper King
Story by Chris Weber, art/lettering by Gerald Forton, coloring by Connie Schurr, edited by Karen Willson
And if you don’t remember from the introductory article, Willson is Webber’s wife. Does that qualify as sleeping with your boss?
A magnetic storm hits Eternia. Prince Adam, Cringer, and Orko were checking out an ancient tower whose origin is lost to time. The storm strikes the tower and Adam has to become He-Man to rescue the caretaker. It’s there that they see a magic mirror that shows a hologram of two snakes intertwined like the Hippocratic symbol, which is sitting over a mysterious statue of a hawk. Why they’re drawn that way I can only guess based on what happens in the spoiler part of the story.
Meanwhile at Snake Mountain Skeletor’s minion Kobra Khan finds himself called to a cavern deep within the mountain, and a dimensional gateway also brings in two of Hordak’s lieutenants, Tongue Lashor and Rattlor, following the same mysterious call that Skeletor cannot hear. Oddly, Hordak doesn’t show up to complain. They do however find a door with a hawk (later called a falcon because someone remembered the Sorceress’s motif, and that does play a part later), which is part of a legend Skeletor once heard. When he tries to stop them he accidentally destroys the hawkfalcon statue (which he calls “The Guardian”), and unleashes King Hiss, a threat so bad that the Sorceress can sense his awakening. Skeletor plans to trick and use Hiss to take over Castle Grayskull and Eternia. Is He-Man up to the challenge, when his father is beginning to question where Prince Adam disappears to when there is trouble?
That last part is kind of my biggest worry. The topic of where Adam disappears to is usually a good gag on occasion (although there were times in the show where they should have questioned where Adam went or why He-Man showed up impossibly but didn’t) but I’m kind of worried that Weber is going to go out of his way to push the Adam identity away, one of the things I don’t like about DC Comics’ current stories (including the recent Thundercats crossover), although DC themselves are responsible for the secret identity and Mattel learned they can’t get rid of him. He has too many fans by now. If Weber is going to make it harder on Adam (I did skim the next story for other reasons and it looks like that might be the case) to protect his secret and do away with the identity I’m going to be disappointed. There are reasons Adam keeps the secret after all.
I also wonder why King Hiss is in his human-like form briefly before becoming just another Snake Man? He doesn’t have the snake head hands like the toy, and he only resumes the human shape as he is being defeated. It’s kind of weak considering how cool King Hiss’s snake form is compared to his underlings and he’s just a snake man with a cape and magic staff. I know they could do better because the toy and other media incarnations DID do better! At least Hiss and the Snake Men, although we don’t get an army like the 2000s series, make for a good villain, even if his snake form now is kind of goofy.
WARNING: THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH HAS A HUGE SPOILER FOR THIS STORY, SO IF YOU’RE PLANNING TO GET THE DARK HORSE COLLECTION DO NOT READ THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH!
Probably the most interesting thing about this story is that King Hiss takes control of Snake Mountain, which turns into the monster snake Sarcedon. I assumed the idea of making Snake Mountain a monster under Hiss’s control was created for the 2000s cartoon, where he was called Serpos. But here’s Sarcedon right here doing the same thing. And this is why I jumped forward, to see if Snake Mountain was restored when Sarcedon was defeated. I think it is but I’ll know for sure when I actually read the next few stories because I don’t want to ruin it for myself by seeing anything important. Actually, I may already ruined one reveal for myself, maybe two.
OKAY, SPOILER OVER! YOU CAN READ FROM HERE ONWARD!
There are two scenes I found interesting. One is a pretty good cliffhanger for a newspaper strip. Adam is trying to tell Cringer and Orko not to be scared of the tower, not realizing the scary thing was actually a mysterious cloaked figure. I won’t spoil that reveal, but I like the way the panel is framed. I’ll try to use my phone camera to get a shot of it. The other was where Battlecat tells one of the snakes to be happy he’s a vegetarian, which just seems kind of odd for Battlecat or Cringer.
Of course the artwork was still good and the Sunday colors do a nice job enhancing the transformation. Adam transforms into He-Man more times in this storyline than in the last one, which was only twice. And one of those was just to demonstrate it to the readers. There is also a part where the Sorceress takes on her Zoar form and the artist perfectly replicates her stock footage stance, but he worked at Filmation, so for all I know he was the one who animated it. I’m kind of sorry they didn’t color the black and white weekday strips. I know that’s only done now because many newspaper comics are also online depending on the distributor or the whims of the cartoonist, but I wonder what they would have looked like had Schurr had the chance to do them as well.
Overall it was a good introduction to the Snake Men, although the ending doesn’t seem to allow for Hiss’s return and we don’t know what happened to the other Snake Men, except for Kobra Khan. We also don’t know what happened to Snake Mountain, or if Weber is indeed working to “eliminate” Prince Adam in favor of all He-Man all the time. Answers may be revealed next month as we return. In the meantime, the book is still available on Kindle or print (it’s a big book by the way) through Dark Horse, so pick it up. It’s quite good.