Publisher: DC Comics
Story: Rob David
Script: Dan Abnett
Artist: Pop Mhan
Release Date: 27th January, 2016
And so we reach the climax of David, Abnett and Mhan’s HE-MAN: THE ETERNITY WAR, if not the final issue. This high-stakes confrontation has been building from the very first issue, and with the super-charged versions of He-Man and Skeletor poised to do battle for the fate of the universe, it’s worth taking a moment to recognise just how accurately this series has delivered on the promises it made fourteen issues ago. When I spoke to Abnett and Mhan back in 2014 about what we should expect from the series, they both used the same word – epic – and that’s exactly what we got.
While it hasn’t always been subtle, the gradually building threat and continual bombardment of dynamic moments has been an absolute joy for a He-Man fan like myself, and as we reach what could potentially be the crescendo, it’s worth appreciating the fact that us He-Fans (that’s a thing, right?) are incredibly lucky to have a monthly title of such high quality.
Anyway, gushing aside, let’s get to the issue itself; Once again, I’m not going to delve much into what actually happens, because spoilers suck, but suffice to say that this issue features drama, excitement, sacrifice and – if you’re interested – a wonderful opportunity to play “spot the He-Man character” amid Skeletor’s spectral army of souls. It’s been interesting watching this series develop, continually taking what feels like a conclusion and building on it, escalating the threat and taking the series to a whole new level. However, by the time I put this issue down, I got the definite feeling that – for better or worse – the war is over.
Okay, so Abnett’s dialogue can be a little full-on at times, but that has always the nature of the He-Man franchise, permanently walking the line between high fantasy and out-and-out cheese. Abnett keeps us on the right side of that line for the most part, and while the dramatic proclamations and action hero bluster may be a little too much for more “refined” tastes, they feel right at home in this particular universe.
Speaking of unsubtle, Pop Mhan’s artwork retains its trademark ‘in your face’ style here, and while the detail and anatomy can occasionally suffer, the overall aesthetic leaves us in absolutely no doubt which universe we’re in. Mark Roberts also deserves another doff of the cap for his bright, vibrant colours, giving the book the appearance of a loud, brash toy commercial — in a good way, of course.
That said, for all that I admire the intention, I have to admit that the new designs for the almost Godlike He-Man and Skeletor don’t really work for me. Like, at all. As a child, I was never overly enamored with the “Battle Armor”, “Dragon Blast” or “Thunder Punch” variations of my beloved characters, and as an adult, I far prefer the classic versions in my comic books as well. If nothing else though, the designs do work well in stressing the stakes of the battle we’re witnessing, with a crackling, flexing sense of grandeur and scale.
For all of its ups and downs, this is a fairly difficult issue for me to review impartially. For dedicated He-Fans, I’d likely give this issue a 4.5/5 for its epic (there’s that word again) scope and Easter Egg-laden artwork. For more casual readers, it’d probably be more like a 3.5/5, with an engaging narrative that occasionally leans a little too heavily on fan service. In the interests of fairness, let’s split the difference and call it a 4. Regardless of the rating however, there’s no denying that this is yet another solid issue of one of the best franchise comics on the shelves today, with a truly climactic showdown that leaves some fairly massive questions hanging over the future of the series.
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