Review – He-Man & the Masters of the Universe: The Newspaper Comic Strips HC (Dark Horse)

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Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer(s): James Schull, Chris Weber, Karen Wilson
Artist: Gerald Forton
Colourist: Connie Schurr
Release Date: 1st February 2017

Dark Horse Comics’ Masters of the Universe output thus far has been nothing short of flawless, with lovingly curated collection after lovingly curated collection providing all of us loyal He-Man fans with endless hours of pleasure. Their latest project is an interesting one, not least of all because of the fact that I had no idea there even was a He-Man newspaper strip in the first place until very recently.

This gargantuan 500-plus page collection features as extensive a collection of these comics as you’re ever going to find, with only a handful of strips proving too elusive to track down (of the 1,674 days of strips published, only 35 are currently “lost”), and is, as you might expect, an absolutely essential purchase for any He-Fan worth their salt.

The presentation, as should be expected by now, is immaculate, with high quality scans of the original strips collected together into full stories and punctuated with interesting tidbits like interviews with the original creators and plenty of mouth-watering bonus content. It’s also another wonderfully chunky physical copy to get your hands on, with the oversized 9” x 14” format really helping the stories and scans to jump off the page – even if it can be a tad unwieldy at times.

The stories themselves are, full disclosure, a little inconsistent in terms of quality, although that’s probably to be expected when you’re dealing with well over four years’ worth of daily strips. The artwork is also little rudimentary at times (although the occasional full-colour strips that punctuate the stories really up the game in the visual sakes), and the fact that these strips were originally published in a shorter format means there’s an occasionally disjointed feel to the narrative, with the writers frequently having to re-explain what’s happening for the new newspaper readers.

That said, it’s genuinely fascinating to read these originally bite-sized strips in a long-form collection, with most of the fifteen stories here running in excess of thirty pages. There are some absolute gems too, including “Ninjor Stalks by Night” and the King Hssss-focused “Vengeance of the Viper King”, and the inclusion of less mainstream characters like Mosquitor and Clamp Champ really lends a sense of charm to the proceedings, with the book at times feeling like an undiscovered treasure trove of childhood memories.

Honestly, if you’re a He-Man fan, you probably won’t need much in the way of persuasion to pick this one up, but even if you’re not, there’s still a hell of a lot to enjoy here. It’s difficult not to be impressed by the sheer amount of work that goes into a collection like this, and, as I mentioned above, some of the stories really stand out, featuring some impressively executed ideas. Another stellar inclusion to Dark Horse’s rapidly-expanding He-Man collection then, and – as lead researcher Danielle Gelehrter herself says – this truly is the final frontier of vintage Masters of the Universe canon.

Rating: 4.5/5.

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ceejThe writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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