Advance Review – Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artwork: Eddie Nunez, Sergio Aragonés, Kelley Jones
Colorist(s): Rico Renzi, Brennan Wagner
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Release Date: 15th February 2023

[NOTE: Review contains some relatively minor spoilers]

On sale next week from Dark Horse Comics, Masters of the Universe: Masterverse is a brand new anthology series which sees a cadre of all-star creative talent delivering their own distinctive take on the iconic Mattel property.

These distinctive stories are framed by an overarching narrative which sees ‘Cosmic Enforcer’ Zodac voicing some concerns about the Sorceress’ decision to pass the power of Grayskull to Prince Adam who, despite all the muscles, is still very much a teenage boy. To help allay his fears, Teela-Na turns to the Nexus of All Realities to delve into the multiverse (or, y’know, the Masterverse in this case) to prove that Adam is worthy of the power he has been given.

As set-ups go it’s fairly direct and to the point, but it certainly does the job in terms of justifying the anthology format, which I guess is all you can really ask for.  On the plus side, the artwork in these sections – provided by Eddie Nunez – is top notch, utilising the distinctive ‘Relevation’ art style and providing some faithful recreations of familiar characters.  Zodac in particular looks fantastic, and I’m hopeful that we’ll get to see him do something more than sitting and watching ‘Interdimensional Eternian Cable’ as this series progresses.

The first story, “Curse of Castle Grayskull” features iconic Batman artist Kelley Jones helping Seeley to tell a decidedly darker He-Man story. Set in a version of Eternia where Hordak’s ‘Spell of Separation’ has succeeded in splitting the planet into two halves, one light and one dark, it follows Prince Adam as he runs the gauntlet of some of the more menacing Evil Warriors in an attempt to stay safe and prevent himself from having to use his now-corrupted powers.  It’s a fascinating idea, and a story well suited to Jones’ distinctive, heavily-shaded style.

Honestly, if this were an ongoing series of its own I think I would be well and truly on board after this nine-page introduction, and Seeley really leans into the bleak, almost poetic narration as he follows Adam’s plight. There are some fantastic visual flourishes here, along with a cast of intriguing characters, and to be honest, seeing Jones drawing lesser-known MOTU villain Webstor might very well be worth the cover price on its own.

The second tale in this first issue sees Groo Creator Sergio Aragonés lending his own inimitable style to “He-Man: The Lost”, and if I’m honest, is likely to divide opinion, particularly for those readers not familiar with Aragonés’ profoundly cartoony approach. Seeley does a great job of capturing the quirky comedic style of Aragonés most famous creation in his writing, and at times this feels like a reskinned Groo comic with a MOTU flavour (we even get a little “what are we, barbarians?” nod to that effect). That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but coming on the heels of such an intense first story, the rapid shift in styles does feel a little jarring.

For what it’s worth, this is actually pretty damn funny, and watching Skeletor effortlessly dismantle a succession of iconic MOTU vehicles without breaking a sweat is bound to bring a smile to even the most jaded He-Man purist’s face. The conclusion to the tale is equally bonkers, but certainly goes a long way towards underscoring just how different these anthology stories are going to be from one another in terms of tone and content. Which is, after all, pretty much the point.

The final pages see the Sorceress and Zodac getting comfortable as they prepare to delve a little further into the Nexus, and provides a little teaser of what’s to come. Bring on Jitsu!

This is a fascinating idea executed with a real passion and enthusiasm. Your mileage on each individual story will definitely vary, but watching Seeley throwing He-Man into a variety of unusual styles and situations is going to be well worth the price of admission. Highly recommended for any self-respecting He-fan.

Rating: 4/5.

The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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You can follow Ceej on Twitter

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  1. Advance Review – Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #2 (Dark Horse Comics) – BIG COMIC PAGE

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