Review – Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #3 (Dark Horse Comics)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Tim Seeley
Artwork: Eddie Nunez, Claudia Balboni, David Rubín
Colorist(s): Rico Renzi
Letterer: Deron Bennett
Release Date: 12th April 2023
Dark Horse’s ‘Masterverse’ anthology series continues this week with a pair of new artists providing their own unique take on the world of Masters of the Universe. At this point, the framing story featuring Zodac and the Sorceress debating He-Man’s worthiness to wield the Power of Grayskull feels almost inconsequential, other than providing Eddie Nunez with an opportunity to deliver some more of his fantastic artwork. As I’ve said before, I feel like the MOTU community deserves a full series with Nunez drawing and Seeley writing, just to see what the pair could come up with. Fingers crossed, I suppose.
The first story here, “War Goddess of the Shattered Wastes” features artwork from Claudia Balboni and focuses itself around the Eternian Warrior Goddess Tee-La as she attempts to rescue an orange-skinned ‘beastly’ Shaman from the clutches of the barbaric Stone People, only to run into their champion, a hulking warrior named He-Man. I’m only vaguely aware of Balboni from her work on IDW’s Star Trek franchise, but the fit here doesn’t really work for me. There’s an awkwardness to the posing in some of the action sequences that jars a little, and a flatness and sparseness to both the layouts and backdrops that really saps the energy out of the story. There’s also a weird sequence where Tee-La’s shield disappears for almost two full pages before reappearing when she is attacked, which took me a few re-reads to figure out what was actually happening.
Story-wise, this feels like a prologue to a larger tale, which is fair enough. However, this is the first story in three issues where I’ve found myself wondering what the point of it is. It doesn’t really fit into the overall narrative, doesn’t showcase He-Man’s qualities (or even Tee-La’s, particularly – hell, she was about to murder the unconscious He-Man until the “beast man” intervened), and is filled with way too many quirks and inconsistencies to really make much sense. A rare misfire for what has been a high-quality series to this point.
“Twilight of Eternia” hands the reins over to David Rubín for the tale of a group of drunken, disgraced explorers calling themselves the ‘Masters of the Universe’ as they find themselves shipwrecked on a mysterious island and coming face-to-face with a familiar, skull-faced adversary. As anyone familiar with Rubín’s work from the likes of Ether or Rumble will no doubt be expecting, the quirky character designs and impressive level of detail are very much present here, and while he’s definitely not an artist I would have though of for the world of He-Man, he does a pretty damn great job here.
The colours are chunky and vibrant, the recreation of the Viking He-Man is brilliant, and the exaggerated facial expressions and mannerisms really help to sell the slightly offbeat tone of the story. Unlike the previous story, this is definitely one I’d like to see expanded a little more at some point, particularly the events that led our quartet of “masters” to these sinister shores. Hell, the back-and-forth banter between Stratos and Ram-Man, who continually trade barbs about each other’s wives and mothers, deserves more of a spotlight on its own.
Overall then, this is probably the weakest of the issues so far, although Rubín’s work on the second story is almost worth the cover price on its own. I’m still absolutely loving the fact that we’re getting regular He-Man output from Dark Horse, and Seeley’s clear affection for the franchise shines through on almost every page, from the overall feel to the deep-cut cameos and references. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with for the final chapter next month.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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