Monday, March 30, 2020



Written by Rob David & Lloyd Goldfine | Drawn by Freddie E. Williams II
Colored by Jeremy Colwell | Lettered by Deron Bennett
Associate Editor: Jessica Chen | Editor: Kristy Quinn | Group Editor: Jim Chadwick

So it's time for a confession. A little more than twenty years ago, I wrote a full-fledged fan-fiction story about a team-up between He-Man and the ThunderCats. It's probably still floating around out there someplace, since nothing ever goes away on the internet. It was a labor of love for me, and while I haven't looked at it in a very long time, I still remember a lot about it. So a crossover between these two is sometihng that's interested me for a long time. (I would've played it myself as a kid, if the toylines had been in scale with one another.)

So it's with heavy heart that I must report this particular meeting between the ThunderCats and the Masters of the Universe, in a 2016 DC miniseries, is... not good. It has its moments, which we'll look at below, but overall it's a pretty big letdown -- and I don't think that's because I had any unrealistic expectations for it; rather I believe it's because I had fairly reasonable expectations!

We'll begin with the artwork. At face value, it's fine. A little busy for my own personal taste, but very energetic and exciting. The problem -- and this is personal taste, I know -- is that I don't believe it's right for this kind of story. A mini-series meant to capitalize on nostalgia for two properties from the eighties should be drawn in a style that resembles those properties as they existed at that time. I know DC has had the MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE license for years now, and they're doing their own modern spin on the property -- so there, modern artwork and artistic license are totally appropriate and acceptable. But here, I can't help feeling the story would have felt more authentic if the art had taken its cues from the HE-MAN and THUNDERCATS cartoon series (or the minicomics or something else of that era).

But instead we get this overexaggerated, hyper-stylized look that just doesn't fit the concept. The ThunderCats characters are at least drawn to resemble the original designs -- which make sense since they've rarely, aside from the 2010 cartoon reboot, been reimagined or dedesigned. But the MotU characters are all over the map -- some drawn to look like the original toys, most resembling the 2002-era reboot designs, and a few based on their Filmation incarnations. It's all over the map, and very disconcerting.

The artwork is also extremely bloody, but that seems more due to the script, which is kind of a mess. I almost hesitate to say this, because I'm sure I'm way off base, but this thing comes across as if the writers have A) passing knowledge and/or hazy memories of THUNDERCATS and HE-MAN, and B) disdain for the properties and even for the comic book medium.

Now I don't say this lightly, but before I provide my reasoning, let's have a quick plot rundown: on Third Earth, Mumm-Ra is defeated for the umpteenth time by Lion-O. Mumm-Ra's masters, the Ancient Spirits of Evil, tell him of a sword which may be a match for Lion-O's Sword of Omens: the Sword of Power, which can be found on the planet Eternia in another dimension. The Ancient Spirits bring Eternia into Third Earth's orbit, and Mumm-Ra travels there, ambushes Prince Adam, steals the sword, and impales the prince with it. Adam manages to change to He-Man before he dies and his wound is neutralized, but Mumm-Ra escapes with the sword. Mumm-Ra is led by the Ancient Spirits to Skeletor, with whom they've made a pact (using Mumm-Ra as their patsy). Skeletor takes the sword and kills Mumm-Ra, incinerating him. But the villain lives on, disembodied.

Skeletor mixes Mumm-Ra's ashes into a magical cocktail and drinks it, transforming into Mumm-Etor. The ThunderCats arrived from Third Earth and battle Mumm-Etor, defeating him and reclaiming the sword. They visit the palace of Eternos, where He-Man has changed back into Adam (revealing his identity to his friends and family) and died of his injury. Lion-O takes Adam back to Third Earth, hoping to resurrect him with Mumm-Ra's sarcophagus. The gamble is a success and after a brief moment of madness, He-Man is reborn. He-Man and Lion-O return to Eternia, where the city of Eternos is under attack by Mumm-Etor and the combined minions of Skeletor and Mumm-Ra. In the end the day is saved and everyone parts ways.

My main issue with this story, besides the artwork, is that it's not sure what it wants to be. Is it serious? Is it tongue-in-cheek? What iteration of MASTERS is it set in? (There's less confusion about THUNDERCATS here, since it's clearly not the 2011 reboot, which means the original series is the only other option.) The script just doesn't know. Sometimes things are deadly serious, with adult-level violence all over the place. Other times, the writers seem to be winking at the audience as if to say, "Don't take any of this seriously, because we aren't."

And that last point leads to my next complaint. Now, be aware that I don't suggest this lightly -- but as I suggested above, I can't help feeling that the series' writers, Lloyd Goldfine and Rob David, don't have much respect for the source material they're adapting, or for the comic book medium in general. Let me be clear first, however: they certainly know the mythologies of both universes, making callbacks to various bits of continuity on both Eternia and Third Earth. But it comes across with this feeling of, "Hey, remember this stuff from when we were kids? Isn't it dumb??" And if you're going down that route, intentionally or not, you're going to pull me out of the story and lose me as a reader.

As for a disdain for the medium... well, I'm probably going too far in suggesting it, but my main reasoning is that these guys write the most idiotic sound effects. A lot of them are fine -- but when you're reading a fight scene and you see stupid 1966 BATMAN-level sound effects like "Concuss!" "Impale!", and "Reeeeeeeffffflect"... well, to me that implies that the writers aren't taking any of this seriously, and have little respect for the story they're telling or for their audience.

Some might say that I'm taking this too seriously, but what can I say? I don't like meta-humor in general, unless it's an intended part of the premise (Deadpool or She-Hulk breaking the fourth wall, for example). And I especially don't like meta-humor in a series like this one, which -- again -- has absolutely no idea what it wants to be.

In the end, HE-MAN/THUNDERCATS just feels like a huge missed opportunity. I can't help imagining this series conceived by someone with a genuine fondness for both sets of characters and a willingness to embrace their inner child in order to present them earnestly -- and drawn by someone who would've stuck closer to an eighties animation style (Emiliano Santalucia comes to mind, but there are plenty of others who would've done it too).


  1. I own the paperback version of this book that you've reviewed, and trust me when I say that you're not alone in not liking its plot and characterization. One thing I'd like to correct about your review is that Skeletor and Mumm-Ra don't become Mumm-Ator until the tail end of issue 5; Skeletor drinks Mumm-Ra's remains to obtain the power of Grayskull first.

    1. I just went back to look, and you're totally right. Shows how little I enjoyed the story if I couldn't even keep the basics straight!