Thursday, 26 November 2015

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #19 Review (2014)


Stuck In A Moment

Solicitation date: November 26th, 2014
Release date: November 26th, 2014

Cover date: January 2015

Story: Rob David
Penciller: Tom Derenick
Colorist: Mark Roberts

Cover art: Stjepan Šejić


SYNOPSIS



The time is 12 years ago, a young Prince Adam is seen lifting partial wreck of Wind Raider on top of a wounded King Randor while Beast Man is in mid-air attack. A Royal Guard shoots Beast Man off and more troops arrive to help King Randor and Adam, while at the same time Adam hears that Keldor is revolting against the kingdom. Prince Adam sees Zoar the falcon fly nearby and he starts remembering how the day began with a kiss from Teela. The two bicker a bit about said kiss and Adam is almost run over by Attack Trak but Teela pushed him out of harms way.
Man-At-Arms tells he and the Royal Guard are on their way to try and prevent a war between Avionians and the Andreenids.

Adam goes to his father and expresses his wish to tag along because he idolizes the Masters of the Universe like Stratos and Buzz-Off and wants to become one in the future. Randor doesn't think his son is up for it but Keldor tries to convince Randor that Adam is ready. King Randor dismisses both of their appeals and Adam runs off, only for Keldor to follow and talk to him. Keldor symphatizes with Adam and tells how his father King Miro crash-landed years ago to the forbidden Island of Anwat-Gar and met Saryn, who healed and loved him. Their off-spring was Keldor and Saryn asked only that he'd be taken off the island to grow up and be brought back when he was of age. King Miro did raise Keldor, but never brought him back to the island, for he saw Keldor as a sign of shame. The bastard son from the race that killed King Grayskull an eon ago.

Prince Adam wants to prove himself to Randor and takes the skysled to fly also to Zarcane. But this was all a plot by Keldor, who has Beast Man ready in position with Shadowbeasts waiting for Prince Adam. Keldor tells he wants the boy alive as back-up plan if his plans go awry. Meanwhile Randor has learned what Adam is doing and goes after him, despite Keldor's pleas of him staying with the High Council. Keldor afterwards murders the High Council with poisoned drinks that Evil-Lyn helped serve in disguise.

Beast Man attacks Prince Adam in the meanwhile as well as the Wind Raider where Randor and couple Royal Guards were traveling on. Adam sees his father on the ground underneath partial wrecks of the Wind Raider and goes to save him by lifting the piece over Randor. Randor tells his son in a weak voice to run away. Adam doesn't see that behind him Beast Man is attacking him but is concentrated on saving his father. Time stands still in this moment around the boy and the Sorceress and Zodac appear looking over Adam in this moment. 

Zodac tells that Adam is holding on with all his strength, tapping unknowingly into the Power of Eternity in that moment. Apparently King Randor was meant to die in the crash and Adam is only a human who isn't even aware of all that is happening. Zodac suggest they should kill Adam but the Sorceress tells that Adam's humanity will save them all, believing he is the heir to Grayskull's powers. For this Zodac is willing to slightly alter destiny, eventhough he is only a mere observer who doesn't influence the natural order of things.


The Sorceress grants Adam a small part of the Power so he can save his father while Zodac helps a Royal Guard nearby with their aim in this frozen time for a better shot at Beast Man and when the time is unfrozen, Adam saves his father and Beast Man is blast aside, coming a full loop to where the story's events began.

REVIEW
Make no mistake, this issue is a Hidden Gem. But more on that later.

If you haven't read this issue, I suggest you check it out as this review contains spoilers.



To clarify, this is the last issue of the Ongoing "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" comic series and acts as a prelude to "He-Man The Eternity War". (It's even stated so on the cover)


Finally a one-shot issue among all the story arcs we've had before this! This is what I hoped for a long time, to get a story about our favorite characters in Eternia that doesn't require 5 or more issues to read to understand what is going on.

That is not to say the longer story arcs are bad, but my personal preference to be able to read an issue of He-Man on its own, in a long line of issues already. And we've had one-shot stories before but they were more prevalent when the comic series began in 2012. In fact, this issue works like an Origin issue, just like we've had three Origin issues previously for Skeletor, He-Man and Hordak. 

Only this origin story is better. 



When this issue came out a year ago, the initial reaction from many fans and reviewers was that "oh its just a lionking story set on Eternia!". Which is a shame as it robs some of the issue's importance within this set universe for New DC canon of MOTU. Though somewhat understandable as this issue came on the heels of the fantastic "The Blood of Grayskull" storyarc that also is preluding to the follow-up storyarc of Eternity War.

But I shall repeat; Issue #19 is a Hidden Gem.

The first thing that will hit you in the face is how much all the colors and backdrops and settings are Filmation-esque. Already evoking nostalgic feels to some fans. The returning artist for the issue is Tom Derenick who last pencilled Ongoing Series issues #11 and #12 (original solicitations had Joelle Jones slated to pencil the issue but due to scheduling conflicts that didn't sadly happen). So his style is a change of pace in-between the two larger storyarcs pencilled by series regular Pop Mhan. Both the nature of this oneshot story and art already indicate that this issue will be different.

In an interview with writer Rob David (who also has been outlining the bigger MOTU storyarcs for a while) said that him stepping to write the story instead of Dan Abnett was partially scheduling and creative decision. 

Here's what I mean that this issue is different and a hidden gem. While on the surface its simply a quick story of Keldor planning a coupe on the Kingdom, using his nephew Adam as a pawn in it all with some sprinkled moments between Adam and Teela, Adam and his father as well as appearances from Sorceress and Zodac...

But its so much more. Because it gives us many clues to how things have evolved and lead to the current state of affairs (some that would be answered in Eternity War). There is a theme of Kings and the consequences of their actions. Miro ending up on Island of Anwat-Gar and having Keldor with Saryn. Randor going after Prince Adam that at the same time is the moment that will affect many key players such as Keldor, Adam as well as King Hssss and Teela.



Least we forget, Zodac tells that King Randor's destiny was to die in that crash. But because he was there with Adam, it started the path for Adam to become He-Man, thanks to the Sorceress and Zodac. But also later King Hssss devouring Randor to take his place and free the Snake Men and Teela ending up becoming the Sorceress of Serpos. So if you've followed the comic series up to this point, this one issue is pivotal to many factors. And it didn't require a full 6-issue storyarc to tell it all.

Of course it helps the preceeding storyarcs had planted seeds for these elements, but all the more reason we get these things tied in issue #19. Having Randor talk about the importance of Eternia and the creation of the Universe and King Grayskull's legacy, which would be more important in the Eternity War storyarc.

The time tampering bit that the Sorceress refers to, would be expanded further in He-Man the Eternity War issue #7, on how a young Keldor can be mentoring Prince Adam age 12 going on 13, when previously we had seen a flashback of Skeletor kidnapping a baby Adam. I'm glad it is somewhat addressed in the issue itself. Even if at the time it left many readers bewildered on how does the timeline add up.


Best parts are the dialogue between Prince Adam and Teela. They are destined to become a couple, something already touched upon in Ongoing Issue #6 and later Eternity War #6. 




And the ending with Sorceress and Zodac making an vision-like appearance "between heartbeats" as the time is frozen around Adam. I feel her approach for Adam works much better than how we had seen the Sorceress talk to, and behave with Adam in "The Origin of He-Man" issue. And while in a past interview it had been clarified that the Filmation-inspired look for the Sorceress is her true form, and we saw it in Ongoing Issue #12 already, its great to see it here again.



Earlier mentioned Filmation homages and the feel with this issue is welcomed for older fans such as myself. Colorist Mark Roberts did a great job with the skies and backgrounds. And for fans of the 2002 cartoon version of He-Man by Mike Young Productions, there are many nods from it here as well, with the whole set up of an looming war between the people of Avion and Andreenos. Even going as far as lifting sentences from episode "Sky War" from season 1, plus Buzz-Off is sporting his MYP look in this issue which was cool.

Overall, this issue is highly recommended for readers of the DC He-Man comic. There isn't really a wasted page in the whole issue. It ties many elements together from previous stories and has lasting in-universe affects to many of the characters and what follows after. 




The shakespearean concept of an evil uncle with a plot to take over a kingdom, using the nephew prince is a narrative tool used to frame it all. But read past the simpler structure, for the small details is what make this a great issue.


CONTINUITY

  • Previous issue He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (v2) #18.
  • Next issue He-Man: The Eternity War #1.
  • This story is set in "12 years ago" so it occurs after "The Origin of Skeletor", and before "The Origin of He-Man".

NOTEWORTHY

  • Entire issue has very Filmation cartoon-esque color-schemes for backgrounds, locations like Royal Palace, etc.
  • Last time we saw this Beast Man was in the 2012 mini-series.
  • Lieutenant Daegar appeared in MOTU Digital Chapter #5.
  • Young Teela has red hair.
  • Attak Trak is based on a vintage model-kit version of the toy. 
  • Attak Trak's color-scheme is based on the Filmation version.
  • Younger Man-At-Arms is wearing his vintage armor design.
  • Buzz-Off's design is based on his 2002 MYP-cartoon version.
  • The plot-point of the people of Avions and Andreenids having disputes is something that was introduced in the 2002 MYP cartoon.
  • Some of the dialogue that King Randor speaks, is direct sentences from 2002 MYP cartoon episode 05 "Sky War".
  • King Randor reveals that the Magic that created the Universe is within Eternia itself.
  • Keldor reveals the story of how King Miro met Saryn, Keldor's mother.
  • Zarcane is a place mentioned in the 2002 MYP cartoon, through which characters traveled to Avion.
  • The method Keldor kills the High Council is similar to the way his own face is seen to be melting in the "The Origin of Skeletor" comic.
  • This is the first appearance of Shadowbeasts.
  • The Sorceress (Teela Na) appears for the second time in her Filmation-inspired costume, last time being in the ongoing #12 issue. First appearance of her vintage staff.
  • Zodac is fully seen to wear a vintage armor design, with a gradual space-effect on his body. Previously we saw him in his celestial galaxy-form in the Ongoing #7 issue.



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