Mumm-Ra and Skeletor. He-Man and Lion-O. Besides just a ton of hyphenated names, the new mini-series from DC and Mattel brings together some legendary 80’s cartoon heroes for a 6 part team-up. Just like the TV shows, I expected lots of muscles, dramatic posturing and mutant animal-people throwing down without a second thought. My ten year old self would be patting backs and handing out cigars at the thought of a comic like this. The question, of course remains: is it good?
He-Man/Thundercats (2016-) #1 (DC Comics)
He-Man/Thundercats #1 is anything but subtle. The action starts on page one with Lion-O, not just handing Mumm-Ra his ass, but gift wrapping it for him. There’s weird red energy flowing everywhere, and not surprisingly, some great call backs to lines of dialogue from the show. What is a little surprising, is what else is shown: as Mumm-Ra takes his proverbial ball and goes home to tend to his wounds, you can actually tell he’s been in a battle… since he’s covered in blood and leaving a trail behind him as he walks. This was the first clue that, along with the freedom to write a bigger story than you could animate on a Saturday morning, writers Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine weren’t afraid to make the tone in He-Man/Thundercats a little more mature.
The main thrust of the story is Mumm-Ra, the undying embodiment of evil (his words), repeatedly failing to kill six cat people: The ThunderCats. The evil spirits who give Mumm-Ra his power decide to stop letting him do the planning and instead find a world with a sword rumored to be the equal of Lion-O’s “Sword Of Omens,” widely hailed as one of the most powerful weapons in the universe. This new world is, of course, Eternia — home to He-Man and his roided up Masters of the Universe pals. We see quite a bit more of He-Man in action in the first issue as the ThunderCats spend most of the volume being surprised another world has popped up in the sky.
You can tell the writers (Lloyd Goldfine, Rob David) not only love the material — they know it well. A splash page near the beginning features a ton of the different Masters and many get to display some parts of their personality that toy collectors and watchers of the show should recognize. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the self-referential humor, like the short and stocky Ram-Man not being able to see past the taller Masters in front of him. They do a good job of balancing that humor with the more mature tone I mentioned earlier and making them work together decently.
The art by Freddie E. Williams captures the look and form of each of the muscle-bound characters. He does some great expressions too. There are a few standout pages, like a full-page one showing Mumm-Ra transforming into his larger self. The big complaint I have is some of the very bright coloring done on the energy, magic and explosions in the comic are may be a bit too bright; they made it hard to focus on the finer details of the art. The effects don’t look bad, but could have been toned down a bit. I should also mention how good Deron Bennett handles the lettering; he did a great job fitting the font and size to the situation, especially in a fight near the end of the book.
Is It Good?
It is if you’re not expecting an update in the vein of The Dark Knight Returns on some familiar characters from the 80’s. He-Man/Thundercats #1 felt like a big-budget summer tentpole, with a lot of flashes, bangs and fighting involving larger than life characters. Some of the moments are, unsurprisingly, for the fans, like a meeting of Skeletor and Mumm-Ra. There will be plenty more moments like that as the series continues. However, there are some moments that will surprise too, like a main character raised in the air on the point of his own sword. It’s not Hanna-Barbera He-Man, and its not Frank Miller either. If you’re willing to go along with the flow, He-Man/Thundercats looks like it could be a fun ride.