A review by Brian C. Baer
When Mattel and DC Comics announced He-Man/ThunderCats, a six issue miniseries crossing over two of the most iconic ‘80s cartoon properties, the immediate response was: What took you so long?
Both hardcore fans and casual observers have speculated over the past thirty years about a convergence of these characters. Who would win in a fight, Mumm-Ra or Skeletor? What is more powerful, the Sword of Omens or the Power Sword? Could the planets of Eternia and Third Earth exist in the same universe?
These answers are bound to be revealed in He-Man/ThunderCats, and if the first issue is any indication, this story is well worth the wait.
It opens with Lion-O defeating Mumm-Ra the Everliving in one of the issue’s dazzling splash pages. Frustrated by yet another failure, the Ancient Spirits of Evil in his dark pyramid show him the one thing he needs to defeat the ThunderCats once and for all: He-Man’s Sword of Power.
On Eternia, Prince Adam is late as usual for a ceremonial honor. This time, the lecture from a disappointed King Randor is interrupted by a massive portal opening in the sky above the capital city of Eternos. The Masters of the Universe spring into action as earthquakes, tidal waves, and mass hysteria strike the populous.
Back on Third Earth, the ThunderCats see the same portal opening, and the spirit of Jaga confirms they are looking at Eternia, a legendary planet of magic. Because of the portal, he warns that whatever fate befalls Eternia will befall Third Earth as well. The team prepares to journey to the other world, setting up an epic first encounter.
This first issue of He-Man/ThunderCats is full of nods and references to the two beloved franchises, but it’s also full of story. Unlike some modern comic books, it does not skimp on content just to tease the upcoming issues or inevitable trade paperback. It sets up the characters, their worlds, and the conflict that unites them deftly, and still has space left for a shocking moment or two before the big cliffhanger ending.
The script comes courtesy of Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine, who were responsible the for the storyline of the recently concluded “The Eternity War” comic. David is Mattel’s
head writer and Lead Creative for the Masters of the Universe brand, and Goldfine is also responsible for fun, retro geek TV like 2009’s excellent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles Forever.
The writers clearly know their stuff. Many characters’ voices are spot-on; in fact, it’s difficult to not hear John Erwin’s voice when reading Prince Adam and He-Man’s dialogue. But the comic has been criticized, and rightly so, for a not-quite-right voice for the issue’s narrator, who is revealed at the end.
The art by Freddie William II is more full than the sketchy wraparound cover implies. The penciler handles big, splashy images and pages full of tiny panels and dozens of characters with equal aplomb. His kinetic style borders on cartoony, and he does a fantastic job of adapting well-known animated sequences onto the page, namely Lion-O using the Sword of Omens to grant him “sight beyond sight”.
Colorist Jeremy Colwell gives the book an impressive palate. The colors of fur and costumes are deeper and more rich than they were in the ‘80s cartoons, giving a better sense of depth and realism. Letterer Deron Bennett also deserves credit for the varied and appropriate fonts and stylish quirks he brings to the different characters’ word balloons.
He-Man/ThunderCats #1 is a very entertaining beginning to a highly anticipated crossover. It gives the reader plenty of nostalgia alongside more modern thrills. Issue #2 will be available on November 16, 2016.
HE-MAN / THUNDERCATS #1
Writers: Rob David, Lloyd Goldfine
Artist: Freddie Williams II
Letters: Deron Bennett
Colors: Jeremy Colwell
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: October 5, 2016
Cover Price: $3.99