Oh, He-Man. You were always the least cool thing about your entire mythos.
Back in my youth, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was one of the many cartoons I watched (and collected the toys they were created to sell me, natch), but it was the first one that was so Filmationy that I actually noticed the re-use of stock footage over and over again – often just to stretch out their shows to fill half an hour. Most of that is on display right here:
We would also get tired of seeing He-Man just beat everything up and be able to do anything all the time, because literally every one else in the MOTU canon is cooler than He-Man. He-Man is so problematic that he's the reason the property hasn't been able to really be revived – you can't really get around the fact that the centeral character has a name as dumb as "He-Man." Ironically, He-Man creator Roger Sweet thought this name would prove the exact opposite, believing the name was so generic it could fit in any context. Apparently, the context that doesn't work is this more progressive future where machismo for its own sake isn't particularly well-regarded. Not to mention the need to explain why good guys would refer to themselves as the "Masters of the Universe."
Despite all of that silliness that makes MOTU a hard sell in this day and age, just about everything that isn't He-Man himself is pretty damn cool. The evil Skeletor has a great look, his minions are colorful and entertaining (Trap Jaw!), his friends all have fun gimmicks (Ram-Man!) and the worldbuild blending sorcery and science is a great breeding ground for cool ideas. So when DC announced they were releasing He-Man and The Masters of the Universe #1 with extremely talented writer James Robinson at the helm alongside ace artist Philip Tan, the natural assumption was that the old '80s relic would be revived with an interesting new take that might be able to bridge the gap between then and now.
While Tan's art is pretty solid – his splash page revealing Beast Man is particularly impressive, although his Skeletor is a less so, which is weird because Skeletor should ALWAYS look the coolest – I'm sad to say that this first issue isn't particularly compelling. The 'new take' is that He-Man no longer remembers his life as He-Man. He believes he's just a simple woodsman named Adam, and the whole world of He-Man is only a dream to him. Then, when the mystical bird Zoar appears to him, he starts to get the wanderlust away from his infirm father Fedor, narrating openly that he just has 'feelings' and magically senses what he must do. Then Beast Man emerges from the woods and attacks, saying Adam's wandering a little too far away from where he should, and in the midst of the fight, all these instincts resurface, and lowly Woodsman Adam punks out the Beast Man while not even understanding why and how he knows things.
The dialog is a bit clunky and Adam's blurting narration to himself makes me think this is geared towards younger children, but then the fact that Adam stabs Beast Man with a jagged stick and draws a lot of blood would suggest otherwise. My initial impression is that it's sad to see wimply ol' Prince Adam even able to beat Beast Man – although he's got a long history of being chumpmeat, it would be much more interesting if we believed Skeletor's crew could be actual threats instead of bumbling boobs – but it's possible this new take also means that the old standard "Prince Adam transforms into He-Man: The Most Powerful Man In The Universe (TWHACK!)" might not be the case anymore. Maybe Adam didn't exist until Skeletor apparently banished an amnesiac He-Man into the woods.
Thus, there are some mysteries to be revealed that may turn out to be interesting, given Robinson's talent, but He-Man and the Masters of the Universe #1 is a bit disappointing.
And for some reason, the She-Ra theme was playing in my head while reading this. Perhaps by the time this world expands to include her, He-Man himself won't feel so detrimental to his own story.