Masters of the Universe #1: Skeletor Rising

Joshua Hale Fialkov takes on He-Man's archenemy and makes him a creepy, compelling villain.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Masters of the Universe #1

So, DC is trying to revive Masters of the Universe in comic form. Their recent attempt a few months back didn't seem to gel, despite the fact that talented scribe James Robinson was at the helm. However, now they've dropped the sadly-ludicrous name of 'He-Man' from the title and have put out a one-shot simply entitled Masters of the Universe #1. Whether this has any connection to that previous start is unclear, because this is a stand-alone story showing us the origin of Skeletor.

What takes this story up a notch is the fact that it's written by Joshua Hale Fialkov, the man who did the impossible by making suckheads compelling in I, Vampire. Add to that the fact that Frazer Irving's first page or artwork is a fantastically gruesome image of the melting face of the man named Keldor, as he ruminates over his ruined life as the half-breed half-brother of Eternia's King Randor, always favored by their father Miro despite the fact that Keldor was the older sibling. He was denied the throne due to his "Gar blood," which speaks of an inherent racism in Eternian culture that muddles the lines between good and evil.

Why is Keldor's face melting? We're not sure. We know that young Keldor's frustrations with Miro's treatment led him to consult with the nasty villain known as Hordak, and later to betray the kingdom and his brother by helping his evil mentor to bring war upon Eternia. By the end of the issue, we see that Keldor has traded his identity, his brother's trust and blood and everything he once knew to Hordak in exchange for the power granted him as his new apprentice, Skeletor.

Fialkov's story is leaps and bounds ahead of that first issue, possibly because it's not about He-Man, who has always been the least cool thing about his own mythology. It has that moody, misty feel that I, Vampire has, and while Irving's art isn't quite as hazy and deeply shadowed as Andrea Sorrentino's is in that book, it's certainly solid, dynamic with its color palate and definitely serves the dark tale well.

There's nothing inherently cheesy about the world of Eternia – it's a great blend of science and sorcery, a really colorfully interesting fantasy realm. If DC can manage to actually make a Masters of the Universe ongoing series that puts He-Man himself as far in the background as possible, we might just have a really good book on our hands. Even Fisto is cooler than He-Man. Keep that guy off-panel. Make his disappearance a back-burner mystery that Duncan, Mekaneck and Buzz Off occasionally give lip-service to as they struggle in the war against Skeletor's army and Hordak's legions. Masters of the Universe #1 is a great start – let's we can get more like this.