A Team-Up Thirty Years In The Making- New To You Comics #113: ‘He-Man/Thundercats’

by Brendan M. Allen

Tony and Brendan have very different tastes in comics. Tony loves his capes, super powers, and sci-fi. Brendan tends to stick to horror, noir, and weird indies. Occasionally, their paths cross, but like most readers, they tend to stay in their own lanes.

New To You Comics is here to break up the pattern a little. Tony will throw some comics out of his favorite genres at Brendan, and Brendan will hit Tony with some of his. Most NTYC titles are brand new to at least one of them. Most of the time they can find some common ground, but even when they don’t, it’s fun to watch them go at it. Brendan fights dirty. Tony kicks like a mule. 

This week, Brendan introduces Tony to DC Comics’ He-Man/Thundercats, from writers Rob David and Lloyd Goldfine, artist Freddie Williams II, colorist Jeremy Colwell, and letterer Deron Bennett.

Here’s what DC tells us about the book:

‘It’s called Eternia-the homeworld of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Here, this legendary hero harnesses the Power of Grayskull to protect his planet against the evil forces of Skeletor, the skull-faced embodiment of evil.

But dimensions away, another evil has set its sights on Eternia’s champion. The menace of Mumm-Ra is spreading, even as his hated rival, Lion-O, is crowned king of the Thundercats. Mumm-Ra knows only one weapon can stand against Lion-O’s unstoppable Sword of Omens: He-Man’s Sword of Power. And he and his merciless minions are prepared to take it by any means necessary.

Now the heroes and villains of two of the greatest adventure sagas ever will join forces in a war for the fate of two worlds. Can He-Man and Lion-O, the Masters and the ThunderCats, put aside their differences and stop the combined power of Skeletor and Mumm-Ra? Or will these two champions of all that is good be forced to clash swords themselves?’ 

Brendan Allen: We’ve probably already talked about this, but I absolutely love Freddie Williams II’s work on these Saturday morning mashups. Injustice/Masters of the Universe, Batman/TMNT, Godzilla/MMPR… Fun stories aside, every one of these is a dynamic visual masterpiece. It’s a fairly safe bet that if it has Williams’ name on the cover, it’s worth the price of admission for the art alone. 

Tony Thornley: Williams has this unique niche, style-wise, and that’s made for an incredibly unique niche in his work for hire art. I genuinely hope that these sorts of stories never dry up for him!

Brendan: One of the things that stood out with this one immediately was the dialed up violence. Within the first twenty pages, Prince Adam is impaled on his own sword, before he even has a chance to transform. It’s so shocking, because it goes against the standard form of He-Man stories. Prince Adam can’t die, and he definitely can’t die by He-Man’s sword.

It’s one of those things that’s come up a bunch of times in satire and parodies, where there are times when the hero is completely helpless, but for some reason, the antagonist never goes after them during these times. It’s very pragmatic and forward thinking of Mumm-Ra to strike at this moment. It doesn’t end up working out for him, but it was still very smart, and a punch in the gut for the reader.

Tony: I want to make a different point than you did with this same scene. This isn’t an all ages book. And why would it be? Thundercats hasn’t been in the public consciousness since the outrage over the Adventure Time style Thundercats reboot launched a few years ago. This is a nostalgia story, but it’s specifically a nostalgia story for the adults like you and I that grew up with the properties. There’s harsher than normal violence, a couple characters die (including, temporarily, Prince Adam), there’s some mild swearing. Nothing worth a content warning, but it’s a teen + book, for sure.

Brendan: Oh, yes. There is blood. Lots and lots of the stuff, and it doesn’t take long for the claret to flow. Definitely a deviation from the Saturday morning cartoon versions, but the audience that grew up with these shows has since grown up, and I think we can handle it.

Tony: Oh absolutely. Just saying, read it before you give it to your kids.

Brendan: I also love the places where the properties get literally mashed up. ThunderBattleCat is pretty awesome. Prince Adam working at a newspaper in an alternate reality, mirroring Clark Kent. Adam Kent’s transformation into Super-He-Man. Great stuff, and it’s clear, the whole way through, that this team has deep knowledge and great respect for the source material. This is clearly in homage to the original shows, and both are showcased without throwing a shadow on the other. That’s a really hard balance to find.

Tony: Oh definitely. David is the He-Man brand manager, if I remember correctly, so he’s definitely the expert on all things He-Man. I was impressed by the story in general. While there’s some definite “smash the toys together” going on here, the storytelling is really strong for that kind of story. Hell, I’d say it’s better than Civil War (another smash the toys together story) and that story was from a comics veteran.

Brendan: And the story isn’t much of a stretch. It doesn’t feel anything like some of the clunkier mash-ups we’ve seen. The motivation for Mumm-Ra to invade Eternia is believable on every level. Skeletor’s double-cross, taking the reigns and discarding Mumm-Ra’s original plans? Brilliant. 

Magical swords that bestow powers on young royalty, trusted advisors looking out for them, twisted evil nemeses… These two shows are actually really, really similar in concept and execution, and it actually surprised me that I never saw that before.

Tony: Plus the team-ups! Orko and Snarf! Teela and Cheetara! Panthro and Duncan! There is a lot of fan service here, but again, it’s done just right so that you don’t feel like it’s overwhelming the story.

Brendan: The art pulled me in, and again, I would have bought this book just for the visuals, but the story was very satisfying. Very well done, from everyone involved. I want more of this, and that’s the highest compliment I can pay. Sometimes we finish a book, and it’s good, but it’s enough. I don’t need any more. Most books are that way for me. Even if I liked it, I’m done. In this case, I want to see seven more arcs.

What’s your final take?

Tony: I’m with you. Give me more. It was fun as hell, it was nostalgic, but it was also GOOD. It’s not going to make new fans of anyone unfamiliar with either property, but it’s definitely something that any 80’s He-Man or Thundercats fan should read.

Brendan: Fair. What do you have for us next week?

Tony: I’m still on a big Star Wars kick, and with Obi-Wan Kenobi out on Friday, we’re going to do Star Wars: Obi-Wan & Anakin, Marvel’s only Obi-Wan series!

%d bloggers like this: