Friday, June 14, 2013

365 Comics...165: Masters of the Universe: The Origin of Hordak (one-shot, 2013)

It's funny how "origin stories" are so essential in the superhero genre.  How did they come to get their powers?  How did they decide to be a hero/villain?  Where did they come from?  We don't seem to care as much about the "origin stories" in other genres.  The western and spy genres seem to largely thrive upon having characters of mystery.  Dramas are so very often fit to show us the characters as they are today without needing to understand the past so much, while action/adventure tend to define their characters more by their deeds than whatever brought them to that place (they're a cop/soldier/firefighter/archaeologist etc in a profession that puts them in such scenarios).  Fantasy and sci-fi least of all require an origin story, as what's more important and interesting is the world building and how the characters fit into that world and are affected by that world, than where they came from (they came from that world, so... you know).

A great many cartoons, particularly the cartoons of the '80's that were largely based on toy lines, would rarely, if ever bother to provide an origin story for their characters, instead we join their conflict with their one (and often only) enemy in progress, with more and more characters being introduced, but only as a display of whatever funky action the toy performs, or to present them as yet another distinct figure in the line.  As kids, we accept that whatever story is being told that week is what we care about, not character growth.  By the nature of the old animation cycles, it seemed characters had to remain stagnant so that their adventures could go on forever and appear in any order without confusion.  But it's such an outdated way of dealing with characters, and not one adults really abide by, we need at least the perception of growth and change in our heroes and villains (whereas the story-of-the-week seems more about peripheral 3rd-parties learning a lesson).

Masters of the Universe, well, it was a hybrid sci-fi/fantasy cartoon that was flat-out no-progress characterization... He-Man, Teela, Orko, Cringer, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor, Beast Man, etc.  They never changed from episode one through to episode 130, they all pretty much act the same, despite any of the events occurring along the way.  So few of them were of a personal nature anyway (perhaps the reveal that the Sorceress was Teela's mother... Duncan, you dog... but even that had no lasting effect on the characters).  Were there origin stories... only one that was episode-length, which was Cringer's origin (though even that episode refused to explain why he could talk or become Battle Cat, rather only showing how Cringer became Adam's pet).

With the latest Masters of the Universe revival from DC Comics, we got an astounding Origin of Skeletor that hinted at some epic sword-and-sorcery drama, a He-Man origin that I now can't even recall, and now a Hordak origin, which quite frankly, lost me from page 1.  I have no idea what's happening in this book besides an epic war between good and evil that was whittled down to a mano y mano between Hordak and his brother Zodak a million and some years ago.  In reality, it's an 8-page story stretched to 20 in which the bad guy triumphs but, the consequences of his victory are, well, I guess TBD. 

I'm not reading Giffen's MOTU series, so I can't say whether this is set-up for that series.  I just don't know (just as I don't know whether he's used any of Joshua Hale Fialkov's awesome set-up from the Origin of Skeletor).  I was intending to pass on this book but I was drawn in by Giffen's artwork, as I so often am.  Giffen's back to using his sloppy-style which he adopted in the late-1980's and early 90's, but bringing into it much of the exaggerated Kirby that made his recent OMAC work so great.  It's certainly much better than his Trencher-era shenanegans, but not quite as great as his early-80's Legion or that recent OMAC work.  He owes a lot here to the colors from Hi-Fi which are appropriately cosmic.

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