What is it about nostalgia that makes folks pick up old pieces of work that should really be left alone? Not everything that we’ve enjoyed in the past, when our minds is not as grizzled or matured or tempered with experience the way it is now, is really as good as it was the first time we encountered it. This should be a universally known fact. However what is also universally true is people cannot resist the call at another go for that lost feeling of wonder. Corporate marketing is one of the first to know this, and is ruthless at exploiting this trait.
Almost every child my generation knows about He-Man, given the lack of choices we have in choosing which cartoons we had to watch. Good thing too, because He-Man wasn’t horrible, but then now that I write this, I’d find it hard to admit which of the cartoons I did watch sucked. He-Man was entertaining, had a mythology that was easy to follow, has colourful characters that had plenty of adventures, and boy was it exciting. So it goes.
Literally 30 years later (minus several years, let’s not worry about precision here), I find that DC has taken the He-Man property and, as it quite the trend nowadays, ‘given it new lease in life’. Dan Abnett, a writer of some reputation (although I can’t really place him in my mind just this second), has been tasked to revamp the story, and give it the grit and veneer of complexity that characterizes a modern take of anything old school. And it worked.
This volume is actually a continuation from a series of stories started by Abnett earlier, where He-Man and all his allies lost their memories in an unexplained universal reboot apparently engineered by Skeletor. Apparently the harmless sidekick Orko, the floaty handkerchief with eyes, was the traitor that allowed this state to happen. The bad guys remembered the old days when the Masters of the Universe routinely kicked their butts, and during Adam’s quest for recollection, they never fail to point out how low Adam has supposedly fallen from his earlier lofty positions. Also changed was She-Ra, who is now a general of evil fighting alongside the bad guys.
The Eternity War is the final cycle for this rebooted universe, and things have moved further along from Abnett’s earlier stories. So in this arc, She-Ra now fights for good, the old Sorceress is dead and has been succeeded by Teela, who leads the army of Snake-Men, which was traditionally He-Man’s foes (I don’t know how this happened – I read the reboot arc, and now this one. I don’t know how they got from that to this state). Hordak, the guy who supposedly pulled the strings in the back and the real bad guy behind Skeletor, dies and has been taken over by Skeletor. Through some mumbo-jumbo about the magic juice from Castle Grayskull, Skeletor is now embued with the power of Grayskull the same way as He-Man is, and meets his arch-enemy for a final showdown. No prizes for guessing who wins.
Which brings me to what I really want to say. After all the excitement of seeing my old friends again, the fond memories of characters that used to occupy my childhood fantasy adventures (and a character whose action figure I used to own! Actually I owned several He-Man action figures), after all the dust has settled, what have we got on our hands? That’s the most powerful thought I had when I finished the entire Eternity War story arc. If you strip everything away, what do you have?
After the final analysis, the answer, for me, was really nothing at all. It wasn’t even a competent story, because it was so convoluted especially the part about the magic of Grayskull somehow having the blood of the Adam’s lineage somewhere in its bowels that can be transfused into anyone willing to receive it. The part about how Adam was actually devoured by Hsss and how that turned into a fight in Adam’s consciousness to regain control of his body. It was an exercise to shoehorn what was already there into a story that made sense, and in my opinion didn’t quite succeed.
It was good to see He-Man and the gang again. But I’m forty years old next year, and this work, more than anything else, made me realize just how silly it has been reading this work. There’s a bit of magic, then, when people read Batman stories for 30 years and not be reminded how old they are, despite Batman being around since before they were born.
So then. What is it about nostalgia that makes folks pick up old pieces of work that should really be left alone?