Comic Review: Masters of the Universe Revolution Prequel #2 by Ted Biaselli, Rob David, Tim Sheridan and Daniel HDR

This post continues my issue by issue review of the Masters of the Universe Revolution prequel comic mini-series written by Ted Biaselli, Rob David and Tim Sheridan with art by Daniel HDR and Keith Champagne with a look at issue 2. For my take on issue 1, go here.

While the first issue opened with the creation of the universe according to Ha’vok, this issue opens in outer space. We see Zal-Kron, a glittering crystalline orb in space. An unseen voice explains that Zal-Kron is a kind of Dyson sphere that houses an advanced civilisation and masquerades as a star to keep would-be invaders away. For Zal-Kron has developed advanced crystal-based semiconductor technology, which would make them a juicy morsel for any would-be conqueror and has now brought a Horde cruiser to their doorstep. And the crew of that Horde cruiser is not fooled by the star disguise at all.

I know my fair share of Masters of the Universe lore, but I’d never heard of Zal-Kron before. I initially assumed Zal-Kron originated in The New Adventures of He-Man cartoon, because New Adventures had a science fiction/space setting, so that would make sense. However, it turns out that Zal-Kron and its inhabitants actually stem from a Brazilian Masters of the Universe comic, so that’s a very deep cut. Though artist Daniel HDR is Brazilian and therefore familiar with those comics. Besides, I’m also happy to see the various international Masters of the Universe tie-in media acknowledged, whether it’s the German audio dramas or Brazilian comics or whatever else is out there. Because in its heyday, Masters of the Universe was a truly global phenomenon and to some degree it still is.

The scene then shifts to the bridge of the Horde cruiser, where we see Keldor in full Horde garb, sprawled in the captain’s chair while channelling his inner Captain Kirk, which makes sense, considering that William Shatner voiced Keldor in Masters of the Universe: Revolution. And yes, I’m sure that the bridge of the Horde cruiser was very deliberately designed to look like the bridge of the USS Enterprise NCC-1701 to evoke that Star Trek feeling. Screen Rant reviewer Shaun Corley also notes the Star Trek parallels here.

Captain Keldor’s crew consists of several familiar Horde members whom we already saw in issue 1. The infodump about Zal-Kron is delivered by none other than Galen Nycroft a.l.a. Modulok. Again, this makes sense, because J. Michael Straczynski, who created the backstory for the character, loosely based him on Mr. Spock – if Spock were evil, had two heads and could reconfigure his body. And if Modulok is the Spock to Keldor’s Kirk – well, imagining the fan fiction is fascinating, especially since Keldor has been confirmed as bisexual in the Masters of the Multiverse comic mini-series.

Also present on the bridge are Mantenna, new Horde members Tarangela and Succubug, who seems to have taken Uhura’s part, as well as Grizzlor (explicitly addressed as “Mr. Grizzlor” by Keldor at one point) who mans the weapons station. This turns out to be a mistake, because Grizzlor isn’t the sharpest knife in the Horde’s cutlery drawer and indeed there’s a running gag of other characters telling Grizzlor to shut up, because he’s not very smart. And so Grizzlor not only arms the torpedoes, as Keldor orders, but fires them as well – after all the firing button is right next to the other one – which pretty much ruins Hordak’s orders to observe and gather intelligence, but not to engage. Not that Keldor minds much, though he does tell Grizzlor to shut up. On the contrary, he seems to be having the time of his life in a glorious splash page that shows him cutting loose with his magic and blasting the hapless inhabitants of Zal-Kron. I enjoyed Daniel HDR’s artwork in issue 1, but issue 2 is even better, because Daniel HDR clearly excels at drawing gorgeous science fiction settings.

Masters of the Universe may be primarily fantasy, but there have always been science fiction elements as well. Spaceships aren’t all that uncommon in Masters of the Universe. We see several spaceships in the Filmation He-Man cartoon and even more in the She-Ra cartoon. Even Skeletor or rather Keldor commanding a spaceship isn’t something we haven’t seen before – since Skeletor did exactly that in 65 episodes of the New Adventures of He-Man cartoon.

What is more, there are quite a lot of links between Star Trek and Masters of the Universe. Filmation produced both the original He-Man and She-Ra cartoons and Star Trek: The Animated Series. All three shows also shared several sound effects. What is more, Star Trek writer and story editor D.C. Fontana also wrote the memorable He-Man episode “Battlecat”, which explains how Adam found Cringer and how Cringer first became Battlecat. And Masters of the Universe: Revolution has three Star Trek actor among its stellar voice cast: William Shatner as Keldor, John de Lancie as Granamyr and Gates McFadden as Queen Marlena.

But in spite of all the behind the scenes connections, the explicit Star Trek feel is something new for Masters of the Universe. Because Masters of the Universe spaceships normally don’t look all that Star Trek inspired but instead draw on sources ranging from vintage pulp science fiction via Star Wars, H.R. Giger and Jack Kirby comics to 1980s science fiction. In New Adventures, Skeletor looks positively cyberpunky. His crew are a bunch of Space Mutants who are among the most bizarre beings ever seen in Masters of the Universe, a property which has plenty of weird creatures. The Mutant Mothership is an organic looking monstrosity, while the Space Mutants’ base Nordor is a hollow moon shaped like a skull. In the Filmation She-Ra cartoon, Horde Prime’s flagship The Velvet Glove (which must be one of the best spaceship names of all time) is a Gigeresque nightmare of pipes and jets, which sports a stylized face of someone who looks like a member of Hordak’s species (likely Horde Prime). So in short, spaceships in the various incarnations of Masters of the Universe are usually a lot weirder than those of Star Trek. That said, it’s notable that the exterior of the Horde cruiser seen in orbit above Zal-Kron in the opening page looks exactly like the Horde cruiser King Micah of Bright Moon used to escape from imprisonment on Horde World in the Filmation She-Ra episode “Micah of Bright Moon”. The interior is very different, because the cruiser stolen by Micah has a much smaller cockpit than the large Star Trek style bridge seen in this comic.

That said, while parts of this comic have a distinct Star Trek vibe, this is very much the Star Trek of the mirror universe, not the prime universe. Because Keldor and the Horde, even if they’re cosplaying Star Trek, are still very much the bad guys here who attack an innocent world with zero provocation. In the previous issue, Keldor was still a confused young man who’d been raised with expectations of future greatness he doesn’t know how to fulfil and who wants nothing more than for his Daddy to love him. But by issue 2, he is a full blown villain, though he is still Keldor and not yet Skeletor. Also – and I hate to say this – he is a very handsome villain. Now Keldor usually is portrayed as handsome, because that makes the contrast to Skeletor even bigger. But Daniel HDR’s version of Keldor is very handsome indeed and – dare I say it – sexy. I could completely understand Lyn falling for him, except that in the Revelation/Revolution continuity, Lyn didn’t even meet Keldor until he was Skeletor.

While Keldor and the Horde Forces are taking Zal-Kron, Hordak – who never fights his own battles, as he himself pointed out in Masters of Universe: Revolution – is once again elsewhere. We see him in what appears to be a yurt with a burning fire and a baby’s crib filled with straw. Of course, Hordak and baby cribs will always be associated in our minds due to the kidnapping scene from The Secret of the Sword. But that’s not what we’re seeing here. Instead. we are seeing a memory or rather a dream of Hordak’s childhood and the place where he spent it with his older brother – an older brother who enjoyed games and riddles and tormenting his younger sibling. That older brother of course grew up to be Horde Prime (which is confirmed later on in the comic). We also learn the name their father, because Hordak is referred to as “Son of Gaull”.

The yurt, the fire and the crib – which turns out to be empty – look very low tech, almost primitive, which is fascinating, because I for one had not expected that Hordak and Horde Prime, the two premiere tech lords of the galaxy, grew up in a yurt and slept in straw-filled cribs. I also hadn’t expected Hordak to come from a steppe culture. But then, we’ve never actually seen another member of Hordak’s species except for Horde Prime (and we never see him in the original Filmation cartoon either, though we do see him later in in comics and of course in the 2018 She-Ra series, which has a completely different continuity), so we don’t know anything about Hordak’s people. Of course, this also begets the question: How exactly did two boys from a steppe culture grow up to run a high tech intergalactic empire?

Masters of the Universe Classics Horde Prime and Despara and Masterverse Emperor Hordak

An unhappy family: The sons of Gaull, Horde Prime and Hordak, and Hordak’s adopted daughter Despara. I must really get Horde Prime his staff, which was sold as part of a Masters of the Universe Classics Weapons Pack, because without his staff, Horde Prime feels rather impotent. And we don’t want the supreme ruler of the Horde Empire to feel impotent, do we?

While Hordak is dreaming of his clearly unpleasant childhood, an unseen voice is taunting him and also points out that there are a lot of parallels between Hordak and their mutual acquaintance, Prince Keldor, since both suffer from a massive and extremely toxic case of sibling rivalry. Though it must be noted that Keldor didn’t hate or resent his younger brother, at least not when we encounter them as young children in Masters of the Universe Revolution. Meanwhile, Hordak seems to have had a terrible relationship with his brother from the very start.

The reference to Keldor finally tips off Hordak about the identity of the unseen voice. It’s none other than Shadow Weaver, though she is only referred to as “Weaver” here and also doesn’t wear her iconic fuchsia-coloured robes, probably due to the well-known rights issues with the characters originating in the Filmation She-Ra cartoon.

Hordak is understandably pissed off that Shadow Weaver is invading his dreams. We also get an image of Hordak enjoying his “nightly restoration cycle”, as he puts it, in a high-tech bed aboard the Horde flagship, surrounded by monitors and with cables attached to him. This suggests that Hordak needs regular medical support, which again isn’t something we haven’t seen before. After all, Hordak is very old – hundreds, possibly thousands of years old – and we don’t know if his species gets so old naturally or whether they require life-extending technology. Hordak also has cybernetic parts such as his arm cannon and his ability to transform into anything from a rocket to a tank is also clearly not something he was born with. The “Eternity War” comics by DC show Hordak permanently attached to a mess of cables that keep him alive and in the 2018 She-Ra cartoon, Hordak is suffering from a genetic defect and needs his suit/exeskeleton to keep him alive and upright.  Something similar is likely happening here.

As for why Shadow Weaver is invading Hordak’s dreams – or, as she cattily puts it, nightmares – it turns out that the rest of her coven of Ha’vok worshipping weird sisters were not exactly thrilled when Shadow Weaver told Hordak about the Havoc Staff and that he needed to find someone to wield it on his behalf. They clearly would be even less thrilled, if they were to find out that Shadow Weaver is still hanging out with Hordak and so she can only communicate with Hordak in his dreams. Though Hordak doesn’t want to talk to Shadow Weaver at all. After all, she already pointed him towards Keldor and the Havoc Staff, so Hordak no longer has any need for her. Shadow Weaver, however, points out that Hordak still needs to learn more about Keldor, about his backstory, his dreams and ambitions, if he is to use Keldor to fulfil his own ambitions. Shadow Weaver also promises Hordak to turn Keldor into a loaded weapon. And because Shadow Weaver has always been a master or rather mistress of manipulation and knows exactly how to push Hordak’s buttons, she tells Hordak that his brother would try to learn everything about Keldor, because you can’t expect to play the game, if you haven’t learned the rules.

So Hordak agrees to communicate with Shadow Weaver in his dreams, though he really doesn’t want to spend time in the yurt of his childhood trauma and instead suggests changing the scenery to his private chambers. These briefly glimpsed chambers are another fascinating design. There is a domed ceiling – possibly a conscious or subconscious reminder of the yurts of his childhood – and the entire place is filled with hunting trophies and all sorts of preserved animals. To stick with the Star Trek parallels, Hordak’s chambers are reminiscent of Captain Gabriel Lorca’s ready room aboard the Discovery with its stuffed Gorn and tortured Tribbles. Besides, we have seen before that Hordak likes to collect animals, both dead and alive. There’s a quite well-known piece of Masters of the Universe art, showing Hordak in his office with a framed photo of She-Ra on his desk, his little pal Imp pretending to be a desk lamp and the head of She-Ra’s faithful steed Swift Wind mounted on a plaque on the wall. And in the Filmation episode “Zoo Story”, we learn that Hordak has his own private zoo, where he keeps endangered animals imprisoned for his own pleasure.

But before Hordak and Shadow Weaver can continue to delve into Keldor’s mind and memories, Hordak first has to deal with the issue at hand. For his new Force Captain Keldor has conquered Zal-Kron for the Horde – unfortunately in direct defiance of Hordak’s orders to not engage. What is more, Keldor is obviously proud of his achievement and hankering for Hordak’s approval. He even has a present for Hordak, the Zal-Kronian ruler Queen Zal, and triumphantly presents the bound and hooded prisoner to Hordak. And yes, Keldor giving Hordak a bound and hooded woman, who is being led around on a halter by Grizzlor and Leech, as a present is rather disturbing in its implications. Of course, we know that Hordak enjoys imprisoning and tormenting the rulers of the planets he conquers. See what he had his underlings do to poor Stonedar in Masters of the Universe: Revolution or how he left Queen Angella of Bright Moon to the tender mercies of Hunga the Harpy and kept King Micah of Bright Moon imprisoned in a slave mine on Horde World in the She-Ra cartoon. So it’s absolutely in character for Hordak to imprison, enslave and humiliate the leaders of the worlds he conquers. Nonetheless, there is a sexual implication to Keldor giving Hordak the bound and hooded Queen Zal as a gift that we didn’t get with Stonedar. Masters of the Universe clearly draws a lot of inspiration from 1960s and 1970s SFF, both new works and older works which were being reprinted during that time. However, up to now, I had assumed that John Norman‘s Gor novels were not among them.

That said, Queen Zal isn’t some meek Gorean slave girl. As soon as Keldor yanks the hood of her head, she gives Hordak, Keldor and the rest of the Horde an earful, calls them filthy scum and promises that she will escape and once she does, they’re all dead. And as a nice nod to the Brazilian roots of the character, she speaks Portuguese. I don’t understand enough Portuguese to tell, but I’ve heard from Brazilian fans that the Portuguese dialogue were not mangled – unlike the hilariously terrible German dialogue found in various Marvel Comics in the 1980s and 1990s.

Hordak is not overly impressed by her threats nor by Queen Zal spitting him in the face. He orders Grizzlor (who is the Horde’s jailer in the Filmation cartoon) to lock her up in the brig of the Horde vessel and also displays unexpected language skills, when he replies in Portuguese that should Queen Zal use her tongue again, Grizzlor should remove it. Grizzlor would probably be only too glad to do that, considering that he threatened to eat Queen Zal earlier in the issue.

Even though Queen Zal did not prove to be the perfect gift for Hordak, Keldor is still hankering for his master’s approval – after all, he just conquered a whole planet for Hordak and presented it to him on a silver platter. Hordak, however, isn’t someone who praises subordinates. And so he reminds Keldor that his orders were to observe and gather intelligence, not to attack and conquer the planet.

“Well, yes, but…” a deflated Keldor stammers, whereupon Hordak notes that it’s been some time since they trained together and that Hordak knows just the place for a training session. Shortly thereafter, we see them sparring together in the Fright Zone in its toy form. We saw bits and pieces of this training session in flashbacks in Masters of the Universe: Revolution, but we see a lot more here.

Keldor is confused, because the Fright Zone looks just like home. Hordak replies that the Fright Zone isn’t Anwat Gar (and it’s telling that Hordak assumes Keldor was referring to Anwat Gar, when he said “home”, because personally I don’t think he ever really considered Anwat Gar home), though it exists there and in many other places as well. “It’s always lurking, bleeding through the cracks, anywhere darkness and dread may flourish. It defies dimension… and explanation.” So basically, the Fright Zone exists in another dimension and pops up, whenever and wherever people (in the loosest sense of the word) are scared, such as when the Horde is invading their island or planet. That’s also why Hordak can access the Fright Zone wherever he is, because he and the Horde spread fear and darkness.

Hordak also offers Keldor as much praise as he’s capable of giving and tells Keldor he did well on Zal-Kron, well enough that Hordak almost doesn’t care that Keldor disobeyed his orders. Keldor, who takes whatever crumbs of approval he can get, asks Hordak why he is still in training. Surely he has learned everything he can from physical combat and it’s time for Hordak to give Keldor the ancient magic he promised him. Hordak responds to this by kicking Keldor’s arse. Because even though Hordak doesn’t fight his own battles, but prefers to let others do the fighting for him, that doesn’t mean that he can’t fight. Hordak is a formidable fighter and so is Keldor. Yes, as Skeletor he may prefer to blast his opponents with magic, but he is also a skilled physical fighter and a master swordsman. This is particularly notable in the 2002 cartoon, where Keldor/Skeletor wields his iconic doubles blades.

Over the years, we have seen many combat training scenes in Masters of the Universe, usually involving Adam, Teela and Duncan. This scene is a lot more brutal, for while Adam landed on his butt during combat training more than once, those sessions with Teela and/or Duncan were always friendly and playful and no one was seriously hurt. Hordak, on the other hand, clearly hurts Keldor, though he stops short of killing him. This is the so-called “tough love” school of teaching, though there is no love involved. Instead Hordak tells Keldor that only by fighting, he’ll get stronger and that magic, though useful, is a cheat and won’t make Keldor strong. And then Hordak really twists the knife and tells Keldor that all the magic in the universe won’t make him his father’s son. Ouch.

Keldor is taken aback. How can Hordak even know about his father, when Keldor never told him about that? The answer is of course that a little bird named Shadow Weaver whispered it into Hordak’s ear, though Keldor has no way of knowing this and Hordak of course doesn’t tell him. Instead, Hordak describes Keldor’s father as a powerless king and magic worshipper who abandoned young Keldor on Anwat Gat and left the boy devastated and crying for weeks. Hordak calling Miro a powerless king is certainly telling, because as ruler of much of the light hemisphere of Eternia, Miro was actually a very powerful man. But of course, Hordak doesn’t want to rule a planet or a chunk of it, he wants to rule the galaxy. He also considers both Eternia and Etheria incredibly primitive place – and this remarkably consistent even in the 2018 She-Ra series, which departs the most from the regularly accepted canon. So King of Eternos is about as impressive to Hordak as king of an ant hill.

Hordak goes even further in his analysis of his acolyte. He tells Keldor that his highest ambition is to become his father’s champion and successor and that Keldor hopes mastering magic will make Miro love him and the people of Eternos accept him. Because no matter what he later says to Adam, Keldor never truly felt at home in Anwat Gar. His magical talent is the one thing Keldor has that Miro and Randor don’t have, so Keldor apparently believes that his magic will allow him to carve out a place for himself in Eternos. The fact that his mother Saryn insisted that Keldor learn magic probably played a role as well in causing Keldor to believe that if he masters magic, he can get out of Anwat Gar and back to Eternos and that he’ll finally be accepted there.

The sad thing is of course that Keldor gets everything he wants in Masters of the Universe: Revolution. When he helps to fight off the Motherboard cultists and Techno-Titan, the people of Eternos cheer Keldor on as a hero. Keldor also finally gains the crown he’s wanted all those years. Adam, Andra, Marlena, Orko, Cringer, Snout Spout and Rio Blast all accept Keldor – only Buzz-Off and Duncan are sceptical. And in fact, I wonder if Duncan actually knew Keldor before he was sent to Anwat Gar. We know that Randor and Duncan have been friends since they were boys, but “boys” could refer to little kids or to teenaged recruits in the Royal Guard. So how long exactly have Randor and Duncan known each other? And is the reason that Skeletor seems to have a particular dislike for Duncan that they knew each other as kids?

But even though Keldor finally gets everything he ever wanted in life – admiration, acceptance, family, the throne of Eternos – he throws it all away and betrays Eternos and his family to the Horde. And yes, Skeletor is still brainwashed by the Horde when he crashed Randor’s funeral as Keldor, but even after Motherboard smashed him around and accidentally undid the Horde’s brainwashing, Skeletor still goes along with Hordak’s plan and hands over Eternia to the Horde and only turns against Hordak, after most of Eternia has already been infected with the techno virus. If Skeletor had gone to Adam as soon as he remembered who he really was, I strongly suspect Adam would have forgiven him and suggested they join forces against the Horde. Because as we’ve seen several times, most recently in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, Adam doesn’t really want to fight Skeletor. It’s just that Skeletor always promptly attacks again, even after a temporary truce.

Hordak’s influence on Keldor goes a long way towards explaining this. Hordak tells Keldor that he’s been where Keldor is now – hankering for approval from someone who wouldn’t give it – and that he has learned the hard way that the power of being loved is no match for the power of being feared. Of all of Hordak’s lessons, Keldor clearly took this one to heart, because by the time he’s Skeletor, he abuses his henchpeople as much as his enemies, he completely ruins his relationship with Lyn, who clearly did have feeling for him once, and he’s not only unable to love anybody, but also doesn’t seem to understand what love even is beyond a weakness to exploit in others.

This becomes very clear, when Skeletor murders the Sorceress in part 2 of Masters of the Universe Revelation and Duncan completely breaks down in pain and grief. It’s one of those scenes that never fail to make me cry (and I don’t cry at movies very often). But what makes that scene hit even harder is that Skeletor literally doesn’t understand just why Duncan reacts the way he does, but at this point Skeletor isn’t just unable to love anybody, he doesn’t even know what love is.

Hordak is very similar. He also abuses his underlings as much as his enemies, he delights in cruelty and is unable to love anybody. That’s also why Hordak’s romance with Entrapta in the 2018 She-Ra cartoon – while unexpectedly sweet and heart-warming – also doesn’t really work for the character as he has been established since 1985. Because Hordak is a monster. And this comic does a great job showing just how much of a monster Hordak is.

As for Keldor, he still very much hankers for Hordak’s approval at this point. In their final battle in Masters of the Universe: Revolution, there’s a brief moment where Skeletor sees Hordak transform into his father King Miro in his mind, which clearly illustrates their relationship. Keldor was abandoned by his father as a young boy, taken away from the only life and home he ever knew (and his younger borther) and sent to Anwat Gar, where he didn’t want to be, to live with a mother he didn’t know. Keldor clearly did manage to forge a bond with his mother Saryn, but while we don’t know what exactly happened to Saryn, she’s obviously no longer in his life at this point. So Keldor was abandoned twice, by both his parents. When Hordak showed up and rescued Keldor from a terrifying situation, Keldor latched onto him as a father figure, only that Hordak can’t give Keldor what he needs either and will of course betray and abandon him in the end, too.

Hordak playing the Daddy card understandably gets Keldor upset, so that he cuts loose with his magic. But Hordak anticipated (and deliberately provoked) this reaction and manifests the cool translucent red laser shield and sword we saw him wielding in the Revolution cartoon (and I really hope we get a figure of Hordak in his battle armour with the translucent red sword and shield somewhere down the line) and proceeds to kick Keldor’s arse again. He also tells Keldor that his father Miro is a fool and that Keldor will inherit that title along with the crown, if he continues chasing the throne. Hordak, on the other hand, has so much more to offer to Keldor, as long as Keldor continues to practice and remains patient.

Keldor, however, is all out of patience. If Hordak can plays the Daddy card, well, then Keldor has an ace of his own up his sleeve (or rather his cloak, since he isn’t wearing a shirt). If Hordak invokes Keldor’s, Keldor will invoke Hordak’s. And he tells Keldor, “Well, if you can’t or won’t give me what I want, I’ll just go to your brother Horde Prime. Maybe he’ll understand me.” Once again, this shows that Keldor is still looking for a parent figure at this point, for someone who’ll understand him.

Hordak’s reaction to this display of insolence would be terrible indeed, but Keldor (and we) are spared it for now, because Hordak and Keldor are interrupted by a holographic call from Grizzlor who reports that Queen Zal has killed several guards, stolen a Horde shuttle and escaped. You go, girl! Honestly, Queen Zal is awesome.

Keldor immediately becomes apologetic for Grizzlor screwing up and offers to review the ship’s sensor logs to recapture the runaway queen, but Hordak wants to deal with the issue himself. He also tells Keldor that Hordak isn’t his father and that Keldor is nothing like Horde Prime and that Hordak will give Keldor the magical power he promised, once his training is complete. We know that this is one promise Hordak will keep, though we also know what happens to Keldor, once he touches the Havoc Staff. Hordak also tells Keldor to come to his private quarters aboard Horde flagship, because there is something Hordak wants to show him.

There’s also a neat Easter egg for long-time Masters of the Universe fans, because we see that Hordak and Keldor use Mantisaurs as a transport to get back to the flagship. A Mantisaur is a robotic praying mantis type creature that was Hordak’s mount in the 1980s toyline. Up to now, I always assumed Mantisaur was a unique creature like Battle Cat, Panthor and Swift Wind, but here Mantisaurs just seem to be a regular mount for Horde members. Mantisaur looks cool, but for some reason this creature was never made again, not in Classics, not in Origins, not in Masterverse. I saw one for sale at Los Amigos and briefly considered buying him, so my Hordak has something to ride. But I still hope that we’ll get a new one eventually.

There’s a scene shift and we see Hordak and Keldor in Hordak’s private quarters. We learn that Queen Zal and some of her lieutenants have escaped Zal-Kron, but that they’ll be back and the Horde will be ready for them. Did I mention that Queen Zal is awesome? But for now, Hordak still has another lesson for Keldor and shows him a device called a mnemonic cradle, basically a machine which can record and replay memories. Hordak gives a bit about its history – it was developed by an alien race called the Rovidians, who were highly technologically advanced, but had no long-term memory, so they created the mnemonic cradle to record their memories. Keldor notes that he’s never heard of the Rovidians. “Then my mission was a success”, Hordak replies, implying that the Horde either wiped out the Rovidians or enslaved them with no memories of who they used to be.

Hordak then encourages Keldor to try out the memory projector. Keldor does put on the memory projector. At first, he’s confused and asks Hordak what exactly he’s looking at. Hordak, of course, is only too happy to explain. Keldor is looking at the last memory of Hordak’s previous acolyte/magic wielder who was supremely ambitious and quickly rose through the ranks – until he decided to go behind Hordak’s back to Horde Prime. The sons of Gaull do not like each other, but nonetheless Horde Prime was so infuriated by the acolyte betraying his brother Hordak that he decided to have the acolyte tortured. And just to twist the knife further, Hordak tells Keldor that though this is the last memory of treacherous previous acolyte, the acolyte is actually still alive and still being tortured, he just doesn’t know why, because Hordak took all his memories – as a kind of mercy-killing which Horde Prime would never grant him.

We never actually see what Keldor is seeing, but the horrified look on his face is enough. Keldor eventually tears the memory projector from his head and collapses, because the experience was just too painful. Hordak, meanwhile, tells Keldor that he works for Hordak and only Hordak, not for Horde Prime and certainly not for himself. Then he orders the still visibly shaken Keldor to get out. It’s also notable that Keldor repeatedly tried to apologise for invoking Horde Prime, ever since he and Hordak left the Fright Zone, but Hordak always cuts him off.

“You work for me” is the very same line that Hordak says to Skeletor in Masters of the Universe. Revolution, when Skeletor turns against him. Just as Hordak does the same thing to Keldor – erase his memories and his past – that he did to his previous acolyte. In fact, I wonder just how many magic wielders Hordak has used and discarded over his long life. Keldor and Shadow Weaver are the best known of Hordak’s magic wielders, but we know that there have been many others such as the floating mages known as the Horde Wraiths whom we saw in th 2002 cartoon. There was a Horde Wraith figure in the Masters of the Universe Classics line, which you can see below. Unlike many other Classics figures, the Horde Wraith didn’t come with a bio on the back of the box, but a bio for this character was written and notes that these sorcerers have been enslaved by Hordak. So yes, Hordak has a long history of using, abusing and discarding magic wielders.

Masters of the Universe Classics Horde Wraith

A Horde Wraith sorceror as he appeared in the 2002 cartoon.

If Keldor were smart, he’d follow Queen Zal’s cue, steal a shuttle (I assume he can fly a spaceship) and hightail it back to Eternia. He wouldn’t even have to go back to Anwat Gar, he could go to Eternos. We don’t know if Miro was still king at this point or whether Randor was already king. Just as we don’t know what happened to Miro in the Revelation/Revolution continuity. But in most versions of the story, Miro vanished abruptly – kidnapped and imprisoned by the Enchantress in the Filmation cartoon and thrown by Count Marzo into an interdimensional portal in the Classics continuity – and Randor was forced to take the throne well before he was ready. I assume something similar happened in the Revelation/Revolution continuity as well. Coincidentally, we also have no idea what happened to Queen Amelia in this continuity. In the Classics mini-comics, which is the only other time she appeared, Keldor “accidentally” killed her, though that’s unlikely to have happened in this version of the story.

Anyway, if Randor is king at this point, he’d happily take Keldor back. After all, Randor loved his brother and never really stopped searching for him – see “The Search for Keldor” mini-comic. And even Miro would probably take Keldor back, especially if Keldor had intelligence about the Horde and their plans to offer.

However, for better or worse, Keldor decides to stick with Hordak. We later see him lying in his bunk aboard the Horde flagship – and unlike Hordak’s spacious quarters, Keldor really only has a bunk – having an uneasy sleep. In his dreams, he’s back on Anwat Gar and hearing the voice of his “mother” or at least what he thinks is his mother. “Saryn” tells Keldor that he has done well and that Hordak trusts him (even though Keldor has just painfully learned that Hordak doesn’t trust anybody). “Saryn” also tells Keldor that Hordak is the key to getting everything he wants and deserves and that Keldor should use him and wield him like a weapon, because for now he needs Hordak.

Interspersed with Keldor’s dream conversation with his mother, we see Hordak and Shadow Weaver communing inside a memory – presumably one of Hordak’s – of a burning city. Shadow Weaver tells Hordak that Keldor fears him, but that they must remember the prophecy. Keldor is Hordak’s sword and his key to getting what he wants, so Hordak should use him, because for now he needs Keldor.

It’s no coincidence that the two conversation, between Keldor and his “mother” on the one hand and Shadow Weaver and Hordak on the other, are very similar. Because the final page – a gorgeous splash page of Hordak and Keldor standing back to back with Shadow Weaver in the center, the hems of her robe curling around Hordak and Keldor like an Art Noveau frame, while the Havoc Staff looms above everything – reveals that not only is Shadow Weaver playing both Hordak and Keldor against each other, she is also the voice in Keldor’s head, impersonating Saryn.

This of course raises the question, if Shadow Weaver is impersonating Saryn, then what happened to the real Saryn? Unless Shadow Weaver is Saryn, but that would both contradict the established backstory of the character (which is remarkably consistent across all the iterations of the story) and also open several cans of worms, because a) Shadow Weaver also raises Keldor’s niece Adora has and is the closest thing to a parent figure Adora has, and b) in the proposal for the never produced He-Ro: Son of He-Man cartoon, Shadow Weaver is also the biological mother of Skeletor’s son Skeleteen, which suggests that Keldor/Skeletor and Shadow Weaver had sex at least once. So in short, I really can’t see Shadow Weaver being revealed as Saryn, because that would be just too freaky.

Personally, I suspect that Saryn is dead at this point and likely has been for a while. And since Saryn violated the laws of Anwat Gar and practiced magic, it’s quite possible that she was killed by the Gar, perhaps even in front of Keldor’s eyes, and that Keldor has suppressed this memory, because it’s just too painful for him. Shadow Weaver, meanwhile, exploits Keldor’s abandonment issues by pretending to be Saryn and she exploits Hordak’s ambition. The question is why? What does Shadow Weaver have to gain? Remember that she is a worshipper of Ha’voc, so maybe she simply wants the deity she worships to rise and rule – or destroy – the universe and she is willing to use two extremely dangerous men to get what she wants. But whatever the reason, Shadow Weaver is playing with fire here. Because both Hordak and Keldor would kill her, if they ever found out what she’s up to.

The Masters of the Universe: Revolution prequel comics are very much a story about villains. The closest thing to a hero there is in this story is Queen Zal. But while Queen Zal is awesome, she is not the focus of this story. The protagonists are Keldor, Hordak and Shadow Weaver, i.e. three of the worst people in Masters of the Universe.

Of these three, Keldor is the least terrible, to everybody’s amazement. Yes, he clearly is a villain here, but he’s not yet a monster. Note thta Keldor does not abuse or belittle the crew of his Horde cruiser, whereas Skeletor regularly abuses his Evil Warriors. Keldor has massive abandonment issues, since both Miro and Saryn abandoned him (though with Saryn, this probably wasn’t intentional), he is clearly traumatised, though we’re not entirely sure what happened, and he is hankering for approval from his parents and the people around him. And because of his abandonment issues, Keldor latched on to the nearest parent figures he found, who unfortunately happen to be Hordak and Shadow Weaver.

Hordak, meanwhile, is a monster. Yes, he probably had a terrible upbringing, but he’s nonetheless a monster who delights in torturing and abusing enemies and allies alike. Abusing subordinates has always been one of Hordak’s main traits – whether it’s dropping Mantenna down a trap door over and over again in the Filmation She-Ra cartoon, near-suffocating Catra in the 2018 She-Ra cartoon or torturing his acolytes and erasing their memories in Revolution and in this comic. Hordak tells Keldor it’s better to be feared than to be loved and this is clearly the mantra he lives by. That’s why he keeps abusing his own subordinates. And Keldor, who just had to pick worst role model imaginable, treats his Evil Warriors very much the same by the time he is Sleletor.

Ever since we first saw him in “The Secret of the Sword” (okay, theoretically, he appeared first in a mini-comic called “The Power of the Evil Horde”, but I didn’t read that until much later), it was obvious that while Skeletor is terrible, Hordak is worse. For starters, Hordak is the one who turned Skeletor into the villain he is today, though back in 1985 we didn’t yet know how very much Hordak was responsible for turning Keldor into Skeletor (and Keldor didn’t even exist yet – the name was not mentioned until two years later) this was. Plus, literally the first thing we see of Hordak is him stealing a helpless baby from its cradle. Skeletor has done many terrible things in his time, but he has never stolen a baby. For Hordak, meanwhile, baby stealing was his opening salvo.

But while Hordak is always terrible, the Hordak we see in Masters of the Universe: Revolution is the most monstrous the Ruthless Leader of the Evil Horde has ever been. That’s also the reason behind Hordak’s confrontation with Stonedar, where Hordak looks on, sprawled on his throne, as Mantenna, Grizzlor and Leech reduce poor Stonedar to pebbles. This scene is a reference to the Rock People’s first cartoon appearance in the She-Ra episode “The Rock People”, where Stonedar and Granita rescue the captured Rokkon from Hordak’s throne room and prove to be impervious to the combined fire power of the Evil Horde. And since the Rock People are pacifists, they’re not even trying to fight. So to see a beloved character like Stonedar (yes, a lot of people joke about the Rock People these days, but pretty much everybody who had the toys back in the day loved them, because they were great toys) completely demolished within less than a minute, not only shows that this version of the Horde is a lot more powerful and scary than their somewhat goofy portrayal in the the Filmation She-Ra cartoon, but also that this version of Hordak is a monster. The Revelation/Revolution Hordak won’t be redeemed by cupcakes, soup and the power of true love of a cute geek girl like his counterpart in the 2018 She-Ra reboot, he’s just pure monster.

Now I found the friendship/romance between Hordak and Entrapta in the 2018 She-Ra cartoon oddly endearing (and it has found its way into my toy photo stories), but it did soften Hordak too much and undermined the fact that this guy is a monster. Also, when I was looking for the artwork depicting Hordak in his study with Swift Wind’s head mounted on the wall behind him and googled “Hordak art”, half of what I got was Hordak being his horrible self and looking terrifying, while surrounded by his Horde or presiding over crucifications in one memorable piece of art. The other half of results was cute and romantic fanart of Hordak and Entrapta inspired by the 2018 cartoon. This combination of horrible intergalactic monster and cutesy romance art featuring the same character was incredibly incongruent.

The 2018 She-Ra and the Princesses of Power cartoon has been much criticised for giving Hordak of all people a happy ending. In addition to the fact that Hordak is a monster, what also makes him getting a happy ending so problematic is that the Horde Empire is a clear analogy for colonialism and has been since “The Secret of the Sword”. The Horde conquers random worlds, many of which are less technologically advanced, they subjugate or enslave the local population and imprison, torture or kill their leaders, they literally suck out the lifeforce of both people and land and leave behind a polluted wasteland. As an analogy, it’s not exactly subtle – which makes those complaints that He-Man and She-Ra have gone woke now so silly, because these shows were always woke. The original She-Ra cartoon had an episode about book burning, for heaven’s sake. So for a show like the 2018 She-Ra, which otherwise prides itself on its progressive values, body positivity and the sheer number of LGBTQ characters featured, to give the No. 2 man in a monstrous colonial empire a happy ending is not a good look.

In many ways, this comic is a story about intergenerational trauma and the cycle of abuse. Both Keldor and Hordak had terrible childhoods full of abuse, neglect and abandonment and grow up to be abusers and tyrants themselves, completely devoid of empathy. In many ways, these two are very similar, both driven by parental neglect and toxic sibling rivalry, both turning the desire to be loved and wanted into the desire to be feared, both wanting to dominate and subjugate others. That’s why these two initially work together pretty well and also why they eventually turn against each other, because they are just too similar. Plus, they both want to rule Eternia/the universe and no empire can have two tyrants.

At its heart, Masters of the Universe has always been a story about family. And while Hordak and Keldor show how family can turn toxic and breed villainy, we also have characters whose family backgrounds aren’t ideal either, but who do not take a turn towards villainy. Randor’s childhood probably wasn’t that much happier than Keldor’s. He saw his brother, whom he loved, taken away and was stuck with Miro and Amelia who clearly are pretty terrible parents. Miro didn’t win last year’s retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for nothing. But while Keldor found Hordak to his and the universe’s detriment, Randor found a better role model in his father’s Man-at-Arms Dekker, a character who really deserves more appreciation than he gets. The first and only time we see Dekker on screen in the 2002 episode “The Island”, we learn that he was the one who trained Duncan and Randor, whom he calls Randy. We never see anything of that, but it seems to me as if Dekker served as a role model and father figure to two young men who needed one. Coincidentally, it’s also implied that he’s Andra’s grandfather.

Miro abruptly vanishes, leaving Randor to take a throne he clearly doesn’t want. However, Randor does not repeat his father’s mistakes. Randor marries his unsuitable girlfriend – and since Marlena is an alien, she’s just as, if not more, unsuitable than Saryn who is at least from the same planet, if not the same species.

Unfortunately, Randor isn’t all that good as a father either – he did win an honourable mention in the Darth Vader Parenthood Awards, after all – though he does patch his relationship with Adam towards the end of his life. However, like his father, Adam finds role models and support elsewhere. Adam has a great relationship with his mother and he has Duncan and quite possibly all the Heroic Warriors – most of them are considerably older than Adam and were Randor’s team before they were He-Man’s – as role models and surrogate father figures. He also has the Sorceress as a mentor and role model.

Teela has massive abandonment issues, just like Keldor. She never knew her mother and doesn’t know Duncan is her biological father. Those abandonment issues are the reason Teela is such an overachiever and always needs to be the best at everything – because she feels that she needs to prove that she’s worthy of being loved and cared for. She actually says as much in Masters of the Universe: Revelation. Meanwhile, this comic reveals that Keldor apparently assumes that if he becomes very skilled at magic, this will persuade his father and the people of Eternos to accept him. But while Keldor’s desire to be loved and accepted turns toxic, Teela’s doesn’t, largely because she has friends and people who care about her.

Finally, we have Adora whose childhood is every bit as terrible as Hordak’s or Keldor’s. Adora is stolen from her family as a baby and raised by Hordak and Shadow Weaver as a member of the Horde, gaslit and manipulated at every step. Hordak and Shadow Weaver do their utmost to turn Adora into a monster like them and they almost succeed, because Adora becomes a Horde Force Captain and takes part in battles and atrocities. And whenever Adora starts to ask questions, she has her memories erased again and again. However, Adora manages to break through her conditioning – with the help of Adam and his unfailing faith in her – and make a better life for herself. That’s also why Adora’s story is so powerful, regardless whether we’re talking about the original Filmation cartoon,  the 2018 reboot or the Eternity War comics, which made the redemption arc of Adora even more powerful, since she starts out as the full blown villainess Despara there.

It remains to be seen whether we will see Adam or Adora in the final two issues of this comic mini-series. But for now, the Masters of the Universe Revolution prequel comics are all about the villains. But since Hordak and Keldor/Skeletor are popular and fascinating characters, it doesn’t really matter. So bring on issue 3.


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