UK London Editions Comics

Issue #17

Release Date: November 1986

Stories:

Fallout

The Trap of Ages

And One Shall Save Them

Cover by: José María Ortiz Tafalla

This issue’s intro page includes a teaser for the upcoming “Secret Files of Scrollos” series.

Story 1: “Fallout”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: In the Fright Zone, Hordak and Modulok are making the finishing touches to Hordak’s new weapon – a mechanical rocket that Hordak intends to fire towards Eternos City. There is only one more thing needed – He-Man, whom Hordak intends to chain to the rocket when he fires it at the Royal City, so He-Man himself will be destroyed along with Eternos. Shortly afterwards, He-Man is visiting the village of the Dinoreps, whom he has provided with a powerful Gem-Stone that will provide their village with warmth during the winter. Just then the village is attacked by Leech, who uses his suction power to swipe the Gem-Stone from the Dinoreps. He-Man chases after Leech atop Battle Cat, and Leech appears to surrender the stone to him, but in reality he has swapped the Gem-Stone for another stone identical in appearance – a Hypno-Stone, which will cause He-Man to fall under Hordak’s mind control. Hordak commands He-Man to stand next to the rocket, enabling Modulok to chain him to the rocket, which Hordak then launches with his control unit. As the rocket blasts off, Hordak discards the Hypno-Stone and sets He-Man’s mind free, so He-Man will personally witness the demise of Eternos City before his own. Chained to the rocket, He-Man remains calm and tries to work out a way of escaping Hordak’s trap. He smashes his fist into the rocket, causing a metal covering to break away from the control panel. He turns a dial which is controlling the direction of the rocket, diverting its course away from Eternos and back towards the Fright Zone. He then breaks free from the chains and sky-dives into the ocean below. Back at the Fright Zone, Hordak sees the rocket heading towards himself and his Horde as it obeys its new programming, forcing him to press the self-destruct button on his control panel and destroy his invention.

Review: This issue’s opening story, also its cover story, follows the standard format of Hordak inventing a new weapon in an attempt to conquer Eternia, but this story is especially memorable for Hordak’s particularly depraved scheme of chaining He-Man to a rocket as he launches it towards Eternos City, so He-Man himself will be destroyed along with his beloved city and will witness the demise of the city in his final moments. Together with Issue #5’s “It’s A Small World”, another Brian Clarke story which saw a miniaturized He-Man trapped in a sand timer, ready to be suffocated by the sand just as Skeletor destroyed the Royal City, this is one of the more unpleasant traps He-Man has been caught in as he faces an especially cruel fate.

This story sees a return to the village of the Dinoreps, who we previously met in Issue #11’s story “Hordak’s Captives”, although they are not referenced by name this time, and as is becoming the norm with recurring non-Mattel guest characters, they have a different colour scheme on their second appearance, being a light orange-brown colour this time instead of bright yellow as in their original appearance. In-keeping with their first story, in which the Dinoreps were portrayed as a peaceful tribe previously unaware of the war that ravaged Eternia, He-Man and Battle Cat remark on how the Dinoreps show how peaceful Eternia could be without the forces of evil present on the planet.

As in the previous story featuring the Dinoreps, again it is Leech who attacks their village, and they recognize him from their first encounter. Leech tricks He-Man by stealing the Dinoreps’ heat stone that He-Man has gifted them, and as He-Man chases after him, he replaces it with a Hypno-Stone that Hordak can use to control He-Man’s mind, pretending to surrender the Gem-Stone to He-Man. The plan works and He-Man winds up under the power of the Hypno-Stone – but what is intriguing here for the more attentive readers is that this surely means Leech still has the Dinoreps’ heat stone, meaning that although their village seems to have been left behind in safety, the Horde have nonetheless succeeded in robbing the village.

Leech uses his suction power to drain Battle Cat’s strength, as Hordak instructs the mind-controlled He-Man to stand next to the rocket, where Modulok chains He-Man to the vehicle’s exterior. The rocket is then launched, Hordak discarding the Hypno-Stone so that He-Man’s mind is freed as the rocket blasts off, so that He-Man will realize the demise of Eternos City – and himself – as Hordak’s scheme is completed.

It is now down to He-Man, as the thinking person’s superhero, to work out a way to escape from the trap. As He-Man uses his usual skills of logic and critical thinking to decipher an escape route, a panel at the bottom of the page implores the reader to think for themselves and deduce a way out of the trap.

Using his strength to break loose the metal panel covering the control unit on the rocket’s side, He-Man turns the dial that controls the direction of the rocket, causing the vehicle to steer off course. He is then free to break out of the chains, and as the rocket flies over the ocean, dives into the sea below, knowing that Hordak will self-destruct the rocket as it heads back towards the Fright Zone. Interestingly, this story ends on a semi-cliffhanger with Hordak revealing the attack has given him “another idea” and the narration panel at the end states his plan will be revealed in a future issue of MOTU. It is not quite clear in hindsight what plan this is referring to, as it seems to suggest something big but this story was never referred to again in any subsequent issues.

As is standard for these intro stories showcasing a new weapon by Hordak, this story stays pretty basic, but it is a striking and memorable story nonetheless, mainly for the particularly dastardly plot of Hordak’s and the nasty situation He-Man is placed in, with a potentially gruesome death awaiting him (with the comic as usual managing to avoid actually using the ‘d’ words), and another ingenious escape method by He-Man. It is also an example of how Hordak’s evil can get the better of even him, for had he allowed He-Man to remain under mind control while on board the rocket, He-Man would have been unable to think for himself and Hordak’s plan may well have succeeded - indeed, as Hordak himself states at the end, he almost beat He-Man this time. The particularly dastardly nature of Hordak’s scheme here renders “Fallout” a strong opening story for this issue, and definitely one that will stay in the reader’s mind.

****

Some interesting questions and answers on this issue’s letters page. One reader finally asks Scrollos what sort of things he does, and he elaborates on his role a bit. The answer to another reader’s question about Jitsu is pretty intriguing, regarding Jitsu being the master of “about every martial art ever developed... Including several that he has devised himself” – it seems unfortunate that Jitsu only ever had background roles within the comic with barely even any dialogue, as this answer gives the impression he is a very interesting villain who is easily deserving of a story in the spotlight. Another letter enquires about the new character of Extendar, who will not appear in the comic until Issue #28, 11 issues from here. Scrollos’ answer about the “first birthday issue” indicates the comics were being written several months in advance of their release by this stage.

****

Story 2: “The Trap of Ages”
Writer: Unknown
Art: Amador García

Synopsis: Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms are reminiscing about old times when Adam was young, before he had the responsibilities of He-Man. Adam laments the loss of innocence but realizes the importance of his present-day responsibility on Eternia, and the number of times he has saved the planet. Meanwhile, at the Fright Zone, Hordak has retrieved a magical serum from a lake, which he pours into a machine he has created. He tests his invention on Grizzlor, by making him stand within a chamber, and then with a flick of a switch, the serum – known as the Elixir of Youth – powers the machine, causing Grizzlor to instantaneously grow younger, becoming a small child. Hordak then reveals his plan – to trap He-Man within the machine and reduce him to a mere child, whom he will then raise to follow his own evil ways. He sends Mantenna out to lure He-Man into his clutches, by putting up posters around the forest challenging He-Man to a fight with Hordak. When Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms stumble upon the posters, the prince knows he must accept the challenge, and transforms to He-Man, heading to the Fright Zone. Once he reaches the Fright Zone, Hordak tricks He-Man into coming close enough to him so that he can unleash a sleeping gas upon him, knocking He-Man out cold. Once He-Man has fallen, Modulok captures Man-At-Arms, who had followed He-Man in secret and was spying on the fight. He-Man awakens imprisoned with Hordak’s chamber, where Hordak explains his evil scheme. As He-Man begins to grow younger, Hordak leaves to mount an assault on Castle Grayskull. But He-Man realizes there may be a way out of the trap for him, and waits patiently – then eventually, as he becomes younger, the power of Grayskull leaves him and he becomes Prince Adam again as he is returned to the day before he was given the power. As Prince Adam is smaller than He-Man, he is able to slip through the bars of the chamber, then he rescues Man-At-Arms and the two of them set about reversing the process. Adam steps back within the chamber and Man-At-Arms operates the machine, reversing the process and returning Adam to his correct age, Adam becoming He-Man again as he ages. Later, just as Hordak prepares to lead his Horde towards Castle Grayskull, he is shocked to find himself confronted by He-Man, who challenges Hordak to the fight he promised him. Unaware of how He-Man has managed to escape his device, Hordak backs away from a conflict, retreating under the pretence of wanting to avoid a hollow victory with his trap having failed. Later, back at the palace, Prince Adam and Man-At-Arms return to reminiscing, and Adam remarks on how his experience of being made temporarily young again has caused him to realize that with great power comes great responsibility.

Review: This story begins in an untypically contemplative fashion with Adam and Man-At-Arms alone in the palace reminiscing about the days of Adam’s youth, and his innocence before being given the powers of He-Man. This almost existential conversation, with Adam’s profound assertion that “we can never go back to the days of our youth” and his thought bubble signalling “…but it would be fun to try” sets the scene for a story about regaining one’s youth, definitely an intriguing subject for a MOTU story.

The scene switches to the Fright Zone, where Hordak is testing out a new invention on the unwilling Grizzlor, having obtained a fluid known as the Elixir of Youth from a magical lake, which he is using to power his invention.

He activates the machine and Grizzlor is reverted to the form of a young child. We get a great illustration of the baby Grizzlor, his body smaller and less hairy, with Hordak cradling him in his arms, smiling like a proud father. Considering that Grizzlor’s origin story, told much later in Issue #62, reveals that Grizzlor is over 428 years old, the machine has definitely achieved quite a considerable success in reverting him to a child! Pleased with his invention, Hordak reveals his plan to use the machine on He-Man, who he intends to reduce to the form of a child and then raise to follow his evil ways and become his greatest warrior. Fans of the She-Ra comics and cartoon will note the similarity here to what Hordak did with He-Man’s own sister, whom he captured as a baby and raised to become a Horde Force Captain, before Adora was rescued by her brother and given the power to become She-Ra.

The faintly philosophical tone to this story, with its subject of eternal youth, the responsibilities of age, and lines of dialogue such as “It is said that the child is the father to the man” imbue this story with a deeper, more contemplative atmosphere than a typical MOTU story, and this is complimented nicely by Amador García’s distinctive, dream-like style of artwork.

The method Hordak uses to lure He-Man into his clutches, by sending Mantenna out to hammer up posters around the Eternian woodland challenging He-Man to a fight, is pretty amusing, and it is a nice touch of deadpan humour having Hordak employ this street gang-like tactic to challenge his enemy.

He-Man knows he must accept the challenge, but Man-At-Arms is reluctant to let him go alone, knowing this is likely an attempt to lure him into a trap, and follows He-Man in secret as He-Man ventures to the Fright Zone. Sure enough, Hordak has a trick up his sleeve, releasing his sleeping gas when He-Man gets too close to him, knocking He-Man out cold.

He-Man wakes up in Hordak’s trap, Man-At-Arms shackled in chains nearby. As Hordak leaves to mount an attack on Castle Grayskull, the machine begins to take effect and He-Man feels himself growing younger. But the villains really should be thinking twice before leaving He-Man imprisoned in any trap by now… for the thinking person’s superhero always manages to suss out a way to escape them. He-Man sees that it is only his large size that prevents him slipping through the bars of the chamber, and then realizes that as he grows younger, he will surely revert to the form of Prince Adam. And sure enough, the machine returns him to the day before he was given the power of Grayskull, and the transformation takes place. We get a fantastic illustration of He-Man becoming Adam again, the reverse transformation depicted in a particularly captivating style, with the form of He-Man leaving Adam’s body like a spirit, his attire coloured a ghostly white. In the smaller form of Prince Adam, our hero is now able to slip through the bars of the chamber with ease, and escape the trap.

There are a couple of logical flaws here, one in that He-Man seems to be growing young much more slowly than Grizzlor did before – with Grizzlor he seemed to more or less instantaneously become a child – although it is possible the process was longer than it appeared with Grizzlor, or that Grizzlor’s limited intellect may have enabled the process to work much faster. The other flaw the reader may consider is that although Hordak is unaware that He-Man and Prince Adam are one and the same, surely a child He-Man would still have been small enough to slip through the bars and escape the trap? – so we can only assume that Hordak felt this would not be a threat, for he would still be young enough to be manipulated into serving Hordak and would be lacking sufficient strength to in any way foil the scheme.

It is not clear exactly how young Adam is supposed to be here – his face is drawn looking slightly more boyish than usual but he does not appear to be much younger than we regularly see him. In later issues it was stated that Adam was 21 when he was given the power of Grayskull (even later issues said he was 18 but Scrollos later corrected this and confirmed 21 was the correct age) so we can assume he must be 21 here. It is never quite clear exactly how long the MOTU saga has been going on before the point at which the comics’ stories pick up, but it can only be a few years at most, so the machine can not have reduced Adam’s age by that many years, most likely just two or three at most.

It is a good job that Hordak left the machine unattended as the process took place, or the Horde could have discovered He-Man’s secret identity – regardless, Adam is now able to free Man-At-Arms and together they reverse the machine’s process, restoring Adam to his correct age, causing him to become He-Man again, his line “I have the power again” being a great touch as he transforms back. Like in earlier stories such as “Droid of Destruction”, “Double Split” (both Issue #7) and “Menace of the Magnetron” (Issue #16), He-Man has been able to use his double identity and the villains’ lack of awareness of it as a tool to enable him to save the day.

Meanwhile, Hordak, overconfident as ever in his scheme’s success, is bragging to his Horde about how he has defeated He-Man, the Hordesmen engaging in a schoolyard-like chant of “Hor-dak, Hor-dak” as they cheer him on. There appear to be a couple of extra non-toy Hordesmen here who we aren’t familiar with, with a couple of generic-looking demonic characters amongst Hordak’s regular minions.

His bragging and his impending march on Grayskull are interrupted by the intervention of He-Man, who Hordak is shocked to see appearing normal and no younger than when he last saw him. He-Man challenges Hordak to the fight he promised him, not letting on that he has in fact been weakened by the chamber, hoping Hordak does not see through his bluff. Hordak assumes the machine has failed altogether and retreats out of cowardice, feebly masking this with the pretence of wanting to avoid a ‘hollow victory’.

Back at the palace later, Adam and Man-At-Arms have returned to reminiscing, and Adam remarks on how strange it felt to be young again, but the experience has taught him that with great power comes great responsibility. Although a natural moral for a story on this subject, it is hard to relate it to the story directly in this instance – for one, Adam can hardly have learned this lesson purely from his experience in this story, as he stated pretty much the exact same thing in the opening scene, so really he has learned nothing new – plus the final scene seems to be making too big a deal of Adam having become ‘young again’ and achieved his wish to return to his youth, because if the continuity of the comics as a whole is taken into account, he really can’t have been made that much younger by Hordak’s invention – only two or three years at most – and so it is hardly like he has been literally returned to the days of his youth, and either way he did not stay ‘young again’ for long before the process was reversed.

Overall, “The Trap of Ages” is an enjoyable story with great artwork and the suggestion of a deep theme for a MOTU story, bordering on existentialism, but it really does feel underdeveloped and rather wasted in that said theme is only really touched on in the faintest possible manner. The story would have achieved a greater effect had Adam been genuinely missing the days of his youth at the story’s start, and yearning to go back to his carefree days of innocence, perhaps resenting the responsibility the role of He-Man enforces on him, and Hordak’s machine could have accomplished a greater effect on him, returning him to a considerably younger age, either to his teens or even childhood, and perhaps wiping his memory in the process and rendering him a purely innocent child vulnerable to manipulation by the Horde. This would allow for a much deeper and more challenging story, and the ensuing process of the young Adam having to be reminded who he really is, and motivated to return to his adulthood and regain the powers of He-Man, could allow for some powerful moments and enable the story’s end moral to hit the reader much harder. For instance, the young Adam could have found himself genuinely tempted by the idea of following the Horde’s evil ways, leaving Man-At-Arms with the challenge of reminding him who he is as the Horde simultaneously attacked Grayskull. In the process, Adam could have realized the importance of his present-day role to Eternia and the danger the planet would be in without He-Man, enabling him to fully embrace the responsibility that comes with his great power and step willingly back into the shoes of the present-day He-Man. But while this would certainly have been a much stronger story, it would naturally also have called for a lot more space and would have had to have been a multi-parter taking up a whole issue at least, and that is where we are reminded we can not be too harsh on the writers when ideas like this appear wasted or underdeveloped, since they were operating within the constraints of fitting the stories into just six pages, while the powers that be at Mattel were only really expecting standard action fare rather than anything profoundly deep.

“The Trap of Ages” is a story that will stay in the reader’s mind for its subject matter that borders on the deep and philosophical, and its striking artwork – in itself, it may well feel rather underdeveloped and leave the reader wishing they could have had more, but nonetheless, in the context of this comic medium it is a strong standout story that deserves commendation for branching into new ground.

****

Story 3: “And One Shall Save Them”
Writer: Unknown
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: At Snake Mountain, Skeletor witnesses a meteor falling from the sky to Eternia. He summons Two Bad to his side, and they investigate the meteor, which Two Bad takes to his workshop. Performing experiments on the celestial object, Two Bad finds the jewel is capable of creating an impenetrable force field around solid objects, and creates a device powered by the jewel, which Skeletor plans to use to trap He-Man. Skeletor teleports himself and Two Bad to Castle Grayskull, where Skeletor challenges He-Man to a fight, and as He-Man accepts the challenge, Two Bad activates the device, causing an impenetrable force field to form around He-Man and his comrades, trapping them. Skeletor announces he is leaving to gather his Evil Warriors, and upon his return, he expects He-Man to pledge allegiance to him, otherwise he will destroy him and his friends. Skeletor teleports away, leaving Two Bad to guard the machine. With no obvious way of escaping the trap, He-Man thinks of a possible solution, and ventures back inside Grayskull, where he converses with an unseen individual whom he hopes will help them. Back outside, Two Bad is guarding the machine when suddenly, Skeletor materializes within the force field, and tells Two Bad the machine’s power has interfered with his teleportation spell, causing him to be teleported inside the field instead of to Snake Mountain. Two Bad uses the machine to dissolve the barrier, enabling Skeletor to walk free, but before he can reactivate the force field, He-Man confronts Two Bad and carries him towards Grayskull – and Skeletor does nothing to save him, simply standing still as his minion is apprehended and imprisoned inside Grayskull. Later on, Skeletor arrives, having gathered his minions at Snake Mountain, and is annoyed at finding the machine unattended, vowing to punish Two Bad later. Believing the invisible barrier still stands, Skeletor demands He-Man and the Heroic Warriors pledge allegiance to him, and He-Man feigns surrender, before springing a surprise attack on Skeletor, he and his comrades scattering the Evil Warriors. Skeletor has no choice but to teleport himself and his minions back to Snake Mountain, and He-Man then frees Two Bad, who heads back to Snake Mountain, confused at how Skeletor could have been inside and outside the dome at the same time. Later, within the walls of Grayskull, He-Man explains how he managed to defeat Skeletor’s scheme – the Skeletor that appeared inside the dome was in fact Orko, under a magical disguise. The heroes commend Orko for having saved the day.

Review: The London Editions MOTU comics are well-known by now for their thinking-based plots and solutions that place brains before brawn, which allows for complicated plots within a mere five or six pages, and clever plot twists. This story certainly falls within that category, but unusually for the UK Comics it is beset by a series of bizarre logical flaws that render it a confusing oddity rather than an example of the comics at their best.

The story begins with a great opening panel showing Skeletor sit atop an external throne on the outside of Snake Mountain, overlooking the bridge. By his side we see the surprise presence of a bowl of fruit – the second time we have seen such a thing at Snake Mountain, the first being way back in Issue #3’s “Man-At-Arms: Traitor”. Less unusual is the goblet of an unspecified steaming drink, as we have seen in quite a few issues by now.

Witnessing a comet fall from the heavens and crash to Eternia, Skeletor investigates with Two Bad. We know by now that whenever a meteor falls to Eternia, it is pretty much guaranteed to possess some kind of remarkable magical power, as in Issue #6’s “Mind Stone” and of course the meteor that contained the very power that became the power of Grayskull itself in the Twins of Power Special.

The fallen object, more than a meteor, turns out to be a freshly carved jewel, from we can only guess what extraterrestrial source. Two Bad’s role as Skeletor’s scientific inventor, previously showcased in Issue #7’s “Crawl Bomb”, is here built on, Two Bad experimenting on the jewel and using it to power a machine that creates an invisible but impenetrable force field around any object of the user’s choice. When Two Bad informs Skeletor that the machine can create a barrier of any shape or size, Skeletor plots to use this to his advantage.

We next get a short scene involving Orko, in which he is searching the books in the Grayskull Library for a book to improve his abilities, and upon seeing the book he needs on a high shelf, tries to magic it down, but unwittingly causes a whole load of books to fall on his head and laments that he can never seem to get anything right. The purpose of this scene is not immediately apparent, but becomes clear later.

Outside the castle, Skeletor has teleported himself and Two Bad along with the latter’s machine, and shouts a challenge to the Masters, challenging them to a battle. He-Man emerges from the castle, seemingly accompanied by a whole team of Masters, although it is not clear just how many of them there are, as we see only Man-At-Arms and Sy-Klone by He-Man’s side. Knowing it is not like Skeletor to be this confident of victory when so vastly outnumbered, He-Man suspects a trap, and turns out to be right when Two Bad activates the invisible barrier that traps He-Man and the other Masters.

The narrative panel stating “One by one, He-Man’s noble comrades attempt to breach the impenetrable dome” suggests there must be at least several Masters imprisoned within it, but we still see only Man-At-Arms and Sy-Klone, the latter having a brief moment in the spotlight when he attempts to use his spinning powers to create enough force to crack a hole in the barrier, and is overcome with guilt and disappointment when he fails to make any such impact.

Skeletor announces he is leaving to summon his warriors, and when he returns he expects the Masters all to pledge allegiance to him, because “Your foolish honour makes your word your bond”. This is where the lack of real logic becomes more apparent in this story, since it is very hard to believe that He-Man and the other Heroic Warriors would willingly serve Skeletor based purely on having said so, especially when their powers easily surpass his own.

Man-At-Arms remarks that the barrier cuts deep into the soil, so tunnelling free will not be possible, and He-Man states “This is a time when brain is more important than brawn” echoing the regular theme of the comic’s stories and the ‘Brains, Not Brawn’ puzzle that featured at the end of many of the early issues (and makes a surprise return in this very issue).

The story then takes an interesting albeit quite confusing turn when He-Man is suddenly seen back inside Castle Grayskull, talking to an unseen individual who he hopes can save them, telling them “The fate of Eternia rests with you”. (Notice that the chamber in Grayskull also contains a bowl of fruit - clearly a piece of scene decor that José Tafalla was fond of using!) The sudden scene shift to Grayskull is likely to surprise the reader, as we have seen no indication up until now that the barrier is so big that it has encompassed not only He-Man and his comrades, but the whole of Castle Grayskull itself. But the problem here is that this is illogical – not because it is hard to believe the barrier can be so large, as Two Bad did after all say that the machine could create barriers of any size – but more so because with all the power inside Castle Grayskull, surely there would be enough power within to dissolve the barrier? If not, this would mean Skeletor’s machine is potentially more powerful than Grayskull itself, and this is very hard to believe. It would have made a lot more sense for Skeletor to use the barrier to render the Masters unable to enter Castle Grayskull, thus leaving it open wide for his own taking.

A narration panel implores the reader to guess who it is that He-Man is talking to and who could succeed where the others have failed; of course the brief scene with Orko earlier on will give most readers a firm clue.

The scene shifts to back outside the barrier, and we get a nice amusing bit of dialogue between Two Bad’s heads as they both berate one another for their cock-up with the Crawl Bomb way back in Issue #7. This classic moment of humiliation for Two Bad would be referenced yet again in Issue #35’s “Battle of the Cats” again with Two Bad’s heads reminding one another of their mistake.

An intriguing twist of events follows when Skeletor suddenly appears inside the dome, with some great dialogue as he exclaims “By the mists of the shadowland! Surely nothing can have gone wrong?” Skeletor then claims the machine has interfered with his teleportation powers, and demands Two Bad dissolve the barrier. He does so, thus freeing the heroes, and is shocked when Skeletor just stands there doing nothing while He-Man springs towards him and takes him prisoner. Two Bad’s second head, Yellow Band, has a hilarious piece of dialogue when, after Blue Head pleads for Skeletor to save him, Yellow Band yells “Ignore him master! Save me instead.” He-Man’s comeback, “Silence, or I will be forced to bang your heads together” sounds much more like the sort of dialogue we would expect from Skeletor.

In the next panel we see that clearly some kind of trick has been pulled off by the heroes, when the real Skeletor and his henchmen arrive, and Skeletor is angry to see the machine unattended, vowing to punish Two Bad later. Believing the force field still stands, Skeletor demands the Masters pledge allegiance to him, and He-Man feigns surrender, before springing forth and launching a surprise attack on Skeletor. A battle ensues, and we finally see that Moss Man is present among the heroes as well, meaning at least one more Heroic Warrior has been present the whole time. Skeletor retreats with his henchmen, and He-Man then releases Two Bad, who has presumably been imprisoned inside Grayskull, leaving him to walk back to Snake Mountain confused as to how Skeletor could have been inside and outside the dome at once. Again a logical flaw strikes, in that it really makes no sense that He-Man would just let Two Bad go, rather than keep him imprisoned and bring him to justice, rendering the evil forces one man (or two?) down.

The final twist (which most readers will have seen coming) is revealed in the closing two panels, the first of which illustrates He-Man rather strangely, his face looking worryingly deranged and psychotic. It is revealed that the Skeletor that appeared inside the dome was in fact Orko, and Man-At-Arms makes a remark that brings to mind his Filmation counterpart, who was constantly annoyed at Orko: “I don’t believe it! He finally did something right!”

In some ways this is an entertaining outcome and an enjoyable twist, although as mentioned before, most readers will have seen it coming, the brief ‘woe is me’ scene with Orko earlier in the story having signalled the likelihood of the story ending with him saving the day. It can be good when Orko gets his rare moments in the spotlight and manages to use his abilities to save the day, proving there is more to him than meets the eye. Overall “And One Shall Save Them” is an enjoyable story with some fun and amusing twists, but the problem is it just has so many logical flaws. As mentioned before, it just makes no sense for Grayskull itself to be encased within the barrier, as surely there would be enough power in the castle to dissolve it. And is Skeletor really stupid enough to think the entire crew of Heroic Warriors would willingly serve his evil ways based purely on having pledged their allegiance so he would dissolve the force field? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to have left the heroes imprisoned while he took advantage of Grayskull’s lack of protection to enter the castle? Then there’s the problem of why He-Man would just let Two Bad go, rather than imprison him and bring him to justice.

While we have seen in previous issues that Orko is potentially extremely powerful, and his flaw is that he lacks sufficient control over his magic, this story could beg the question that if he is really powerful enough to shapeshift into the form of Skeletor, why do the Heroic Warriors not employ this ability more regularly to help them out? But then it is made clear that Orko has had to work extremely hard to save the day on this occasion and does not always have enough control over his magic to pull off such a feat, so there is no real problem with the final twist here. Another question the reader may well have is where was The Sorceress during all this, as surely she could have used her magic to save the day, but we have seen in other issues that the Masters frequently guard the castle while The Sorceress is on missions in other dimensions, so we can justifiably assume this was the case here.

Either way, while this is not a bad story and is entertaining and fun in its own right, it just feels as though the story’s numerous twists and its eventual outcome would have been more satisfying had it not been so beset by logical flaws and a lack of clarity. We get the sense that the story may have been rushed, or possibly that the writer was constrained by time and had to meet a tight deadline with this story, so didn’t have the time to think it through fully. There’s also a hint of repetition of themes within this particular issue, as all three stories have focused on He-Man being caught in some kind of trap and using strategical thinking to find a way to escape it – while these are always entertaining moments that allow for a lot of creativity on the writers’ part, it may feel a bit too repetitious three times within a single issue.

Ultimately, “And One Shall Save Them” is an interesting curiosity in the London Editions MOTU mythos, an unusual story with unusual twists that perhaps could have potentially ranked among the better stories, but is prevented from doing so by a number of confusing points and flaws in logic that result in it being a mere curiosity, one of the stranger but less satisfying stories of the UK MOTU Comics.

****

This issue ends with a surprising and welcome return for the “Brains, Not Brawn” puzzle feature.

© Aidan Cross, 2020.

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