© Aidan Cross, 2019.

UK London Editions Comics

Issue #6

Release Date: June 1986

Stories:

Mind Stone

Machine Wars

Pact of Evil

Cover by: Unknown Artist, supplied by Selecciones Illustradas (SI)

This issue’s cover features a scene from the first story in this issue, “Mind Stone” depicting the unlikely scenario of He-Man being attacked by Battle Cat.

Scrollos mentions on this issue’s intro page that he has done something special with two of the stories. This alludes to the fact this is the first issue of the comics to feature a 2-part story, with the first story running into the second.

Story 1: “Mind Stone”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Summary: A large meteor is drawn towards Eternia by the planet’s gravitational pull, crashing on the planet and exploding as it hits the ground. It is witnessed by a tribe of Evoks, who go to the site of the crash to investigate. They find the sole remaining fragment of the meteor in a huge crater, and choose to keep it in their village and honour it as a sacred object. They take it to their stone carver, who carves a statue from the fragment, and the Evoks honour the statue in a ceremony. However, their ceremony is being spied on by Skeletor, who sends Whiplash and Spikor to invade the village and steal the statue. As Skeletor’s henchmen appear in the Evoks’ village, one of the Evoks attempts to protect the statue from them, and as he does so, he finds the statue enables its holder to project their mind into any other person or object of their choice. The Evok projects his mind into the body of Whiplash, and attacks Spikor with Whiplash’s tail. Skeletor, spying from a distance, is furious at seeing his henchmen appear to fight one another and intervenes himself, teleporting to the village and using a Nega-Bolt to restore Whiplash’s mind before swiping the statue from the Evok. At that moment, He-Man and Battle Cat arrive on the scene, their attention having been drawn by the falling meteor. Skeletor uses the statue to project his mind into the body of Battle Cat, and uses Battle Cat to attack He-Man, knowing full well that He-Man will not risk hurting Battle Cat. He-Man turns the tables by hurling Battle Cat towards Skeletor, causing him to drop the statue and lose his mental hold over Battle Cat. Skeletor orders Whiplash and Spikor to attack He-Man and Battle Cat, and as his henchmen keep the heroes busy, Skeletor casts a spell commanding the statue to return to Snake Mountain, and uses his magic to forge a fake wooden copy of it in its place. He pretends to surrender the statue, dropping it into the fireplace, evoking He-Man to spring forward and retrieve it. Skeletor then teleports himself and his henchmen away as He-Man recovers the statue. But the lead Evok tells He-Man that the statue is not the same one they carved, and that Skeletor tricked He-Man with a fake copy while he sent the original one to Snake Mountain. Back at Snake Mountain, Skeletor plots to use the mind-projecting statue to bring about the downfall of He-Man.

Review: This is the first time the London Editions comic has attempted a two-part story of sorts, with the outcome of this story setting the scene for the second story in this issue. This opening chapter is extremely dramatic and gripping, with a powerful opening and great guest characters in the Evoks.

The opening panels, illustrating the falling meteor as it is drawn to Eternia and witnessed by the Evoks as it crashes, are brilliantly atmospheric and set the scene strongly for the events that unfold over the next two stories. The Evoks, a tribe of insect-like creatures, are very strong guest characters whose presence here carries the story along nicely. Their insectoid appearance renders them distinct from other races we have seen in the comics so far, and they are shown to be strong-willed and fearless – when Skeletor and his henchmen invade their village they show no fear, instead jumping straight to the defence of their tribe and the sacred artefact Skeletor is after.

The setup, with the Evoks heralding the fallen meteor fragment as a sacred object given its celestial origins, is a great setup for the story, and indeed we would discover in later comics that Castle Grayskull itself had very similar origins. Skeletor has been alerted by Whiplash to the activity within the Evoks’ village. Whiplash and Spikor are given their first significant story roles within the comics, having been mere background characters up to this point – and they would remain mostly that; these two were among Skeletor’s least used henchmen in the UK Comics. The mind-projecting powers of the statue carved by the Evoks are discovered by pure accident when the lead Evok seizes the statue to protect it from the invading villains, and upon wishing he had Whiplash’s body so as to protect his tribe, finds he has projected his mind into the body of Whiplash himself.

As He-Man and Skeletor both intervene in the chaos, we see the issue’s cover scenario, as Skeletor uses the Mind Stone to take over the body of Battle Cat, and He-Man finds himself attacked by his very own faithful companion. Skeletor knows He-Man will not hurt Battle Cat, so He-Man defeats this attack by using the possessed Battle Cat to battle against Skeletor himself, hurling Battle Cat at Skeletor and causing him to drop the statue and break the mental link.

The battle is over quickly following this, but Skeletor essentially wins by managing to send the statue back to Snake Mountain before forging a fake copy that he uses to trick He-Man into thinking he has saved the Evoks’ sacred artefact. The scene is set for the next story as Skeletor has obtained this powerful object that could potentially enable him to defeat He-Man, leaving the readers in suspense. This first part of the story is a solid opening to the issue, with very entertaining battle sequences and a suspenseful outcome that leaves the reader wanting more.

****

This issue’s Master Mail features more hints of the upcoming She-Ra comic, showing the heavy interest in She-Ra among the readers.

****

Story 2: “Machine Wars”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Summary: Eternia is celebrating King Randor’s official birthday, and to mark the occasion He-Man and Man-At-Arms are giving a demonstration of the Heroic Warriors’ vehicles to entertain the people, as well as showcasing the power and security of their resources. As a firework display entertains the people, Skeletor watches from the distant forest, preparing to use the mind-projecting statue to infiltrate the Royal celebrations by projecting his mind into the Heroic vehicles. He begins by projecting his mind into the Attak Trak, and the machine starts to careen towards Man-At-Arms of its own accord. He-Man spots this just in time and fires a blast from his sword to flip the vehicle over, saving his friend. He then picks up the Attak Trak and hurls it away, but as he does so Skeletor transfers his mind to a nearby Wind Raider and He-Man and Man-At-Arms watch as the Wind Raider takes off by itself. The Wind Raider gains height and then begins to ascend in a power-dive towards King Randor and Queen Marlena. He-Man uses his mighty legs to propel himself upwards and deliver a powerful Thunder Punch to the Wind Raider, saving the King and Queen and bringing the vehicle crashing groundward. It falls towards Skeletor’s hiding place in the woods, and Skeletor has no choice but to transfer his mind back to his own body and dive out of the way as the Wind Raider lands. Unfortunately as he does so, he drops the enchanted statue and it is crushed by the falling Wind Raider. He steps into the cockpit of the Spydor and commands his henchmen to follow him into battle so they can take advantage of the Heroic Warriors’ confusion to attack them in their own vehicles. Moss Man joins He-Man and Man-At-Arms just as they witness Skeletor and his henchmen emerging from the woods in their vehicles, and they jump into the Heroic vehicles to counter the attack. Skeletor catches Man-At-Arms in the pincers of the Spydor vehicle, but He-Man saves him, before saving Moss Man from the blades of a Roton driven by Jitsu. Skeletor realizes that attacking the Heroic Warriors’ machines has not weakened them in any way for their strength comes from their bravery, and commands his men to retreat with him in the Land Shark. The Heroic Warriors are left behind in a devastated battlefield surrounded by crushed vehicles, and realize their victory has cost them dearly as much of their equipment has been destroyed. Man-At-Arms says that the battle has highlighted a few design faults in the Heroic vehicles that he will work to correct, and King Randor remarks that the battle has served as a reminder that while they can rejoice in the security of the weapons the Heroic Warriors possess, they must never forget their potential for destruction.

Review: This is the second chapter of the UK Comics’ first 2-part story, though rather than being a direct continuation of the first story, this is presented more as a separate story in its own right whose events have been set in motion by the earlier story. By this sixth issue, the comic has settled nicely into its standard format of three short stories per issue, and as it becomes comfortable in its own skin, is safe to pursue more adventurous moves and explore more continuity between the stories.

“Machine Wars” in its own right serves mainly as a showcase for the various vehicles used by the Heroic and Evil Warriors of Eternia. It can be difficult to incorporate vehicles and their action features successfully into the stories without coming across as blatant product placement, yet this was something London Editions were obliged by Mattel to do, so this story, by giving the characters a contextual reason to demonstrate the abilities of their vehicles, serves as a good excuse to showcase these vehicles and their features whilst retaining a solid story context, as opposed to a pure marketing-oriented one.

The vehicle demonstration is being held as part of the celebrations for King Randor’s official birthday. (Apparently the Royals on Eternia are like our own Queen in the UK in that they have an ‘official’ birthday separate from their actual birthdate!) The ceremony seems to be being held in a remote countryside location presumably not far from Eternos City. The ceremony functions to demonstrate the security of the Heroic Warriors’ defences, and this story has a rather poignant outcome in that its events actually wind up demonstrating the flaws of such defences as opposed to being a form of reassurance for the citizens that they are safely protected. Again, Skeletor and his evil forces feel like a very real threat here.

The narrative begins with a demonstration of the Battle Ram’s abilities, its projectile striking an explosive target box – dropped by Man-At-Arms from a Wind Raider – with exact precision, the box exploding into a firework display, the fireworks so bright that they can be seen even in broad daylight. But unbeknownst to the heroes, Skeletor and his henchmen are watching from a covert location in the nearby forest, Skeletor ready to use the mind-projecting statue he acquired from the Evoks in the preceding story. Whereas the previous story showcased the statue’s ability to allow the holder to project their mind into the bodies of other living beings, here it is shown to enable them to possess vehicles as well. The scenario of machines going haywire and acting up of their own accord, attacking their owners and causing all manner of chaos, is a classic staple of comic books and sci-fi, and it is put to very good use here as Skeletor uses his mind to inhabit the bodies of the Heroic Vehicles and setting them against the heroes themselves.

He-Man is forced to stop an attack on Man-At-Arms by the possessed Attak Trak, and then an attempted assault on the King and Queen themselves by the Wind Raider. He-Man brings the Wind Raider down with a powerful Thunder Punch, an allusion to the Thunder Punch He-Man action figure variant, new to toy shelves at this time. Incorporating action figure variants into the stories without it coming across as pure product placement is even more difficult than incorporating the vehicles, so Brian Clarke works around this problem nicely here by having He-Man explicitly allude to the Thunder Punch while avoiding actually changing into the costume worn by the Thunder Punch He-Man action figure, thus satisfying Mattel’s demands while remaining story-driven.

The Wind Raider crashes towards Skeletor himself, thus leaving him with no choice other than to transfer his mind back to his own body so he can dive away from the falling vehicle. As the Wind Raider crushes the mind-projecting statue upon landing, Skeletor exclaims “By the Fires of Sumason”, a highly memorable catchphrase exclusive to the London Editions comics, that would recur in subsequent stories – the word ‘Sumason’ coming from a personal friend of writer Brian Clarke called Sue Mason, prominent in sci-fi fandom, whose name he felt worked in this context! (See this site’s Interview With Brian Clarke for more details.) As with the character of Jodder in Issue #5, who was based on Brian Clarke’s friend John Cummins, Brian was highly adept at finding places for his own friendship circle in MOTU lore.

It is the sudden destruction of the statue, which has been the prime focus of the whole issue up until this point, that causes the story to suffer what may be its biggest flaw. The ‘Mind Stone’ of the first story was the singular focus of the first story of this issue, the scene being set for the second story when Skeletor managed to successfully obtain it at the end. However, although it has been put to very good use in this second story by being used to possess the Heroic vehicles, it is suddenly destroyed at the halfway mark of this story on only the 3rd page, and is promptly forgotten about, the focus instead switching to the Heroic and Evil vehicles and indicating that the real focus of this second story is on the ‘Machine Wars’ of the title, the ‘Mind Stone’ of the first being a mere accessory to begin said wars. It is understandable why Brian Clarke made the decision to focus on the machines, as it did after all make perfect sense to have a story showcasing the vehicles of the franchise, but it does seem a shame that more could not have been made of the Mind Stone before it was destroyed. At no point in this story does He-Man even mention it himself nor recollect the events of the battle at the Evoks’ village, so it is not entirely clear whether he has twigged that Skeletor has been using the statue obtained in that particular battle. And even if he has, he has no way of knowing that the falling Wind Raider crushed the statue, so how is he to know Skeletor does not still possess it? It would have seemed a more natural story development for Skeletor to have proceeded to use the statue to possess some of the Heroic Warriors themselves and thus create further confusion – imagine if Man-At-Arms or Moss Man had suddenly sprung an attack on He-Man, or even vice versa? And such a development would have provided the perfect opportunity for He-Man to use his abilities of logic and deduction to work out that Skeletor must be using the statue stolen from the Evoks earlier, and take measures to recover it. Despite this story flaw, the following sequences involving the clash between vehicles remain entertaining, and as stated before, it made sense to have a story focusing on showcasing the vehicles, but the story does at this point seem to shift suddenly from its natural focus towards something completely different.

We get some good scenes of the Heroic and Evil vehicles in combat against one another, showcasing the action features of newer vehicle releases such as the Spydor, Bashasaurus and the Roton. It’s also worth noting that Skeletor’s henchmen here – Jitsu and Stinkor – like Whiplash and Spikor in the previous story, have been brought into focus here for the first time; like the aforementioned villains they had only been background characters up to this point. They are not given a great deal to do here, but Stinkor in particular would receive significant development further down the line.

Although the heroes manage to effortlessly defeat the Evil Warriors, the outcome of the story is a poignant one, for while the heroes may have won, the villains have successfully managed to spoil King Randor’s birthday celebrations, and the battle has cost the Heroic Warriors dearly by resulting in the destruction of many of their vehicles and security resources. King Randor’s closing statement is a sombre one as he remarks that while the Heroic Warriors may rejoice in the security of their weapons, they must never forget their potential for destruction. If anything, this outcome has highlighted a naïveté in the Heroic Warriors’ purpose behind the vehicle demonstration – while it was intended as a celebration and reassurance to the Eternians of the protection they have against the forces of evil, it has only wound up highlighting the fact that this security is far from guaranteed, for Skeletor is actually capable of using his own resources to destroy those of the heroes at any time. While He-Man may continuously thwart his schemes, Skeletor nevertheless poises a very real threat and may someday stand a chance of winning. As Skeletor himself realizes following this battle, the main factor that benefits the Heroic Warriors is not their material resources, but their inner bravery.

Ultimately, “Machine Wars” is a flawed story in that its initial focus of the Mind Stone is disposed of and forgotten about all too quickly, leaving the narrative muddled as to what its real focus is, but this flaw is made up for by the solid execution of the closing scenes and the powerful moral message and poignant realizations of the heroes that they must never become overly confident about their own strength and resources, for Skeletor is looking to exploit their weaknesses at all possible costs.

****

This issue’s competition page. Sy-Klone here is drawn with a Caucasian skin tone to his face instead of his usual blue, in line with his appearance in the Mattel minicomic that accompanied his action figure, based on an early design for the character.

****

Story 3: “Pact of Evil”
Writer: Brian Clarke

Summary: Skeletor makes an unexpected appearance at Hordak’s Fright Zone, offering a truce between the two evil warlords. He suggests that if he and Hordak combine their power, they can destroy He-Man together, and once their enemy is obliterated they can continue the war between themselves for control of Eternia. Hordak casts his mind back to the time Skeletor, his former pupil, betrayed him. The two of them had been stationed on a lifeless moon from which they observed a planet that Hordak intended to conquer and leave Skeletor to rule in his name. But Skeletor instead attacked his master and destroyed Hordak’s teleportation machine, before using his own magic to teleport away, intending to rule the planets in his own name rather than under Hordak’s lead. Hordak was left stranded on the moon, where he used the remaining parts of his Horde Troopers to rebuild his teleportation machine, intent on following Skeletor and wreaking vengeance on his former pupil. Hordak has not forgotten Skeletor’s treachery, but nevertheless agrees to the truce, and the two warlords set about their plot to capture He-Man. Some time later, as He-Man patrols through the Marshlands of Mytor, he is attacked by a Marsh-Monster, that turns out to be a mechanical droid. He uses his sword to destroy the droid, but finds the droid is booby trapped and explodes into a thousand fragments upon impact, sending He-Man hurtling through their air and knocking him unconscious. Grizzlor and Clawful retrieve the fallen hero and carry him back to the Fright Zone. He-Man eventually awakens to find both Skeletor and Hordak standing before him, having imprisoned He-Man in chains. They reveal their plan to destroy He-Man before attacking Eternos City with their Teleport Bomb, that will strand the Heroic Warriors on an alien world. As the two evil warlords debate over which of them will be the one to destroy He-Man, He-Man takes advantage of the situation by inviting Hordak to do it, for he dislikes Skeletor too much to accept perishing at his hands. Skeletor is angry at the idea of Hordak being the one to finish He-Man off, and challenges Hordak. The two warlords quickly begin to fight one another, and as they are distracted, He-Man breaks free from the chains and retrieves his sword, using it to destroy the Teleport Bomb before fleeing from the Fright Zone. He-Man retreats from Hordak’s base and leaves Hordak and Skeletor fighting among themselves, confident that the two evil warlords will never join forces again after this outcome.

Review: This is the second of Skeletor and Hordak’s rare team-ups in the London Editions comics, following “Hordak’s Revenge” in Issue #2. Hordak is by now finding his feet as the ‘new’ villain in the mythos and has been nicely established as a master of science in contrast to Skeletor’s mastery of magic, and so it makes sense at this point to bring the two evil leaders back into contact with one another to further explore the relationship between them and why they are unable to work together.

In the final panel of the flashback sequence, we see Hordak preparing to salvage components of his Horde Troopers to rebuild his Teleportation Machine and enable himself to follow Skeletor. We see the same Horde Troopers we saw in Issue #5’s “Hordak’s Assault”; the very basic-looking Troopers that look very different to their counterparts in the She-Ra cartoon series. It was to be several issues later in Issue #12 that we finally saw those Troopers make their UK Comics debut, revealed along the line to be more advanced Troopers developed from the earlier design seen here.

Although at the end of Issue #2’s “Hordak’s Revenge” Skeletor stated he would from now on pursue “no pacts of peace with Hordak”, here it is him who proposes the truce. In the aforementioned issue it was Hordak who offered the truce with the intention of tricking Skeletor and He-Man into fighting one another to the death, but here Skeletor offers it with (for him!) more honest intentions – based upon the realization that by combining their collective strengths, he and Hordak may have the resources they need to defeat their common enemy before settling the score between themselves.

The big highlight of this story is that it provides us with some further backstory as to the history between Skeletor and Hordak, with a flashback sequence detailing what exactly happened at the infamous moment when Skeletor betrayed his former master. In Issue #1 it was established that Skeletor had started off as Hordak’s pupil, then later betrayed him and stranded him on an alien world, evoking Hordak to seek him out and pursue revenge, but the details of Skeletor’s ‘small misdeed’ were not elaborated on. Here we see the betrayal itself in flashback, and this very same flashback sequence would later appear in the comics again – and be expanded on – much later in Issue #52 when Skeletor’s own backstory was told.

Hordak and Skeletor had been stationed on a lifeless moon from which they observed a planet Hordak intended to conquer and leave Skeletor, as his most able pupil, to rule in his name. But Skeletor used his magic powers to destroy Hordak’s Teleporter Machine that had brought them to this moon, then teleported himself away by his own magical means, leaving Hordak stranded. This sequence indicates how Skeletor had developed his magic abilities to the extent that they surpassed the strength of Hordak’s science – while Skeletor was capable of teleportation via magical means, Hordak did not possess such a power and could only accomplish teleportation via scientific inventions. Thus Hordak’s reliance on scientific methods rather than magic actually limits him in that he has to rely on lengthy material processes to accomplish things Skeletor can do effortlessly with magic. Indeed, Hordak’s dislike of magic, and his realization that he had to incorporate some magical methods into his own array of resources in order to accomplish his aims, was greatly expanded upon in later issues, and most prominently in the She-Ra comic series, which emphasized the importance of Shadow Weaver to Hordak’s forces. The flashback also serves to indicate Skeletor’s overall superiority to Hordak as a villain and the way he has surpassed his former master – and indeed, so far in the comic series Skeletor is undoubtedly the stronger of the two villains, himself having come close to winning on several occasions, whereas Hordak’s schemes have seemed amateur by comparison and have been foiled far more easily by the heroes.

We switch our attention to He-Man as he patrols through the Marshland of Mytor, a dangerous swampy area that He-Man must pole-vault through in order to patrol. Notice the reference to his alter ego of Prince Adam in He-Man’s dialogue here – He-Man’s secret identity has been completely absent from both this issue and Issue #5, so this reference here reminds the reader of the presence of Prince Adam within the London Editions mythos. He-Man’s dual identity has been put to only minimal use in the comics so far, but this is to change in the following Issue, for Issue #7 will present two particularly dramatic stories that put the double identity theme to intriguing effect.

He-Man stumbles into the clutches of the Marsh-Monster, a mechanical droid constructed by Hordak to resemble a swamp creature. When he finds the creature is a robot, he realizes it has clearly been sent there by one of his enemies aware of He-Man’s regular patrol route, and uses his Power Sword to destroy the Marsh-Monster, not realizing it has been booby trapped and explodes upon impact, knocking him unconscious. He is transported by Grizzlor and Clawful (in Clawful’s first speaking appearance in the comics) to the Fright Zone where Hordak and Skeletor both await him. The illustrations of the faces of the two villains looming in front of He-Man’s vision, at first blurred before becoming clear as He-Man realizes the drastic nature of the situation, have a great dramatic effect here.

Fortunately his escape method is rather easy from here, for while Skeletor and Hordak may physically have the resources they need to defeat He-Man and the Masters, their prime weakness is their egos and selfishness. He-Man is quickly able to exploit this to good effect by playing the two villains off against one another, stating he would rather Hordak destroy him than Skeletor, for he dislikes Skeletor too much to allow him to finish him off. (He-Man would later use a similar technique to defeat Skeletor upon his team-up with The Collector in Issue #21.) This quickly sends the two evil warlords into a battle of the egos, and within seconds they are squaring off against one another, to a nice deadpan comedic effect. And as the two of them begin to fight one another, their respective minions follow their bosses’ example and enter into battle against one another as well, unable to resist the lure of a fight with their hated rivals. And this distraction leaves He-Man free to escape his chains, destroy the Teleport Bomb the villains intended to use on Eternos City, and escape the Fright Zone. It’s a straightforward outcome, but an entertaining one and shows how the villains’ own greed and vanity is their very shortcoming, as it constantly leads to their defeat at the hands of good no matter how much they may seem to shift the odds in their favour.

He-Man calmly walks away from the Fright Zone as his adversaries, pardon my French, beat the crap out of one another. He-Man has shown up the villains for their own weaknesses of character that prevent them from being able to effectively collaborate with one another, and this leaves us with a nice comedic outcome as this issue ends on a high. As with Issue #4’s “The Carpet of Chaos” and Issue #5’s “Glove of Globolah”, Issue #6 has left off on a more light-hearted note, the more challenging and drastic stories being kept to the mid-point of each issue. This format of a basic action story to open each issue, followed by a more drastic one in which the villains almost win, then a light-hearted one that ends the issue on an upbeat comical note, is working well, and as the London Editions comic series finds its feet it also finds itself safer to play with the story arc and venture into more adventurous territory as the stories become increasingly experimental and surreal in the coming issues.

****

This issue's "Brains, Not Brawn" feature.

© Aidan Cross, 2018.

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