UK London Editions Comics
Release Date: February 1987
Path Finder, part I
Path Finder, part II
The Bounty Hunter
Cover by: Joan Boix
This issue’s cover depicts a scene from its main story – “Path Finder”.
This issue's intro page.
Story 1: “Path Finder, part I”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: Joan Boix
Synopsis: Etheria has been plagued for many days by an unexpected drought. Madame Razz’s magic has sensed that the drought has not been produced by natural causes, so She-Ra and Bow have ventured to a village on the outskirts of the Fright Zone to see if they can trace its source. They ask the villagers if they have seen anything strange in the last few days, but everywhere they go the villagers are inexplicably terrified and too afraid to speak to them. Suddenly they spot a Horde Trooper in the village, who sees them and fires at them. She-Ra deflects the Trooper’s blasts, but just then a small girl runs out of one of the cottages, straight into the Trooper’s firing line. She-Ra flings her sword, transformed to a shield, at the Trooper and manages to knock him out, and the girl’s mother thanks She-Ra for saving her daughter’s life and invites her and Bow inside the cottage. The mother explains that the area around the village has been full of Horde Troopers ever since a strange light was spotted in the sky above, and this coincided with the sudden start of the drought. She tells them most of the Troopers are stationed around the Grim Beach, close to the village. She-Ra and Bow head to the Grim Beach, where they see Hordak commanding a line of Troopers to remove Power Cubes from a large spacecraft that has landed on the beach. Hordak explains to Grizzlor that the Horde have been investigating the strange craft since it crash-landed, and discovering that the Power Cubes were the source of its power, Hordak intends to use them to create indestructible weapons that will destroy the Rebellion once and for all. Hordak has been using the moisture in the air to convert the Power Cubes into weapons, and this process causes a great deal of heat, which is what has caused the drought. One of the Troopers spies She-Ra and Bow watching, and attacks them. Bow keeps the Trooper occupied while She-Ra heads down to the beach, but she is taken by surprise by the Troopers, who overpower her and bring her and Bow to Hordak. The Troopers are hurrying to remove the Power Cubes as they are likely to explode in the heat, so Bow takes advantage of this and fires a Blast-Arrow at the ship, causing the entire craft to explode. She-Ra and Bow escape while Hordak is distracted, but Hordak tells his Troopers there is no need to follow them, for he has already processed enough of the Power Cubes to create a super-weapon, and once it is complete he will use this to attack the Rebels in the Whispering Wood.
Review: This epic 2-part story wastes no time in getting off to a dramatic start, as She-Ra and Bow investigate an Etherian village during an intense drought, tipped off by Madame Razz that the drought is not the result of natural causes. After saving a young girl’s life from an attack by a Horde Trooper, She-Ra gets the story from the girl’s mother, who explains the drought began immediately after a strange light was seen in the sky, and the area around the village has since been full of Horde Troopers, many of which are stationed around the Grim Beach.
Arriving at the Grim Beach, She-Ra and Bow find a huge spacecraft from which the Troopers are removing power cubes, the operation supervised by Hordak himself, watching the Troopers from his throne atop a rocky precipice. The presence of Hordak indicates this must be an important operation – and fortunately Grizzlor is around to enable some expositional dialogue from Hordak, as he explains the purpose of the operation to his dim-witted minion.
The UK Comics’ familiar trope of using real world science to enhance the plot comes into play here, as we learn from Hordak that he is using the moisture in the air to mould the Power Cubes from the crashed spacecraft into anything he desires, and the process creates a great deal of heat, hence the drought.
Caught spying by Troopers, She-Ra and Bow are apprehended and after a brief fight, are brought before Hordak. An amusing piece of expositional dialogue from a Trooper tells the heroes exactly what they need to do to put an end to the operation, revealing that the Power Cubes are made of an unstable material and are likely to explode in the heat if they are not moved quickly from the location. This gives Bow the knowledge he needs to realize one of his Blast-Arrows will explode the ship by generating heat, and he and She-Ra struggle free from the Troopers’ grips, Bow using the Blast-Arrow to explode the ship in a single shot.
But as it turns out, Hordak has already collected enough Power Cubes from the ship to form the super-weapon he intends to use to defeat the Rebels, thus bringing part 1 to its cliffhanger…
This issue's letters page.
Story 2: “Path Finder, part II”
Writer: Brian Clarke
Art: Joan Boix
Synopsis: A short while after their escape from the Horde, She-Ra and Bow are explaining the situation to the other Rebels in the Whispering Wood. Between them they try to work out a way to end the drought. Mermista suggests she could use her power over water to increase the vapour in the air, which Frosta could then freeze to cause a downpour, but there is currently not enough vapour in the air for this to work. She-Ra realizes that if there were clouds in the air, this plan would be possible, and in the current heat there would be clouds over the Great Lakes. She decides to use Enchanta the giant swan’s flying ability to move the clouds over the Great Lakes to the Whispering Wood. Enchanta carries out the plan and uses her wings to beat at the clouds, causing them to float over the Whispering Wood, so Frosta and Mermista can put their plan into action. Meanwhile in the Fright Zone, Hordak has completed work on his super-weapon, and unveils to the Horde his latest creation – the Pathfinder. It is a large monster-vehicle that Hordak intends to pilot himself to attack the Great Rebellion. As he nears the Whispering Wood in the Pathfinder, Flutterina spies him and flies to warn the others. The Pathfinder approaches the Whispering Wood, and Bow fires a Blast-Arrow at the machine in the hope of exploding it, but Hordak uses the machine’s robotic claws to divert the arrow. As the machine moves closer, the Rebels’ powers prove ineffective against it, so She-Ra decides to play with Hordak’s ego in the hope of tricking him into causing his own defeat. She stands directly in the machine’s path and taunts Hordak, telling him she will not step aside, so Hordak grips She-Ra in one of the machine’s claws in an attempt to crush her to death. Frosta then uses her powers to freeze the glass dome of the machine so Hordak cannot see outside of it, and just at that point, the increased moisture in the air finally turns to rain, ending the drought as a storm erupts. Inside the Pathfinder, Hordak uses a telescreen to see what is happening outside, and chooses to drop She-Ra so he can concentrate on creating a path to the Rebel base. But before he realizes it, the heavy rainfall causes the ground below to become swampy, and the machine starts to sink under its own weight into the mire. Angry at his defeat, Hordak converts to rocket form and flees from the machine as it sinks. Bow congratulates She-Ra for saving the day with her bravery, but She-Ra refuses to take sole credit, telling him and the other Rebels that this has been a team effort as their collective skills and courage have foiled Hordak’s scheme, and it is this team spirit among the Rebels that ensures one day Etheria will be free from the evil grip of Hordak.
Review: Part 2 of this story opens with a striking panel depicting the drought in the Whispering Wood, followed by a great team shot of She-Ra, Bow, Mermista, Frosta and Castaspella together, setting into motion a story that does an excellent job of portraying their team spirit, and the collective power of the Rebels.
As the Rebels muse over how to end the drought, this proves an excellent opportunity for writer Brian Clarke to showcase the superpowers of each of the Rebels while at the same time putting into practice the comics’ well-established trope of using real-world science as a key component in the action. Mermista realizes she could use her powers over water to increase the vapour in the air, following which Frosta would be able to freeze the vapour to cause a downpour, but for this to be possible, the Rebels need clouds in the sky – and She-Ra is able to board the giant swan, Enchanta, who beats her wings to move the clouds over the Great Lakes in the direction of Whispering Wood. Notably, this is the first proper appearance by Enchanta in any of the stories – previously she has only been mentioned in Issue #2’s “A Journey Across Etheria” which introduced most of the cast. This is therefore her first proper story appearance, and it is certainly a memorable one as she plays a major role in saving the day using the power of her mighty wings to affect the weather.
We get a great panel of Frosta and Mermista hugging in triumphant relief as they see their collective efforts have worked, She-Ra and Enchanta approaching the Whispering Wood in the air above, the clouds hovering above the woodland. The illustrations and dialogue do an amazing job of conveying the excitement and emotion of the story at this point.
Meanwhile in the Fright Zone, Hordak has finished building his new machine, powered by the cubes from the alien ship, and unveils it to Grizzlor. The panel on which the Pathfinder machine is unveiled is hilarious, as Grizzlor backs away terrified, urging his master to “Keep it away!” Ever the hapless underling of Hordak, poor Grizzlor is made to act as a ladder on which Hordak climbs to enter the cockpit of the Pathfinder, treading on Grizzlor’s head as he clambers in.
We’ve seen some great team action from Mermista and Frosta, now Flutterina gets to play a part in the action, as she uses her spying abilities to observe the Horde unnoticed. She becomes the first Rebel to see the Pathfinder machine, piloted by Hordak himself.
Bow attempts to use an explosive arrow to detonate the machine, but Hordak uses the claws of the machine to seize and divert the arrow. Bow is struck by shame, feeling he has failed when the Rebellion needed him most, but She-Ra is quick to reassure him his bravery has won them many battles. The firm camaraderie between She-Ra and Bow shows through very well here, the two of them forming a trusting and effective team without ever quite veering into romantic territory.
Castaspella’s powers of suggestion, previously seen put to excellent use in Issue #6’s “Hordak’s Victory”, are unfortunately unable to penetrate the dome of the Pathfinder, which seems indestructible, clearing its way past all obstacles, the Rebels’ might having no effect. Bow is confused as to why Hordak does not simply use it to destroy them, but She-Ra, knowing Hordak’s inner workings, realizes Hordak is toying with them in order to prolong and enjoy his victory, yet this is something the Rebels can take advantage of to bring about Hordak’s downfall.
She-Ra steps in front of the Pathfinder to taunt Hordak, evoking him to use one of the Pathfinder’s claws to seize her and lift her above ground, intending to slowly crush the life out of her. But unbeknownst to Hordak, the Rebels’ counter-plan is slowly paying off… the moisture in the air has increased to the point that rain finally begins to fall, and after dropping She-Ra feeling she will make a strong slave once he has destroyed the Rebels, Hordak finds the Pathfinder is sinking into the ground below, which has been turned into a mire by the heavy rainfall – in She-Ra’s words “Hordak’s defeated by nature herself!”
The story ends with She-Ra congratulating the Rebels on their team effort, delivering a moral about the strength of teamwork and how this will eventually enable the Rebellion to free Etheria from Hordak. This has indeed been a particularly strong story for showcasing the Rebels as a team, utilizing their various powers together with those of science and nature to defeat Hordak’s scheme. The writing style, with a strong feeling for each character, and the atmospheric artwork by Joan Boix, combine brilliantly to deliver an exciting and powerful effect on the reader.
This is the perfect example of a solid action-adventure story for the UK She-Ra comics, and ranks among the comics’ best stories.
Story 3: “The Bounty Hunter”
Art: Francisco Javier González Vilanova
Synopsis: Late one evening in the Fright Zone, Hordak realizes from his latest reports that he is making no ground in his fight to crush the Rebellion. He knows that the one reason for this is She-Ra, who constantly foils his schemes single-handedly, and without her he would crush the Rebels with ease. He decides to offer a reward across Etheria for She-Ra’s capture, in the hope that someone somewhere has the ability to defeat her. The Horde Troopers distribute a series of posters throughout Etheria offering a great reward for She-Ra’s capture. The posters are seen by a trio of bounty hunters in a small village who think that they may be up to the job. Pon-Dar, the brainy leader of the trio, comes up with a plot to lure She-Ra to their village. A few days later, a letter is found on the outskirts of Whispering Wood, claiming to be from the inhabitants of the village inviting She-Ra to give a talk in their village on the evils of Hordak. Feeling this can only be a good cause, She-Ra heads to the village atop Swift Wind. Meanwhile, Pon-Dar is demonstrating his new weapon to the other two bounty hunters, Stom-Par and Slam-Ar. It is a simple-looking ray gun that reacts with the unstable molecules in any living creature and freezes them. As She-Ra arrives in the village, the villagers, who have not been expecting her visit, rush to greet her. Although they give her a very warm welcome, none of them know who wrote the letter inviting She-Ra to the village, which confuses her. Pon-Dar then steps forward revealing that he wrote the letter, and instructs his two sidekicks to attack She-Ra. They are no match for her great strength, but while She-Ra is distracted fighting them, Pon-Dar seizes the chance to freeze her with the ray gun. The three bounty hunters leave the village with the captured She-Ra, frozen in a static pose. They go to the Fright Zone and present She-Ra to Hordak, and Pon-Dar demands his reward. Hordak is happy to fulfil this promise, but just then Grizzlor enters the room and remarks on the poor likeness of the She-Ra statue to the real thing. Convinced that this is not She-Ra at all but a mere statue, Hordak grows angry and takes back the reward, demanding the bounty hunters leave, but Pon-Dar insists it is the real She-Ra and offers to prove it. He explains that if he sets his weapon to reverse mode, She-Ra will be unfrozen. He instructs his sidekicks to hold She-Ra so she does not escape when he unfreezes her, but when he does so, She-Ra quickly escapes from their clutches and knocks them out. Pon-Dar is unfazed and aims the gun at She-Ra to freeze her again, but she converts her sword to a shield and deflects the blast, which freezes Pon-Dar instead. She then crushes the weapon in her hand, unfreezing him, and challenges the whole evil crew to a fair fight. Unwilling to chance it, Hordak backs down and allows She-Ra to leave while he punishes the others, and She-Ra makes her way back to the village.
Review: The spotlight is passed in this story to a trio of guest villains – a comedic trio of amusingly named bounty hunters, who allow for a fun lighthearted story showcasing some of the more amateur crooks of Etheria as they attempt to aid Hordak in defeating She-Ra. While there’s not much here in the sense of urgent conflict, as we hardly expect this trio of bumbling amateurs to stand any chance of outwitting She-Ra, there’s plenty of deadpan comedy here to make for a very entertaining story.
The art duty is passed to Francisco Vilanova on this story, and he does a great job with the opening panels, showing Hordak atop a turret looking out over the grim polluted industrial landscape of the Fright Zone.
Realizing that She-Ra is the main obstacle standing in his way and weakening his hold on Etheria, Hordak decides to offer a reward for her capture by anyone in Etheria who thinks they are capable of overcoming her. The next two panels show the Troopers placing posters offering the reward for She-Ra’s capture across an Etherian village, and resistance from the villagers, who refuse to betray She-Ra to the Horde. But not all the regular denizens of Etheria are so noble in nature, and we are introduced to the trio of bounty hunters who will become the focus of this story as they realize what could be in it for them if they were to combine their abilities to apprehend She-Ra and deliver her to Hordak.
Apparently residents of the unnamed village featured here, the bounty hunters are a highly comedic trio, expressed in their particularly daft names – Pon-Dar, Stom-Par and Slam-Ar, seemingly a deliberate play on the regular naming conventions of characters in the comics. Their names reflecting their specific abilities, Pon-Dar is naturally the leader of the trio, a villain who is physically weedy but excels in brain power, drawn of course with a particularly large forehead, seemingly resembling the Mad Thinker of the Marvel Comics. His sidekicks, Stom-Par and Slam-Ar, as their names indicate, are the reverse of him, possessing the power of brute strength and very little in the way of brains. A typical trio of comedy villains who would be very much at home in a pantomime, their bumbling ways are to provide the bulk of the entertainment in this story.
The next panel shows She-Ra receiving a letter in Whispering Wood, apparently from the people of the village inviting her to come to the village to give a talk on how evil Hordak is. The actual content of the letter is not shown, but it would be amusing to think the letter really was written in such simplistic language as She-Ra uses here. She could hardly be blamed for declining the offer on the basis of being too busy, but being She-Ra, she decides that to raise morale in the hearts of the ordinary people of Etheria can only be a good thing, and leaves for the village atop Swift Wind, Bow expressing regret that he cannot join her as he has some new arrow heads he wants to test!
Meanwhile, Pon-Dar has finished working on the weapon he intends to use to defeat She-Ra, and demonstrates it to his dim-witted assistants – the simple-looking gun he has built is capable of reacting with the unstable molecules in any living creature, thus freezing them. He demonstrates the gun on a feline-like animal, apparently a pet of his two assistants, and they immediately express concern for the poor animal, prompting Pon-Dar to reassure them that the ray can be used to unfreeze its victims – while they may be bad guys, they’re not so evil as to lack compassion for an innocent animal!
Sensing a commotion outside, the trio look outside their hut to see the excited villagers rushing to greet She-Ra, who has unexpectedly arrived in the village. Although she’s clearly more than ready to deliver her TED Talk on ‘How Evil Hordak Is’, confusion ensues when none of the villagers know who wrote the letter inviting She-Ra to the village, and though they’re more than happy to welcome her all the same, the bounty hunters quickly push their way through the crowd and reveal they have lured She-Ra into a trap.
As Stom-Par and Slam-Ar prepare to fight She-Ra, she quickly proves they’re no match for her by delivering a swift punch to both their faces (carefully drawn by the artist so as not to show the punches actually connecting), but Pon-Dar is able to take advantage of her defences being temporarily down to zap She-Ra with the freeze ray, allowing the trio to transport her frozen form away from the village.
Cut to a short time later in the Fright Zone, where the bounty hunters have presented the frozen She-Ra to Hordak, and he is very quick to present them with their reward. There follows a hilarious moment involving Grizzlor, as the hairy henchman arrives back from a walk, surprised to see what he perceives as a ‘She-Ra statue’ in his master’s chamber and asking Hordak why he would want such a thing as “I thought you didn’t like her”. Grizzlor then remarks on how the ‘statue’ is not a good likeness of She-Ra, and offers to smash it for Hordak!
As things go, Grizzlor’s dimwittedness winds up helping to save the day, as Hordak immediately becomes convinced that the frozen She-Ra is a statue and that the bounty hunters have been trying to con him into paying them – and he gets extremely angry, shouting at them for trying to fool him and demanding they leave and take the statue with them. Pon-Dar calmly explains that he can prove this is the real She-Ra after all, as he can unfreeze her by adjusting the settings on his gun. Although Hordak still does not believe him, he asks that Pon-Dar’s assistants hold She-Ra as Pon-Dar unfreezes her, just in case she is the real thing.
The trio put the process into action, and Stom-Par and Slam-Ar hold She-Ra’s arms as Pon-Dar fires at her to unfreeze her – but as She-Ra begins to unfreeze, she quickly breaks free from their grip and knocks them out by banging their heads together!
Deflecting Pon-Dar’s attempt to refreeze her by turning her sword to a shield and using it to turn the ray back on him, She-Ra snatches the gun from Pon-Dar, which prompts Hordak to beg for mercy, begging She-Ra in terror not to freeze him. She-Ra here assures Hordak that is ‘not her style’ – rather she uses the weapon to unfreeze Pon-Dar before she crushes the gun in her fist. While certainly entertaining, this scene is unfortunately one of those that undermines the nature of the conflict at the heart of the whole saga, for were She-Ra to use the freeze ray on Hordak, she would have the perfect opportunity to arrest him, apprehend him and potentially bring down the Horde Empire once and for all – that she would go so easy on the planet’s dictator by letting him off and leaving him with what amounts to a light tap on the wrist undermines the nature of the Horde’s true evil witnessed in other stories, reducing them to little more than casual mischief-makers as opposed to a truly malevolent force. That She-Ra does not even bother to apprehend the bounty hunters, the small-time crooks whose abilities pale in the shadow of the Horde, only adds to this. Hordak being reduced to the pitiful low of begging for mercy from She-Ra, terrified at the prospect of being frozen by the ray and diminished to a silly pantomime villain, does not help either, nor does it fit so well with the darker portrayal of the Horde in other She-Ra stories as well as those in the MOTU comics. Of course, this particular story is a light-hearted one, with a pantomime-like tone, but in the wider context of the comics it certainly undermines the conflict and rather serves to highlight one of the main weaknesses of the She-Ra comics, that was not suffered so much by the MOTU ones – the inconsistency in tone, with stories of a serious and sombre nature sitting uneasily alongside considerably softer stories with a much sillier tone. Given the challenges they faced in meeting the demand to appeal to multiple audiences and age demographics with the She-Ra comics, the London Editions writers cannot be blamed for this, and the quality of the writing always proved they were just as effective at writing light and comedic stories as they were at writing serious and emotional ones. But taken collectively, this does give the She-Ra comics an uneasy inconsistency that prevented them from quite reaching the same levels of the MOTU comics.
After unfreezing the bounty hunter, She-Ra challenges the team of villains to a fair fight, and in typical cowardly style, Hordak proclaims that “Now is not the time” and allows She-Ra to leave while he delivers his punishment to the bumbling trio. The final panel shows She-Ra making her way through the twisted terrain of the Fright Zone as she heads back to Whispering Wood, realizing she must be more careful in future after this close call, and thankful for Grizzlor unwittingly helping her out of a tight spot. The seemingly ‘serious’ tone of the final panel seems quite at odds with the comedic tone of the general story and may be indicative of rushed scripting; typically we would expect a story of this tone to end with a joke or pun.
Either way, flaws aside, "The Bounty Hunter" is still a fun and entertaining story with some memorably amusing guest villains and some nice deadpan comedy moments, particularly the dynamic between Hordak and Grizzlor. The She-Ra comics continue to experiment and surprise the readers, and for all the problems the frequent inconsistency of tone may bring, one thing that certainly remains consistent is the high quality of the writing and entertainment value of the stories.
This issue closes with this page, featuring a profile of Castaspella by an unknown artist, and a 'Join the Dots' puzzle taken from one of the She-Ra Princess of Power activity books published by World.
© Aidan Cross, 2023.