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TWINS OF POWER SPECIAL

Release Date: November 1986

Stories:

The Third Sword, part 1

The Third Sword, part 2

The Third Sword, part 3

The Third Sword, part 4

Cover by: José María Ortiz Tafalla

The cover of the special was drawn by José María Ortiz Tafalla, the regular artist for the MOTU comic. It is notable that the name of the toy line ‘Princess of Power’ is finally used on the cover as opposed to ‘She-Ra’, the title of the fortnightly comic series. (Editor Brian Clarke usually avoided using the toy line’s name on the comic cover, despite Mattel’s insistence otherwise, as he felt the word ‘Princess’ would be off-putting to male readers and may hurt sales. Here, however, alongside the Masters of the Universe logo and with He-Man on the cover, it was less risky to use the toy line’s name and thus appease Mattel.) Also note the ‘No. 1’ in the upper left corner, which implies this will be the first of many such specials. In reality this was purely a commercial decision to ensure London Editions got more money back from the news trade, but more specials were indeed considered further down the line, which sadly never came into being. (See this site’s Interview With Brian Clarke for more details.)

In November 1986, after eight months of the MOTU comic by London Editions and three months of the She-Ra comic, London Editions published the Twins of Power special, bringing the characters from both comics together in an epic 4-part adventure that introduced the character of Horde Prime – the ‘big bad’ villain of the comics. A landmark moment for a successful comic series notable for its unique approach to the MOTU and She-Ra franchises, the Twins of Power special was a bestseller and went on to become a highly sought-after collectors’ item by MOTU/POP fans worldwide, coining the term ‘Twins of Power’ which went on to be used heavily in the bios for the MOTU Classics toy line over 20 years on from the special’s release, as well as giving its name to the Twins of Power convention, a UK-based convention for fans of MOTU and POP. The four-part story "The Third Sword" was written by Brian Clarke and Tom Sweetman, who put the plot together over a few pints in a pub in Whalley Range, Manchester before going home to their respective flats and writing their individual parts of the story.

****

Story 1: “The Third Sword, part 1”
Writers: Brian Clarke & Tom Sweetman
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: In the depths of the universe, the evil Horde Prime is on board his space station, lamenting the many times his minion Hordak has suffered defeat at the hands of He-Man and She-Ra. He decides the one way he can hope to defeat his enemies is by using the services of Skeletor, as his agent of destruction, combining his magical powers with the scientific skills of Hordak to overcome his hated foes. Reaching into his belt, he pulls out a forgotten fragment of the Gem-Stone of Power, the jewelled rock from which He-Man and She-Ra’s mystical swords were both forged. He places the fragment in his Time-Scan machine to learn its history. The screen in Horde Prime’s control room shows the story behind the Gem-Stone, beginning with the Elders of Eternia witnessing the jewelled meteor coursing over Eternia through deep space. Sensing its tremendous powers, the leader of the Elders, Keclar, instructed his fellow Elders to use their concentrated powers to bring the meteor down to Eternia. They succeeded, and once the meteor was on the planet’s surface, Keclar sensed that it possessed untapped power that was just what the Elders needed to protect the twin worlds of Eternia and Etheria from evil forces. In their private chamber, the Elders used their powers to forge two swords from the rock – the twin swords of protection and honour. Keclar prophesied that one day, two champions shall arise to defend the honour of Eternia and Etheria, and the swords shall be the symbols of their mighty power. As well as the swords, Keclar also carved a Gem-Stone from the rock that he intended to use to build a castle on Eternia. However, once the Elders had left the chamber, one of them, Tyn-Mah, returned unseen and began to forge his own sword from the rock – a Sword of Evil that he intended to use against the other Elders, who he felt did not recognize the depth of his knowledge. But Keclar and the other Elders returned to the chamber and caught him in the act, punishing him by banishing him to a limbo void of nothingness. Keclar then used the Sword of Power to slice the evil sword in two, and said that both halves must now be hidden. Just as he is about to reveal the locations, the vision on the screen fades out. Determined to find where the Sword of Evil is hidden, Horde Prime summons Hordak and Skeletor to his base, and relates to them the story of the Sword of Evil. He provides them each with a fragment of the Gem-Stone that will lead them to the halves of the Black Sword. He sends Hordak to Eternia, where he will enable him to use the powers he normally only possesses on Etheria, and sends Skeletor to Etheria where the Rebels are not familiar with his evil methods. Hordak emerges in a small wood near Castle Grayskull, while Skeletor appears in a Batmex Factory on Etheria, both set to carry out Horde Prime’s plan.

Review: The most epic story published yet in the London Editions MOTU and POP comic series begins appropriately, with a suitably epic opening illustration. The full-page image presents us with, for the first time, the character of Horde Prime, the master of evil and in many ways the real ‘big bad’ villain of London Editions’ version of the MOTU/POP franchise. He is given an appearance not too dissimilar from Hordak, but more regal and imposing, particularly distinctive due to the tentacle-like appendages protruding from his head and face.

The UK London Editions Comics hold the distinction of being the first medium in MOTU/POP history to give Horde Prime a physical appearance. Never a part of the Mattel toy line, the character of Horde Prime was created by the writers of the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon series by Filmation, to expand the importance of the Evil Horde by making them an intergalactic force who ruled multiple planets throughout the universe, as opposed to being bound solely to She-Ra’s homeworld of Etheria. Horde Prime, as the master of the series’ lead villain Hordak, would make the occasional guest appearance, usually in particularly special or dramatic episodes, yet his appearance was never shown – to give the character an aura of mystery, he was permanently hidden behind a huge cloud of black billowing smoke, and all that was seen of his physical form was two glowing eyes and a large metallic hand. The London Editions comics took a different approach and gave the character an actual physical appearance, and while it clearly contradicts the little that was seen of the character in the cartoon series, the LE comics of course operated within a completely independent canon and only ever looked to the cartoon for the most basic inspiration. While several other MOTU and POP media in more recent years have also taken the step of giving Horde Prime a physical appearance – all largely differing from one another due to the character’s lack of physical form in the original show – the UK Comics can lay the claim to have been the first medium to have done this, and their design for Horde Prime has become well-known enough among MOTU fans worldwide to the extent that when Horde Prime was finally given an action figure in the MOTU Classics line in the 10s, his figure came with an extra interchangeable head based on the London Editions design. (Another point worth noting is that while in most media, Horde Prime is Hordak’s brother, this is not the case in the London Editions comics – while never specifically alluded to one way or the other, a Master Mail page in a later issue of the MOTU comic confirmed Prime was not Hordak’s brother.)

The MOTU and She-Ra comics have revealed very little about Horde Prime up until now; mentions of him consigned mainly to the letters pages when fans have expressed their curiosity about whether Hordak has a master. We finally learn here that Prime is the supreme leader of the Evil Horde, an intergalactic force that rules over many planets, with the aim of taking over the whole universe. As Hordak’s master, based on board an intergalactic space station, Prime is angry at his subordinate’s constant failures to gain the power of Grayskull, and is determined to find a way to defeat He-Man and She-Ra, the two heroes who continuously thwart Hordak’s plans.

Prime reaches the conclusion that he must use Skeletor as his agent of destruction and combine his magical powers with Hordak’s mastery of science in order to gain victory over the forces of Grayskull. While Skeletor is not part of the Horde, this special makes clear that Skeletor is ready to obey commands from Horde Prime nonetheless, as a superior evil power. Later issues of the MOTU comic, particularly Issue #52, would cover the history between Skeletor and Horde Prime in further detail, explaining how Skeletor was a student of Horde Prime a long time ago and the latter played a large role in the beginning of Skeletor’s career of evil.

Both the MOTU and She-Ra comics have shifted evenly between the focus on either magic or science as the source of threat, the former embodied by Skeletor in the MOTU comics and Shadow Weaver in the She-Ra comics, the latter by Hordak in both comics. So it is natural that this special would combine the two forces as the two main villains of both comics come together in this epic. The next step the story takes, having introduced us finally to the big bad guy behind the scenes of the saga, is to delve further into the origins of the whole MOTU/POP saga by revealing the story of how the Elders of Eternia created the Swords of Power and Protection – and Castle Grayskull itself – from a jewelled meteor that fell to Eternia. The basics of the origin were alluded to way back in the comics’ first story, “The Legend of Grayskull” in MOTU Issue #1, while we have gone on to meet the Elders of Eternia in person in the three-part “The Forgotten Army” story in MOTU Issues #8-10. Now we finally learn more about exactly where the powers of Grayskull came from and how the Elders set into motion the saga that unfolds on present-day Eternia and Etheria.

Horde Prime possesses a fragment of the Gem-Stone of Power, the jewelled meteor from which He-Man and She-Ra’s swords were forged, and places it in his Time-Scan machine to learn its history. (The Gem-Stone was alluded to briefly in MOTU Issue #9, “The Forgotten Army, part 2” at which we saw the moment the Elders set about the construction of Castle Grayskull from the Gem-Stone.) As the machine scans the object, Horde Prime’s viewscreen displays the Gem-Stone’s history, revealing how the Elders of Eternia saw this strange meteor flying over Eternia, and sensing its power, their leader, Keclar, combined his powers with those of the other Elders to bring it down to Eternia. How exactly, and why, the meteor came to possess such tremendous magic power is not explained, probably unknown even to the Elders. But the Elders were determined to use its power to protect Eternia and Etheria from evil forces, and set about forging two swords from the meteor. (Nothing is revealed of exactly what was going on on Eternia at this time, or of any specific evil force the Elders were fighting against, though later issues of the MOTU comics indicated the Elders were engaged in a vicious war against King Hiss and the Snake Men, who ruled Eternia at the time.)

The Elders’ leader, Keclar, has a different colour scheme here from how he appeared in the “Forgotten Army” 3-parter; his robe appearing a navy blue colour as opposed to the light red in the latter story. In my opinion this more intense blue colour is actually more striking and works much better. Keclar prophecies that one day, two champions shall come forth and defend the worlds of Eternia and Etheria (the exact role Etheria played in the Elders’ timeline, and their specific connection to it, is not gone into here, nor was it ever fully covered in later issues), and will wield these two swords as symbols of their power. It is notable that both swords are misnamed here – the Sword of Power is referred to as ‘the Sword of Protection’ and She-Ra’s Sword of Protection is instead ‘the Sword of Honour’. This misnaming of the swords has occurred in recent issues of both the MOTU and POP comics, and it is not clear where the confusion came about since He-Man’s sword was referred to clearly as the Sword of Power in early issues – most likely, the writers confused the names when they began writing stories for the She-Ra comic alongside MOTU. Keclar also alludes to his plan to carve a gem-stone from the meteor that the Elders will use to build a castle on Eternia.

As Keclar triumphantly holds aloft both the swords he has created, keen-eyed readers will notice the disapproving look on the face of the Elder dressed in green, and this is built on further on the next page, as the story takes an unexpected turn. This particular Elder, whose name is Tyn-Mah (the name based on the surname of a pub poet friend of Brian Clarke’s whose surname was Martin, following a similar format to the name Keclar, which is a reversal of Brian Clarke’s own surname, Clar Ke), feels misunderstood and unappreciated by the other Elders and has followed a wayward path, studying mystic books to learn the ways of evil. He uses his power to create a third sword – the Sword of Evil (referred to also in this story as ‘the Black Sword’ although it is actually a purplish colour similar to the attire worn by Skeletor and Hordak), which he intends to use to gain power over the other Elders. However, Keclar, who has already held suspicions about Tyn-Mah due to the latter’s envy of the other Elders, returns to the chamber unexpectedly and catches him in the act, and Tyn-Mah grovels feebly before Keclar as the latter sets about his punishment. While it is likely a mere coincidence, it seems very significant how Keclar refers to Tyn-Mah as a ‘viper’ given the context of how the Elders’ story would be developed in later issues, with their war against the Snake Men who apparently ruled Eternia at the time, giving a much deeper meaning to this slur than was likely intended!

Keclar punishes Tyn-Mah by banishing him to a limbo void of nothingness, in which Tyn-Mah will forever walk up a never-ending staircase towards a book of knowledge, and will find himself back at the bottom whenever he reaches the top. Keclar then destroys the Sword of Evil by using the Sword of Power to slice it in two, intending to hide the two halves in separate places. This will immediately strike resonance with fans of the wider MOTU franchise, since it directly invokes Mattel’s original idea behind the Sword of Power from the first MOTU minicomics and storybooks. In these early media, the Sword of Power had been split eons ago into two halves, one of which was now possessed by Skeletor and the other by He-Man, and one of the main themes of the saga was the quest of both to unite the two halves of the sword, which when complete would serve as the key to Castle Grayskull. This theme was abandoned by Filmation in the early stages of development for the MOTU cartoon series, choosing instead to have the Sword of Power a complete sword possessed by He-Man and used as his main weapon, which has been the norm for almost all MOTU media since then. But this plot development of having the Sword of Evil split into two halves, whether an intentional reference to the early MOTU media or not, nicely evokes that original storyline, still much-loved by fans of the pre-cartoon incarnations of MOTU.

Unfortunately for Horde Prime, the image on the screen fizzles out before Keclar reveals where he intends to hide the two halves of the sword – thus setting in motion the main plot of this epic adventure, as Prime summons Hordak and Skeletor to his base to send them out in search of the two halves. The splash page that follows is particularly striking, with the full-body image of Horde Prime taking up the whole left-hand side of the page and the panels of Hordak and Skeletor’s comically-illustrated reactions to him on the right. (And we see in these panels that Skeletor, despite being supposedly fleshless, actually has a tongue in his skull…) This page caused a great deal of conflict between the London Editions writers and their bosses, for the bosses thought that children would misunderstand this page setup and think all of Horde Prime’s dialogue was supposed to come before the images on the right. After a huge internal fight with the bosses, writers Brian Clarke and Tom Sweetman finally came out on the winning side and the page was published as they wanted it (and having read the comic as a 5-year-old child I can say with certainty that I never misunderstood it as the bosses feared I would!). A good job as well, for this page setup does a fantastic job of establishing Horde Prime as a powerful, domineering figure who even the main evil leaders of both the MOTU and POP comics cower before in fear. Seeing Hordak and Skeletor together in this form also makes the reader realize just how similar the colour schemes of both their attire is. Hordak’s colour scheme in the comics was different of that of the action figure, which had black chest armour and grey arms and legs, and the alteration of his colour scheme here to be more in line with that of Skeletor gives the impression of two evil beings in uniform, which as a later MOTU letters page confirmed, was intended to be the case – they both wore the colours of the Horde Empire, reflected also in the dark purple colour scheme of Prime’s own bodysuit.

Horde Prime sends the evil leaders to Eternia and Etheria, accompanied by amulets carved from the remainder of the Gem-Stone of Power, which will lead them to the Sword of Evil. In a brilliantly creative move, Skeletor is sent to Etheria and Hordak to Eternia, rather than the other way round as one would normally expect. As the Etherians are not familiar with Skeletor’s evil ways this will give him the advantage over them – and for the readers, it provides a great change from the norm by getting to see Skeletor pitted against She-Ra and the Rebels instead of He-Man and the Masters as usual. Horde Prime also states that he will grant Hordak the ability to use the powers on Eternia that he normally only possesses on Etheria. This marks a turning point in the comics’ overall storyline, for Hordak’s abilities to transform his arms into cannons and his whole body into a rocket – seen regularly in the She-Ra cartoon series despite not being part of Mattel’s portrayal of the character – have been ignored up until now by the MOTU comics while featuring regularly in the She-Ra comics to stay in line with his cartoon portrayal. The explanation given has been that Hordak’s powers are more limited on Eternia so he can only employ these abilities when on Etheria – but here Horde Prime enables him to use them on Eternia as well, and from this point on, Hordak would occasionally use these powers in the MOTU comic as well as She-Ra.

Hordak emerges in a small wood near Castle Grayskull, accompanied by some of his Horde Troopers, while Skeletor appears in a Batmex Factory on Etheria. Part 1 ends with a great panel depicting the imposing full figure of Prime, with the leaders of good and evil displayed around him as he prophecies his victory and subsequent rulership of the whole universe. His closing speech is particularly powerful: “Let the heavens tremble. Let the good know fear. Horde Prime is the Master of the Universe!”

Part 1 has done a splendid job of building, in the space of 6 pages, on the mythology of the MOTU/POP saga as we know it, revealing a tremendous amount of detail about the bigger picture behind the scenes, and the big bad guy behind the evil of both Hordak and Skeletor. The powerful, full-body illustrations of Prime, and Skeletor and Hordak’s fear of him, have established him very effectively as the true main evil of the story, who may have the power to some day defeat both He-Man and She-Ra. And the addition of the Sword of Evil, an evil sword with equal power to those of He-Man and She-Ra, is a brilliantly creative move – for it opens up the possibility that an evil being could finally gain equal power to that of He-Man and She-Ra, and thus pose their greatest threat yet. After this hugely dramatic opening part, the reader will naturally be very eager to read on!

****

The following few pages consist of puzzles and images taken from the various MOTU and POP colouring and activity books that were being published at the time. As these books were published by World like London Editions, a subsidiary of Egmont they were published in the same building as the London Editions Comics and may have shared certain personnel.

The above puzzle is based around the early incarnations of MOTU in which He-Man's prime quest was to join both halves of the Power Sword. It seems very apt to include it in this special, since the plot revolves around joining both halves of the Sword of Evil!

****

Synopsis: She-Ra, Bow, Madame Razz and the Twiggets are enjoying a well-earned rest in the Whispering Woods on Etheria. Orko suddenly materializes in the woods, having magically teleported himself to Etheria to visit Madame Razz, but Madame Razz almost flies into him on Broom, swerves to avoid him and hits the Twiggets instead. She tells Orko off and, upset, he teleports himself back to Eternia. Just then, She-Ra receives telepathic contact from The Sorceress, who tells her she must go to the Crystal Castle as fast as she can. Atop Swift Wind, She-Ra flies to the Crystal Castle, wondering why it was necessary for The Sorceress to contact her rather than Light Hope as usual. When she reaches the Crystal Castle, she finds Light Hope looking very weak and tired, and he explains that somehow the Horde have become aware of the existence of the Sword of Evil, which is so evil that even the knowledge that it exists, if possessed by the forces of evil, is enough to increase the sword’s power and thus weaken him. Light Hope shows She-Ra the secret room in the Crystal Castle, where the sword is kept. He tells her she must cast the sword into the Cosmic Well and destroy it, but he is not aware of the location of the well – only the riddle that it is to be found ‘on the highest mountain and at the foot of the world’. She-Ra flies back to Whispering Woods on Swift Wind, to enlist the help of her friends. Meanwhile, Skeletor has materialized in the Batmex Factory, where he steals a Batmex machine and uses it to fly to Doom Tower, where he introduces himself to the Horde members as their new master. He explains that he needs their help in locating the Evil Sword, and just as he speaks, his amulet begins to alert him that the sword is nearby. In the Whispering Woods, She-Ra explains the situation to Bow, Perfuma, Frosta, Kowl, Mermista and the Twiggets. The Twigget Sprocker manages to solve the riddle, realizing that the sword must be located on a tall mountain at the bottom of the sea. Mermista thinks she knows the mountain in question, and the heroes travel to the coast on board Butterflyer. Frosta uses her powers to freeze the water, and She-Ra uses her sword to blast a tunnel in the ice that will take them to the mountain’s peak. The Rebels venture down the tunnel, and as they descend, Skeletor attacks with the Horde members, causing the wall of ice to fall apart. She-Ra has no choice but to return to the surface to make it safe for the Rebels. But as she ascends, Skeletor seizes the sword from her, and leaves She-Ra and her friends surrounded by the ice-fall. She-Ra uses her strength to push the wall into place, while her friends retreat to the surface, and She-Ra realizes that now Skeletor has one half of the sword, her only choice is to contact He-Man. On board Horde Prime’s starship, Skeletor presents the first half of the sword to Horde Prime.

Review: Part 2 begins on Etheria, with She-Ra and Bow enjoying a peaceful break from the usual conflict, in the Whispering Woods. Just as Bow offers to read She-Ra one of the poems he has written, we get a surprise appearance from Orko on Etheria, who has magically teleported himself from Eternia to visit Madame Razz – but has the misfortune of appearing right in Madame Razz’s path as she flies toward the Rebel Camp on Broom, causing her to swerve and crash into the Twiggets. Madame Razz gets angry and loses her temper at Orko, who gets upset and teleports himself back home. Although this scene finally brings Orko and his Etherian counterpart Madame Razz together – something we would naturally expect in a crossover story between both worlds – and though it seems at first to be setting up a subplot between these two characters, it winds up serving little purpose other than filler material, for when we see Orko again in Part 3, he is back on Eternia making no mention of his little mishap on Etheria, and nothing more is made of this brief awkward encounter. And while it could serve as a moment of light relief following the drama of Part 1, rather than being amused we just feel sorry for Orko, for it really wasn’t his fault that he wound up in the wrong place at the wrong time. It would have been nice to have had a good sub-plot perhaps with Orko and Madame Razz working together – it would certainly have had good comedy potential – but this little filler scene, serving no real purpose in the wider context, is sadly the only union we get between these two characters.

She-Ra is surprised to receive a telepathic summons from The Sorceress on Eternia, since she is usually contacted through her sword by Light Hope. Arriving at the Crystal Castle, She-Ra finds Light Hope looking weak and tired, the very fact the evil forces have gained awareness of the Sword of Evil being enough to weaken him. It’s quite a relief to see Light Hope drawn in his more familiar form of a beam of light again, after he bizarrely appeared as a white-bearded king in Issue #4’s “The Null-Stone of Nabob”. He still appears different from usual, drawn as a much smaller and thinner beam of light than his regular appearance, which is more akin to a gigantic field of light – but whether intentional or not, this depiction of the character rather works in the context, given that he is supposed to have been significantly weakened.

It turns out that She-Ra has already been told about the Sword of Evil by Light Hope, and it has been guarded in a secret room in the Crystal Castle for centuries. Light Hope tells She-Ra she must throw the sword into the Cosmic Well to destroy it, and when she asks why she can not simply use her sword to destroy it, Light Hope answers “Because that is not the way of the universe. Everything has its part.” This is a rather odd answer; you would not think such an approach would be necessary when the fate of the entire universe is at hand – a better explanation would have been that the Sword is indestructible. She-Ra sets out on Swift Wind to find the Cosmic Well, the only detail of its location being a vague riddle relayed to her by Light Hope.

We next cut to the Batmex Factory, where Skeletor has materialized on Etheria (we actually saw him materialize there at the end of Part 1 and here he seems to materialize in the same spot again – this small continuity error is likely due to parts 1 and 2 being written separately by Brian Clarke and Tom Sweetman respectively – Brian having phoned Tom from home to tell him to make sure to begin Skeletor’s scenes in the Batmex Factory, since he had ended part 1 in that location!).

Skeletor is attacked by Hordak’s Horde Troopers, and angered by the attack, he blasts the Troopers apart with his staff as he escapes in a Batmex. This particular Batmex craft is drawn very differently from how we usually see them – as a small, basic open-top vehicle rather than the large fighter planes we usually see, the likeness of Hordak’s face at the front being so subtle it could almost be missed. It makes sense that Hordak may well have lots of different types of Batmex, some smaller and more basic than others, so I like to think this is one such variety of Batmex.

Skeletor arrives in Doom Tower, where he presents himself to Hordak’s minions – Grizzlor, Leech, Modulok and Mantenna. While it makes for a great change to see Skeletor commanding Hordak’s henchmen, it seems a shame that none of the female Horde members are present – we have seen Skeletor share plenty of scenes with the males in the regular MOTU comic, and having Catra, Shadow Weaver and Scorpia present would have given more of a feel of a crossover between the MOTU and POP worlds, while Skeletor and Shadow Weaver would have made for a particularly intriguing team-up given their almost counterpart roles as the leading ‘magical’ villains of either comic.

It’s great to see Skeletor berate Grizzlor by yelling “You are as stupid as Beast Man!” and he gets some great dialogue here when he says “Even Hordak bows before [Horde Prime]. But not Skeletor… for one day I will rule in his place!” As prominent a villain as Hordak might be in the franchise, and as much as the Horde may be the wider intergalactic empire, we really get the impression that Skeletor is still the ultimate evil, and if either of the two main villains were ever to usurp Horde Prime’s power, it would be far more likely to be Skeletor.

The scene cuts to Whispering Woods, where She-Ra has sought the assistance of Bow, Frosta, Perfuma and Mermista in locating the Cosmic Well. As they attempt to use logic and deduction to decipher the location from the riddle, it is Sprocker the Twigget who solves the problem for them, by deducing it must be located atop a mountain at the bottom of the sea. Mermista is aware of a tall mountain in such a location, so the Rebels set out on board Butterflyer to travel there. Once they reach the ocean, it is the perfect opportunity for Frosta to put her powers into action. After a splendid introduction for her in Issue #5’s “The Wuglies” 2-parter, it is great to see more action from Frosta, who uses her ice powers to freeze the ocean and enable She-Ra to use her sword to blast a tunnel through the ice to the mountain. Frosta does not appear to require her wand to freeze the water this time, which she had used heavily in her introductory story.

As She-Ra and her friends descend the tunnel, Skeletor attacks from above with Hordak’s henchmen, and as the wall of ice begins to collapse, She-Ra has no choice but to return to the surface with the sword to ensure her friends’ safety. Believing Hordak to be behind the attack, noting “I didn’t expect Hordak to find me here. He’s growing more powerful each time we meet” She-Ra is surprised to instead find Skeletor at the top of the ice shaft, who immediately swipes the sword from her and leaves She-Ra and her friends to be crushed by the ice-fall. She-Ra just manages to hold the ice wall aloft while her friends rush to safety, and realizes her only choice now is to contact He-Man, remarking “I suspect that this is just the beginning of the biggest threat we have ever encountered!”

Part 2 ends with a dramatic illustration of Skeletor kneeling before Horde Prime – of who all we see is his cape from behind – as he presents him with the sword, delivering another great piece of dialogue: “Now let us strike against all the Heroic Warriors and win ourselves a universe!”

****

Story 3: “The Third Sword, part 3”
Writers: Brian Clarke & Tom Sweetman
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: Following a summons from She-Ra, He-Man and Man-At-Arms make their way to Castle Grayskull, where they encounter She-Ra at the portal linking Eternia to Etheria. The power of the Sword of Evil is preventing She-Ra from passing through the portal, but she is able to explain the situation to He-Man, who leads Man-At-Arms to the secret chamber in Castle Grayskull where the second half of the Black Sword is kept. Meanwhile, Hordak, accompanied by some of his Horde Troopers, travels to Snake Mountain, where he declares himself the Evil Warriors’ new master and explains what he wants them to do for him. Later, in the Grayskull Library, He-Man and the Masters are searching the ancient books for information about the evil sword. They learn from the books that the sword must be destroyed by being cast into the Pit of Light – but the Pit of Light is located in Snake Mountain. The warriors board their vehicles and set off towards Skeletor’s domain. As they near the mountain, they are ambushed by the Evil Warriors, and He-Man smashes his way through them, reaching the mountain, where he enters to face Skeletor. But when he reaches the throne room, he is amazed to find himself face-to-face with Hordak rather than Skeletor. He-Man orders Hordak to step aside so he can cast the sword into the Pit of Light, and Hordak feigns surrender, then launches a surprise attack on He-Man by turning his arm into a cannon and blasting him in the chest, seizing the sword from He-Man. He-Man attempts to spring back at Hordak before he can escape with the sword, but Hordak uses another power he has previously only possessed on Etheria – he turns into rocket form, and blasts off, causing He-Man to fall into the Pit of Light himself. He manages to use his strength to grip onto the walls and climb back to ground level, but feels that now Hordak and Skeletor have both halves of the sword, the universe is doomed. Back on ground level, He-Man is surprised to find Zodac waiting for him, and Zodac tells He-Man that the evil leaders have taken the sword to Horde Prime on board his space station, and He-Man and She-Ra must now follow them to stop Horde Prime uniting both halves of the sword before it is too late. As the Masters and Rebels do battle with the Evil Warriors and Horde respectively on Eternia and Etheria, He-Man and She-Ra use one of Grayskull’s spacecrafts to travel into outer space, towards Horde Prime’s space station.

Review: The action heats up at the start of this chapter as He-Man enters the story, She-Ra telling He-Man about Horde Prime’s plan to unify both halves of the Sword of Evil. Like She-Ra, it turns out that He-Man is already aware of the existence of the sword, and he reveals he has a secret key to the room in Grayskull in which it is kept, which was given to him on the day he received his sword (We later saw this day itself in MOTU Issue #35). The second half of the sword is concealed in a similar manner to the first, in a hidden room within Castle Grayskull. He-Man is attacked by a hideous monster that seems to come from within the sword itself, but knowing that one half of the sword alone would not be powerful enough to create such a beast, He-Man deduces that the creature is an illusion in his mind projected by the sword, and so he is able to walk straight through the demon to retrieve the sword.

Meanwhile, Hordak arrives at Snake Mountain, where he takes command of Skeletor’s minions, much as Skeletor has done on Etheria with Hordak’s own men. Skeletor’s minions at first retaliate and are about to attack Hordak, before they realize they are outnumbered by his Troopers, and we get some amusing dialogue from Two Bad as he suddenly backtracks on realizing the situation.

The scene switches to the Grayskull Library, where He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Buzz-Off, Moss Man and Orko are scouring through the ancient books to find the legend of the Sword of Evil, and what they must do to destroy it. Orko eventually stumbles across the answer they’re looking for. As with the first half of the sword on Etheria, the answer is contained within a riddle, which He-Man deciphers as meaning the sword must be destroyed by being cast into the Pit of Light. Yet the Pit of Light is in the most awkward location possible – Snake Mountain!

Knowing that Skeletor will not respond too well to a sudden visit from his hated enemies, He-Man assembles a whole team of Masters and leads them towards Snake Mountain. We get a good moment of Orko watching on from the castle window as his friends set off, knowing their path will be a difficult one.

As the Heroic Warriors near Snake Mountain, it turns out their visit is already being anticipated by the Evil Warriors, who ambush them together with the Horde Troopers. Given the urgency of his mission, He-Man smashes his way through the Troopers to reach the mountain and the Pit of Light. We get a great scene of He-Man arriving in Skeletor’s throne room, to see from behind who he assumes is Skeletor, sitting on the throne. But on demanding “Turn and face me, villain!” he is shocked to find it is actually Hordak sitting on Skeletor’s throne. (This should really have been less of a surprise than it was – you’d think the unusual presence of Hordak’s Horde Troopers alongside Skeletor’s warriors outside the mountain would have given this away – this seems to be a small oversight on the writers’ part.)

When He-Man demands Hordak step aside so he can cast the sword into the Pit of Light, Hordak makes a very uncharacteristic move and seems to grovel at He-Man’s feet, begging him not to hurt him. Knowing this is not typical of Hordak even when overpowered, He-Man suspects something is wrong, and sure enough he finds himself victim to a surprise blast from Hordak’s cannon arm, a power of Hordak’s that he has only been able to use on Etheria until now. This is a great way of showcasing Hordak’s abilities from the She-Ra comics and bringing them into He-Man’s world, and gives Hordak a one-up in the rankings of villains as his power on Eternia is increased, boosting his threat to He-Man. This is put to even more effective use when He-Man attempts to lunge and grab hold of Hordak before he can make off with the sword, only to miss as Hordak morphs into his rocket form, and blasts off away from Snake Mountain. Although he does not appear prominently in either of these two parts, the master genius of Horde Prime really shows though here – he has managed to outsmart the heroes on both Eternia and Etheria by challenging them with evil powers they are not used to – Skeletor on Etheria, whose ways are not known by She-Ra and the Rebels, and Hordak’s shape-shifting powers on Eternia, of which He-Man was unaware and unprepared for. He-Man winds up falling into the Pit of Light himself, and is only barely able to grip onto the sides and climb to safety – but he is not optimistic about victory, declaring bluntly, “The universe is doomed”. (The exact purpose of the Pit of Light within Snake Mountain is not explained – since it has clearly been present since Eternia’s ancient history it is intriguing as to what exactly its role is. It seems unusual to have a Pit of Light within the mountain since the evil forces are considered the forces of darkness, so it would have been an interesting location to have explored further, perhaps delving into its history and if it was ever utilized by the Snake Men, whom Snake Mountain apparently once belonged to.)

Next we get a pleasant surprise cameo appearance from Zodac, who has only been seen once before in the comics in MOTU Issue #5’s “Hordak’s Assault” and has only played a minimal role overall, alluded to as a watcher of the universe from behind the scenes who tries to maintain eternal balance between good and evil, intervening only to provide advice to one side or the other when they are in danger of total defeat. Naturally, with Horde Prime so close to victory, this calls for Zodac to advise He-Man of what to do to restore the balance. In previous stories, Zodac has only provided cryptic and vague advice for the heroes to work from, but under this particularly severe threat, he gives He-Man more specific details as to where Skeletor and Hordak have taken the sword and what He-Man must to do stop Horde Prime.

He-Man returns to Castle Grayskull, where She-Ra is waiting for him, having presumably been told the situation by Zodac herself, and has finally been able to travel through the portal to Eternia now the Sword of Evil is no longer present on the planet. He-Man and She-Ra use a spacecraft within Grayskull to blast off from Eternia and reach Horde Prime’s space station, floating above the planet. The sheer danger posed by Horde Prime is apparent as the heroes note the colossal size of his space station and how “Even with our combined strength we will be in for the most dangerous adventure of our lives.” Part 3 ends on a superb cliffhanger as Horde Prime, Skeletor and Hordak await He-Man and She-Ra’s arrival – ready to give them the fight of their lives.

****

More images and activities from the various MOTU and POP colouring and activity books published by World.

****

Story 4: “The Third Sword, part 4”
Writers: Brian Clarke & Tom Sweetman
Art: José María Ortiz Tafalla

Synopsis: On board Horde Prime’s space station, Skeletor and Hordak have presented the evil tyrant with both halves of the Sword of Evil. Detecting He-Man and She-Ra approaching his base, Prime sends a flight of fighter ships to attack their spacecraft. He-Man prepares the spacecraft for a crash landing, zooming past the fighter ships and straight into Prime’s base, causing the ship to explode upon impact, their swords protecting them from being hurt. As Prime’s ship has its own artificial atmosphere, the heroes are able to breathe, and they break into the ship using an air-lock. No sooner have they entered the ship than they are ambushed by Horde Troopers, but they dodge the Troopers’ fire and press deeper into the ship, fighting their way past numerous traps set by Horde Prime until they reach his Master Chamber. Inside the chamber, Horde Prime is ready to join both halves of the sword together, but holds off from doing so, wanting He-Man and She-Ra to witness him join the sword so they will see first-hand the final victory of evil over good. He-Man and She-Ra smash their way into the chamber, and attempt to use their sword-bolts to stop Prime, but their blasts have no effect. She-Ra realizes that they will need something of equal power to the Sword of Evil in order to stop Prime, and suggests they join both their swords to fire a combined blast at him. They execute She-Ra’s plan, and the combined power from both their swords shatters the Sword of Evil, turning it into cosmic dust. As Horde Prime berates Skeletor and Hordak for not attacking the heroes before they could stop him, He-Man and She-Ra retreat from the chamber, using Prime’s private escape teleporter to teleport to Eternia and Etheria respectively. He-Man emerges back on Eternia, where he helps the Masters defeat the Evil Warriors, and She-Ra emerges on Etheria where she leads her Rebel friends to victory over the Horde. Back on Horde Prime’s ship, Prime blames Skeletor and Hordak for the failure of his scheme and vows to send them both more troops and power, threatening to replace them if they continue to fail. Back on Eternia and Etheria respectively, He-Man and She-Ra, victorious from battle, seek out a place of solitude and look towards the night sky, contemplating how close the universe has come to being conquered by Horde Prime’s evil, knowing that they must continue to lead the fight against evil on their homeworlds until the evil forces are defeated once and for all.

Review: The opening scene of Part 4 does not quite seem to follow smoothly from the cliffhanger scene at the end of Part 3 – as with the discrepancy between parts 1 and 2 over Skeletor’s arrival on Etheria, this is likely due to the different parts having been written separately by writers Brian Clarke and Tom Sweetman. Part 4’s opening scene seems to show Horde Prime just detecting that He-Man and She-Ra are approaching his space station, yet at the end of Part 3 he was clearly more than aware of this already. Either way, Skeletor and Hordak’s thought bubbles are a nice touch here as they both indicate their secret intentions to overthrow Horde Prime and rule the universe themselves once he has attained victory.

He-Man and She-Ra find themselves faced with a line of Fighter Ships sent by Prime, so He-Man sets their ship for a crash landing, knowing the Fighter Ships will not risk firing at them when they are so close to Prime’s own spacecraft. The illustration of the heroes’ ship crashing into Prime’s and exploding on impact could have been illustrated more dramatically to heighten the sense of drama, but even with the rather subdued way in which the impact is shown, the words do enough so that the reader feels the sense of intrepidation.

The scene briefly shifts back to Etheria, and then to Eternia, as we see the Rebels being attacked by Horde Troopers, and the Heroic Warriors still engaged in battle with the villains outside Snake Mountain. Knowing as we do that the heroic forces on both worlds stand much greater chance of defeat by the villains without He-Man and She-Ra to lead them, there is a real sense of urgency as the scales are tipped so heavily in favour of the evil forces.

Back above Eternia, outside Horde Prime’s space station, She-Ra and He-Man have been protected by their swords’ collective power from the impact of the crash landing, and are able to breathe due to Prime’s ship having its own artificial atmosphere due to its large size. They manage to force their way into the ship via an air-lock, but they are immediately ambushed by Troopers who have been expecting them. They seemingly manage to outrun the Troopers, but have to contend with multiple traps within Horde Prime’s ship. We get a montage of illustrations of the Twins of Power in action as they fend off threat after threat, before they finally reach Horde Prime’s Master Chamber.

It turns out that Prime is anticipating and hoping that the twins will succeed in reaching his chamber, for he wants them to witness him joining together both halves of the Sword of Evil – the moment that will signify the domination of evil over the whole universe. She-Ra and He-Man attempt to stop Prime using the bolts from their swords, and She-Ra’s line “I’ve never seen Horde Prime look so powerful… so confident!” indicates she has clearly encountered him in person before, even though this special is the reader’s introduction to him – of course, regular readers know that She-Ra is a former member of the Horde herself during her youth as Adora, so it is no surprise she has met Horde Prime before.

It is a flash of inspiration from She-Ra that saves the universe – for she realizes that only something of equal power to the Sword of Evil itself can counter its power, and suggests that she and He-Man combine the power of both their swords. It seems that the Sword of Evil is singularly more powerful than either the Sword of Power or the Sword of Protection are individually, and a combined blast of power from both He-Man and She-Ra’s swords finally shatters the Sword of Evil, turning it into Cosmic Dust. Horde Prime berates Skeletor and Hordak for their lack of action while He-Man and She-Ra attacked, and it seems both evil warlords thought no action was necessary, with the almighty Prime so close to winning.

Now would seem like a perfect moment for He-Man and She-Ra to apprehend the three evil warlords collectively – whether there is a reason they are unable to do so besides the fact there would be no ongoing saga if they did is not clear, but either way they desert the chamber as Horde Prime admonishes Skeletor and Hordak, in much the style we have seen the latter two do towards their henchmen when their own schemes fail. Having allowed the Castle Grayskull spacecraft to be destroyed in order for them to enter Prime’s ship, He-Man and She-Ra make use of Horde Prime’s private escape teleporter to escape the ship, which he has on board so he can desert the ship if it is ever in danger of total defeat. She-Ra’s background as a former Horde Captain is alluded to here, with the narration panel explaining that she had been taught how to use the machine when herself a Horde member.

He-Man and She-Ra return to Eternia and Etheria respectively, where they tip the battle on both worlds in favour of the heroic forces. Back on Horde Prime’s ship, he blames Skeletor and Hordak for his scheme’s failure, and vows to send them more troops and power, threatening to replace them if they continue to fail. Hordak states that “Already I have a plan, Horde Prime”, inciting the reader to read the regular fortnightly comics to see what his next move is. Although the special has done a tremendous job of establishing Horde Prime as the big evil power behind the scenes, the mastermind behind the whole evil conflict who threatens the entire universe – and in the process has made the mythology behind both comic series seem much larger – it can be argued that his presence makes both Skeletor and Hordak seem relatively insignificant, for essentially both have been stripped of their roles in the readers’ mind as the big villains of the franchise, and if as is apparent here they are both easily replaceable, it reduces them to mere henchmen of the real villain of the franchise. This is where the creation of Horde Prime has been a controversial one among fans of the franchise, from his inception to the present day. When Mattel conceived the Evil Horde as a second faction of villains for the Masters of the Universe toy line, they intended Hordak to be the true leader of the Horde, and he was portrayed as the former master of Skeletor who bowed to no-one and wished to reclaim authority over his wayward ex-student. Filmation, in adapting the Horde to be the main villains of the She-Ra: Princess of Power cartoon series, created the character of Horde Prime to make the Horde an intergalactic force rather than one confined to Etheria, thus serving a similar role to Emperor Palpatine in the Star Wars movies. While it certainly does a good job of expanding the scope of the franchise, as we realize that the evil threats on Etheria and Eternia are but the centrepiece of a much wider universal conflict (and the franchise is called Masters of the Universe after all), many fans to this day feel that the character of Horde Prime reduced Hordak’s importance by making him at the end of the day a mere minion of the real big bad guy, rather than himself the true leader of evil, and argue that Hordak could easily have occupied Prime’s role himself, being the ruler of multiple planets rather than just Etheria. While the special has done a good job of portraying the character of Prime, and Skeletor and Hordak would continue in their respective roles as the villains of the regular comic series, his presence may nevertheless be just as controversial among some readers as it is among fans of the wider franchise. Nevertheless, looking at the London Editions comics’ take on the MOTU mythology in its own right, Prime’s presence certainly serves its role in expanding the universality of the saga, and the reader senses scope for lots of dramatic storylines in the future of the comic series.

Appropriately, the story ends on a sombre, emotionally-driven note rather than a celebratory one, with the conjoined panel separated by a lightning bolt, showing He-Man and She-Ra standing beneath the night sky on their respective homeworlds, decorated with fantastical stars and planets, as they contemplate how close the universe came to being conquered by evil, and how while they would love nothing more than to be together as a family, the immense danger posed by Horde Prime’s forces means they must stay apart.

With multi-part stories having become a regularity by now in both the MOTU and She-Ra fortnightly comic series, the comics have been imbuing the saga with a more dramatic, epic feel throughout their run, and at this still relatively early stage in their lifespan, the Twins of Power Special feels in many ways like the culmination of all their work so far. In this one special the London Editions comics have achieved something the Filmation cartoon series really should have done but never did – a multi-part adventure successfully unifying He-Man and She-Ra and their respective worlds in a dramatic and suspense-filled epic adventure, with the mission of saving nothing less than the whole universe from the brink of destruction. While the focus is generally on action rather than character depth, we nevertheless get a sense of urgency and drama throughout the whole adventure, and He-Man and She-Ra, while it takes until the final part for them to actually unite properly and fight together side-by-side, make an excellent duo, serving as twin peaks of righteousness and more than deserving of the title ‘Twins of Power’. Throughout both the MOTU and She-Ra comics so far, we have had the sense that Eternia and Etheria are two planets in very real danger, with the forces of evil posing a day-to-day threat to the extent the heroes of both worlds must be on permanent guard. Now, with this special, we see for ourselves just how big the threat of evil actually is and how it encompasses not just Eternia and Etheria but the whole universe, with one megalomaniacal dictator at the centre of it all. Masters of the Universe indeed.

The comic franchise has only been running for just over half a year by this stage, and were it to have stopped here the Twins of Power special would have served as a mighty swansong and a celebration of a unique and dramatic interpretation of one of the most successful fantasy/sci-fi franchises of its day. But the comics had not come this far to only come this far, and the only way was up from here – with this more than impressive expansion of the MOTU and POP universe, the fortnightly comics would build on this and take the saga to new and ever-more exciting territories from here on. If anything, the only real disappointment was that there were to be no further Twins of Power specials – which may have been partly due to the She-Ra comic only lasting another nine issues after this special was released. Another factor making further specials difficult for the LE team was the fact that following the departure from Mattel of Gordon McFadden, the employee who looked after branding and whom all story approvals went through, Mattel brought in two separate range managers for MOTU and POP, who according to Brian Clarke, "had no understanding of comics... [and] It didn’t help that no one at the big M believed that girls liked action stories. Tom and I wanted to do more but the working with two brand managers would have been an absolute nightmare." Given the quality of this special it is unfortunate that the Twins of Power specials could not have become a more regular thing, perhaps coming out bi-annually – unfortunately once the She-Ra comic abruptly ended after Issue #14, although the MOTU comic was to continue for 72 issues in total, She-Ra’s role in the saga pretty much faded into an indistinct background after her comic was discontinued. This is unfortunate given the effectiveness of He-Man and She-Ra as a duo, but we can be thankful that nonetheless we got the adventure all the fans really wanted to see, with She-Ra and He-Man saving the universe together in epic format.

With quality storytelling, exciting action and suspense, and vibrant, colourful artwork, the Twins of Power special is a must-read for all MOTU and She-Ra fans worldwide and certainly represents the pinnacle of the London Editions comics’ achievements at this stage in their run.

© Aidan Cross, 2020.

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