NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "He-Man/ThunderCats" #1-3
As fans of the ThunderCats and Masters of the Universe franchises patiently wait for the day that Hollywood (inevitably) selects the brands as their next nostalgia-heavy shared universe enterprise, DC Comics has come to the rescue. Relying on not just one, but both of the brands and their respective heroes, the publisher has unleashed the crossover fans of 1980s cartoon and toys dreamed of: "He-Man/ThunderCats".
No further details are really needed to hook the attention of the comic's target audience, but the creators haven't been resting on their laurels. No, writers Lloyd Goldfine and Rob David, along with artist Freddie E. Williams have turned out a story full of surprises, unforgettably hilarious sequences, and a twisted take on the shared fantasy of both premises. What happens when a hole in the sky puts the planets Eternia and Third Earth together at last? Simple: a villainous team-up neither hero expected, and one that's already cost He-Man his life.
The 'Death' of He-Man
For those fond of the 'Masters of the Universe' who may have missed out on the first issue of "He-Man/ThunderCats," it started with a bang-- actually, a stabbing. The heroes of both worlds were caught completely by surprise when Mumm-Ra, The Ever-Living - along with the help of his ancient, malevolent evil spirits - split space and time to bring his world close enough to that of He-Man to actually travel from one world to the other. And before Lion-O even got the opportunity to combine his own power with that of He-Man, Mumm-Ra had snapped into action.
While the mummy-turned-musclebound-monster consistently failed to defeat Lion-O and his fellow ThunderCats for possession of the Sword of Omens, he was far more successful in his pursuit of the Power Sword, entrusted to He-Man of Eternia. Taking the shape of a familiar ally, Mumm-Ra snatched the sword from He-Man (known simple as Prince Adam when not in his Grayskull-powered form), and drove it straight through his chest. It was a shocking twist, and the volume of blood on the page proved it was a fatal strike... sort of.
Before the life ebbed out of him, Prince Adam recognized that the Power Sword was still technically in contact with him, so when he uttered his famous mantra - "By the power of Grayskull... I HAVE THE POWER!" - he transformed into the invincible, superpowered He-Man fans know and love. Death seemed to have beaten in a flash of lightning, but with the arrival of "He-Man/ThunderCats" #3, it's clear that Prince Adam's wound really did cost him his life.
Yep, He-Man is Actually Dead
The first issue of the series showed He-Man narrowly avoid death thanks to the Power of Grayskull, but also so the true villain of the story revealed to be none other than Skeletor, long time nemesis of the Masters of the Universe. It was Skeletor who had truly made the agreement with Mumm-Ra's mystical masters to do what the mummy couldn't: capture the Sword of Omens and the Power Sword. But even when Skeletor had acquired the Power Sword from He-Man, he wasn't strong enough to wield it, or the Power Grayskull.
His solution was to reduce Mumm-Ra to ashes, and consume them as part of a potion granting him the additional mystical strength. With newfound powers, Skeletor called upon Grayskull, and received the powers typically reserved for He-Man. And at the moment the power shifted to him, Prince Adam's powers were lost, his wound returned, and he collapsed, unresponsive, to the ground. Issue #3 now follows Lion-O and the ThunderCats in their efforts to save Eternia and Third Earth from destruction by defeating the villain responsible.
As a team, they manage to get the better of Skeletor, shoving his arrogance and confidence back in his face - but giving Lion-O a look at the lethality of the Power Sword up close (too close). Once the fight is over, and Skeletor flees to his base of operations, the ThunderCats (and the readers) learn that Prince Adam's collapse was no cliffhanger: he, and his He-Man alter ego, are dead.
Now, before any reader chimes in with skepticism or doubt: No, this probably isn't the last we've seen of Adam, He-Man, or the Masters of the Universe. That being said, it doesn't actually lessen the impact of the scene. Seeing Prince Adam impaled with a sword was shocking enough, but watching as all of Eternia mourns the death of their prince is yet another unforgettable moment offered by Goldfine, David, and Williams. The same is true for the scene that follows the public funeral, with Adam's father, King Randor and Lion-O sharing a quiet moment - one an aging monarch who has lost his son, the other a boy expected to be king, with no one to show him how.
Fans of He-Man probably never imagined how powerful it would be to see the hero fall, but we can guarantee they never contemplated the next-level nostalgia of seeing Lion-O return the hero's sword to his grieving father. But even before the pair can see to healing Lion-O's sliced eye (expect that scar to stick around), the world begins to shake all over again: this time, it's the Spirits of Evil themselves arriving to terrorize Eternia. It would appear the might of the ThunderCats is too much even for Skeletor - now having made an uneasy alliance with the remains of Mumm-Ra still alive inside his own body.
In other words: "He-Man/ThunderCats" has gotten as surprising as it has weird and incredible... and it doesn't look to be slowing down yet.
He-Man/Thundercats #3 is available now.