NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for He-Man/ThunderCats #4
DC Comics made a promise to every fan of 1980s cartoons when the limited series He-Man/ThunderCats was announced: that they would finally see the Master of the Universe cross blades with Lion-O of Third Earth. It's a fair assumption, but the series itself dropped a few bombshells before He-Man and Lion-O could actually meet - and the odds of a team-up seemed particularly long once He-Man... well, died. But who are we kidding? Royal funeral or no, we always knew that Prince Adam would be rising to greatness once again.
In fact, it was a secret so obvious, DC Comics saw fit to spoil it in the cover art for Issue #3, depicting He-Man raising his Power Sword high, ready to drop it on an enraged Lion-O (wielding the Sword of Omens). The comic itself takes an unexpected twist to get to the battle. But what is predictable is that when the dust has settled from the skirmish, it's these iconic swords who truly take the spotlight. So, He-Man vs. Lion-O: who ya got?
The Death of He-Man
We've been following the cosmic conflict that brought the homeworlds of both the ThunderCats and the Masters of the Universe into the same shared space, so if you need to catch up on the details, find them all here. Long story short: each of their villains - Skeletor and Mumm-Ra - were behind the ploy, with the ThunderCats nemesis seeking out Prince Adam's Power Sword to finally take on Lion-O. Adam's ability to call on the Power of Grayskull was all he needed to survive Mumm-Ra planting the sword straight through his chest, but when Skeletor claimed the power for himself, Adam succumbed to his wounds.
It was the victory that Skeletor had dreamed of for so long, claiming the Power Sword and, having reduced Mumm-Ra into dust and... drank him (never trust Skeletor), being able to bear the full force of the Power of Grayskull. The day seemed to have been won, with only Lion-O and the ThunderCats to defend Eternia from the onslaught of Grayskull. Typically, we would be willing to take that bet, especially given the pep talk delivered to the young king by Prince Adam's father. Unfortunately even the Sword of Omens seemed like a miniscule weapon when Skeletor and Mumm-Ra - having established an uneasy alliance, what with sharing one body now - returned to Eternia.
They didn't return alone, either. With their combined power, the two were able to command the Ancient Spirits of Evil whom Mumm-Ra had previously served. For newcomers, "ancient spirits" translates to "gigantic evil monsters destroying Eternia."
Lion-O Takes a Chance
As proof that even in the pages of so fantastical a comic crossover, "game recognize game," Lion-O decides that doing the kingly thing in this scenario means taking a leap of faith. Sweeping up the coffin containing Prince Adam's corpse and leaping onto the ThunderCats' spaceship, Lion-O heads away from the rampaging spirits reducing Eternia to rubble, and back to Third Earth - his own homeworld, and the location of Mumm-Ra's headquarters. The young king is well aware that there's little reason to hope as he slides the coffin into Mumm-Ra's Black Pyramid... but all the reason to give it a shot.
Knowing that Mumm-Ra relies on the magic of the pyramid - particularly the sarcophagus resting beneath a massive stone skull (one detail of many sure to delight fans of the cartoon) - Lion-O simply places Adam into the object, shuts it, and waits. As you might expect in this kind of story, magic soon strikes. And while the mystical methods of resurrecting Prince Adam certainly get the job done, there are some side effects. To be honest, they're the type of side effects you would expect when bringing a hero back from the dead using technology practiced by an evil, demonic sorcerer.
He-Man & Lion-O - Fight!
Unfortunately, the story has yet to explained exactly how the Power of Grayskull can be gifted to both Adam and Skeletor. But when Adam whispers the words from inside his (borrowed) sarcophagus, he emerges as fans expect him to... except for the glowing red eyes, the primal roar, and the fact that he tries to kill Lion-O the moment he sees him. Driven mad with rage (no doubt enhanced by the dark magics hijacked to return him to the land of the living), Lion-O has a hard time keeping his word to King Randor that his son would be returned in one piece.
The leader of the ThunderCats succeeds in stripping Adam of his sword and taking it for himself, likely made possible by Adam's compromised mental state (at least that's what he will claim), but has clearly underestimated just how strong He-Man actually is at full power. Of course, he's not the only one calling on the mystical powers channeled through his iconic sword. To bring himself up to the level of this Master of the Universe, Lion-O calls for the Eye of Thundera to "Give Me Power Beyond Power!"
The powerful stone contained within the Sword of Omens, predictably, grants the request.
With the odds evened, Lion-O and He-Man continue their match wielding massive stone statues in a jousting match. It will have to be a draw between the strength of the two, but He-Man is crazed enough to be outsmarted and unarmed. That leaves him open for one last ditch effort, as Lion-O once again calls on his sword to give him "Sight Beyond Sight." Fans of the ThunderCats will already know that such a command allows Lion-O to see across distance to whatever his heart requires, be it friends, family, or even enemies not yet encountered. But when he places the sword over He-Man's eyes hoping a vision of the prince's loved ones could snap him out of his rage, something different happens.
Rather than seeing what's taking place back home in Eternia, He-Man gets a glimpse of what will happen should Skeletor and Mumm-Ra be allowed to win the day. It's enough to return him to his sanity (just as Lion-O begins a killing blow), and the two chalk up the new gift of foresight to the combination of the Sword of Omens and the Power of Grayskull. Their fighting over, the two finally shake hands in friendship.
He-Man & Lion-O - Together At Last
The issue comes to a close with the two heroes agreeing to work together to save each of their people and homeworlds. It's likely where most readers had hoped to see the two begin their crossover, but it's hard to argue that this storyline isn't more earned as a result. And let's not forget that Prince Adam certainly has a lot to learn about being as noble and 'kingly' as he is powerful and invincible. Lion-O could be the one to teach him, having protected and lead his people despite his own doubts - and fresh off a speech about the duties of a king that King Randor's son is guaranteed not to have heard.
Their alliance comes not a moment too soon, as the Ancient Spirits of Evil close in on Castle Grayskull, led by Mumm-Ra and Skeletor. They think they've vanquished their foes once and for all, but have no idea of the two royal warriors - and mystical swords - that they bring with them. Needless to say, the next two issues should be something special.
He-Man/ThunderCats #4 is available now.