He-Man and the Masters of the Universe Vol. 1

In 1983, "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" ruled the airwaves. The children's animated classic took place in Eternia, a land of magic and fantasy. The show tells the story of cowardly Prince Adam, son to Eternia's rulers, King Randor and Queen Marlena. Adam possesses the Power Sword, and when he holds it aloft and says the magic words, "By the Power of Grayskull! I have the Power!" he transforms into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe.

The character of He-Man is a bizarre fusion of Luke Skywalker and Hulk Hogan, with a dash of Conan the Barbarian's fashion sense. A heroic muscleman, He-Man always helps his friends and defends Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor, a skull-faced villain with hopes of vanquishing Eternia's throne.

"He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" spawned its own universal franchise, including numerous spin-offs. There was even a show devoted to He-man's twin sister, "She-Ra: The Princess of Power." See what I'm saying about that whole ‘Luke Skywalker' thing? Anyway, there were copious comics, toys, cartoons and even a 1987 live-action film starring Dolph Lundgren that made He-Man an icon of the ‘80s.

But that was the ‘80s. Lets fast-forward to 2002. The Cartoon Network decided to dust off the Power Sword and put power back into a long-dead franchise. This version of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" sought to return to the roots of the storyline and provide broader explorations never reached in the first series.

I'll be honest, the original series was always a bit shallow - I mean, what else could you expect from a young boys' cartoon. The 2002 version includes origins for each character, and some animated debuts of familiar faces from the toy line. Perhaps the coolest thing about this series is that it brought back several writers from the original series, such as Larry DiTillio.

I just finished the Volume One DVD of the 2002-2003 "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" series and decided to retroactively review it, being as not many people even know it exists.

Enclosed within this awesome DVD are the first 13 episodes from the award-winning series. Also included is an eight-page booklet and two "Masters of the Universe" collectible art cards by acclaimed comic book artists Ben Templesmith (30 Days of Night, Silent Hill) and Dustin Nguyen (Superman/Batman Detective Comics).

Each episode includes the original morals segments that never aired on Cartoon Network. There's a sketch gallery as well as a really cold "World of He-Man" documentary. It's also worth nothing that there is audio commentary on five episodes with director Gary Hartle, story editor Dean Stefan, and writer Larry DiTillio.

What you get with Volume One is 286 minutes of He-Man, displayed beautiful in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with digital surround sound.

So now that the technicalities are out of the way, lets talk about the series itself. Volume One kicks off with a three-part origin story for the "Masters of the Universe" saga. All your old favorites are here: Man-At-Arms, Stratos, Ram-Man, and even Orko (who is much like the Jar Jar Binks of Eternia).

We also get reintroduced to such baddies as Evil Lynn, Beast Man, Trap Jaw and Merman. What's extremely cool is that we actually see Skeletor's origin. Before he became the skull-faced megalomaniac we all love, Skeletor was Keldor - King Randor's brother.

Keldor was jealous of his brother's throne and wished to steal it away from him, so he set a trap. He attempted to throw some sort of acidic formula on Randor (infused with dark magic of course) but it backfired and thus, Skeletor was born.

We also get cool back-stories for Castle Grayskull as well as the Sword of Power. It's also worth mentioning that Prince Adam isn't quite like his ‘80s counterpart. He's less of a wimpy coward and more of a spoiled, angst-ridden, rebellious teenager. When the Sorceress and Man-At-Arms approach him about his destiny as He-Man, he initially blows it off as a joke, and only through learning the truth for himself does he see what his destiny holds.

Aside from the storytelling, the animation also receives a supercharged upgrade. The animation of the ‘80s cartoon was limited at best, with He-Man horizontally hurling baddies off screen, whereas this new series allows for more action-packed choreography that feels like "The Matrix." Also, the voice acting, while not as iconic as the ‘80s series, is really great and breathes a lot of new life into some old, rather boring, characters.

All in all, if you have any fond memories of He-Man from the ‘80s and are looking to feed that nostalgia with something new, then you should definitely check out this Volume One DVD of "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe." Not only is it fun and entertaining, but it's also a good warm-up for the upcoming live-action film.

Reviewed by: adam