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Welcome to the latest installment of Breather Books. These are comic book stories that are commonly referred to as “done-in-one”. There are no 12 part “epics” that will change everything, for-real-this time, here.  Instead these are single issues, or graphic novels, that can be enjoyed, as a complete story, start to finish. If you are tired of event books and need a rest, these books are for you.

In this Breather Books post I am spotlighting the first in a series of standalone specials focusing on He-Man’s villains. Masters of The Universe, Icons of Evil: Beast Man tells the story of how Beast Man came to align himself with Skeletor.

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Published by Image Comics in 2003, this comic was part of a Masters of the Universe relaunch in the early 2000’s. Created by Walking Dead collaborators, Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. This series of one-shots examined the origins of Skeletor’s minions and how they came to align themselves with him.

The story starts out with Keldor (not yet Skeletor), seeking out a savage monster to aid him in his plans of conquest. Although the creature is shown in shadow the reader immediately realizes that the one Keldor seeks is Beast Man. Traveling to a village, Keldor is attacked by a local who believes Keldor is trying to steal his woman. Beast Man lunges on the assailant and rescues Keldor who attempts to recruit him to his cause. Beast Man has other ideas and instead attacks Keldor. A pretty impressive fight ensues where Beast Man eventually defeats his future master. Unfortunately, Beast Man is then overcome by hunters from another village with a barrage of tranquilizer darts and they are both captured.

Regaining consciousness in a new village, Keldor realizes he is in a cell next to Beast Man and another prisoner. The new prisoner explains to them that their captors are cannibals and plan to eat them at that night’s festival. Keldor explains to Beast Man that they must work together to get out of their current predicament.

Surprising their guards they fight their way to the center of an arena where the feast is being prepared. A slew of guards charge them and Keldor and Beast Man commence to destroying them. When the chief attempts to attack Beast Man, Keldor unleashes his full power upon the chief, seemingly decapitating him. They escape, but the village’s army pursues them. On the run and faced with the power Keldor possesses, Beast Man swears his allegiance to the future scourge of Eternia.

This issue does a great job of showing things from Beast Man’s perspective. A wild animal who cannot be tamed, realizing he is outgunned and turning to Keldor for protection. It helps to explain why he later endures all the abuse he takes from Skeletor. As with the other books in this series, it also shows how formidable the individual Evil Warriors are on their own.

I’m not sure if this issue is available digitally anywhere, but I did find it on a couple of comic shops online. The Masters of the Universe: Icons of Evil trade paperback that collected this is long out of print. With the license now being with DC Comics, it would be up to them to re-release these stories. Which is probably a long shot at this point, but is too bad because this is a good story. Plus, always check to see if your local comic shop has it in stock first.

Today’s lesson was about cooperation. Keldor and Beast Man couldn’t have escaped from the cannibals on their own. By working together, they found the job was easy. Remember, it’s always more fun to work with a friend. Until next time…

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