He-Man has more raw power, but his friend Duncan has the brains and high-tech toys to more than make up the difference.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Masters of the Universe: Revelation, now streaming on Netflix.
Masters of the Universe: Revelation is postulated as a direct sequel to the classic 1980s cartoon, especially in a flashback in RevelationEpisode 3, “The Most Dangerous Man in Eternia”. It depicts Duncan, Man-At-Arms, in his prime, and it takes place during the show above and allows Man-at-Arms to serve as the hero when he comes to the rescue of He-Man and Teela. His location at the beginning of the episode is not a mistake, and indeed makes a startling admission: Although he wields the power of Grayskull, He-Man is not the most powerful man in all of Eternia. Duncan is.
Revelation is charged with preserving the sunny optimism and childlike wonder of Eternia’s past in contrast to her more engaged present, and both Duncan and the reveal are a big part of that. The reveal constitutes a sea change in the status of Man-At-Arms in Eternia, not only in the new show, but also in the old one. But rather than interrupting the Eternia mythology, it provides a stronger reason why Man-at-Arms was always by He-Man’s side.
Duncan’s relationship with He-Man in the 1980s series was a combination of mentor and partner. It exhibited quiet competence, a scientist and engineer who helped design the heroes’ weapons, and was entrusted with He-Man’s secret, but the show didn’t require any more in-depth character analysis beyond that. Revelation it changes the equation, not just by revealing greater complexities between the two, but by doing so in a way that enhances rather than detracts from their previous appearances. In Duncan’s case, it provides a more complete analysis of his abilities, as well as an exploration of what “Man at Arms” really means, and how much more useful it can even be than the Power of Grayskull.
“The Most Dangerous Man in Eternia” begins with Evil-Lyn’s brief assessment of who is the true power in Eternia: “He-Man was a glorified good-good. Now Man-At-Arms, he was always the real threat. I told every Mountain Serpent over and over that he was the most dangerous man in all of Eternia. ” The subsequent appearance of Roboto, whom Duncan built to be his perfect duplicate, confirms his statement, as does the climax of the episode, when he comes to rescue Teela and her crew from Mer-Man. The fight allows Duncan to display the full range of his suit’s abilities, which would rival Tony Stark’s for its variety and lethality.
His abilities are untouchable, as are the effects. Not only does he dispatch Mer-Man’s forces with ease, but he also defends Castle Grayskull against the Tri-Klops forces single-handedly in Season 1, Episode 5, “The Forge in the Forest of Eternity.” The mystical power He-Man relied on is gone, but Duncan’s abilities remain because they don’t depend on anything mystical or supernatural. He is a military genius, a master tactician, and a smart engineer, allowing him to build and use all kinds of amazing gadgets. None of that faded with Eternia’s magic, and while He-Man may be gone, Duncan’s powers have barely missed a beat.
That, in turn, puts her previous relationship with He-Man in a completely different light. It makes you much more of a teacher and guide than a partner. In fact, it suggests that He-Man trusted him precisely because he could bring so much to the table that the Champion of Grayskull couldn’t, and that if he failed, Duncan was the one who truly served as Eternia’s last hope. It fits very well into Teela’s old man-at-arms position, which she inherited from Duncan and, as Cringer explains, meant that He-Man trusted her to do the right thing if he left. It is a reflection of the respect she has for her predecessor, as well as the confidence she has in her ability to live up to the title.
Power is a relative thing, of course, and Duncan will never have the superhuman abilities that He-Man possesses. But, at the end of the day, the way he applies his own abilities is not only comparable, but superior in enough ways to surpass He-Man’s brute strength. That agrees with Apocalypse Ongoing topics of magic versus technology, and given the way the first half of the season ends, it can play a big part in what comes next. Duncan may prove his power once again.
Executive produced by Kevin Smith, the first five episodes of Masters of the Universe: Revelation are available on Netflix.
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