Ladybird Books, £0.75, ISBN 0-7214-0811-7
The theme for the TBR Challenge this month is “Danger!” and you know what, there is nothing more dangerous than living in a castle when it’s being attacked by monsters. Lucky me, as it happens, I have just the story…
Oh, now this is a pleasant surprise. Castle Grayskull Under Attack! is a considerable upgrade of the previous title. There’s some pretty good planning from Skeletor, although with him being what he is, he ends up half-assing things, and while Stratos shows up, he’s pretty useful for once as an errand boy.
Skeletor has given up on the power of shadows, now that he has something better. With a tablet containing “secrets of ancient Eternians”, he uses the information to construct a huge cannon that can create an invisible bubble around Castle Grayskull, completely rendering all the mechanical devices within the bubble useless. Meanwhile, Mer-Man has his cute shoggoth-with-limbs minions create a dam out of ice near the river that flows into the castle moat, slowly causing water levels to rise around the castle.
Teela spots Mer-Man’s minions around earlier, while she is in “deep discussion” with Stratos in Castle Grayskull. Oh, I bet it is deep indeed. Look, I know he’s a useless-beyond-useless beta male that can barely be counted on to even fly correctly in a straight line, but that body ain’t bad if one is into grey feathers and fur, and who knows, maybe Teela likes that kind of thing when it comes to her married boyfriends. Anyway, Teela immediately summons He-Man over, because that’s what any sane person will do when the other option is to rely on Stratos.
So He-Man runs over and… spends the night in Castle Grayskull? Maybe Teela throws some great parties to help everyone pass the time.
When morning comes, the water levels have risen, and oh no, all kinds of cute, adorable Lovecraftian sea monsters have surrounded Castle Grayskull. All the castle defenses are dead because of the bubble, so the good guys have no idea what has hit them. He-Man tells Teela that oh, he can make his way through land, no biggie, but he must also think of the welfare of the innocent folks staying in the castle. Wait… who else is staying in the castle again? Just how many people are having parties in there? In the cartoon, it seems like only the Sorceress haunts that place, but clearly this is a different version of the He-Man show as that lady is nowhere to be seen.
Anyway, instead of asking He-Man to then go jump into the water and use his super strength to demolish all the tentacled brutes down there, the good guys gape at the whole scenery, use swords and spears to poke at the beasts a bit, and then He-Man realizes that Stratos exists. I know, I usually forget his existence too. So he sends Stratos to go seek Man-at-Arms, who apparently stays at the royal palace and doesn’t join the parties at Castle Grayskull.
Ooh, Man-at-Arms has a legion of short, green-skinned midgets to run his workshop! They realize that solar power is just the thing they need, so he has his slaves, er, employees construct a giant solar-powered cannon.
All this while, Skeletor is waiting for the folks in Castle Grayskull to surrender. Seriously, he could have asked Mer-Man to charge with his little Cthulhu minions, but no. He just stands there on his spot, cackling like an idiot. Oh wait, he’s an idiot. Never mind.
Man-at-Arms boards the Wind Raider, apparently because it’s run on wind and hence isn’t affected by the bubble I guess, and carries over the solar cannon to Castle Grayskull. He then lowers the cannon and Teela helps to move it into place on one of the towers of Castle Grayskull. Stratos is just flying around, likely gaping like a mouth-breathing idiot, all this while. Then again, it’s good that he’s not helping. Things go really wrong when he tries to help.
Teela then starts the cannon and woosh! It almost hits Skeletor, maybe because Teela is that kind of lucky SOB that hits the jackpot the first time she pulls a slot machine. Skeletor is convinced that his own cannon must be having issues, as that idiot clearly hasn’t heard of solar power. He demands that his minions increase the power of the cannon, so much so that it threatens to explode from all the overload. Meanwhile, Stratos manages to fly around and help Teela spot the dam, so now she aims the cannon at it.
Of course, what you think will happen does happen next. The dam breaks, and because Skeletor for some reason has parked his cannon right in the middle, the surging water completely demolishes the cannon. So, the skull-headed nincompoop rages, tries to blast Mer-Man with his sword as a mean to express his impotent rage, and ends up instead blowing up what remains of his damaged cannon. He finally throws the tablet into a volcano—clearly, the information on the tablet is wrong, that’s why he failed this time. The good guys then throw another party in Castle Grayskull.
I’m not going to lie, this one is pretty fun. Sure, Skeletor is once again a complete imbecile, but he has reached advanced levels of Wil E Coyote-tomfoolery here that I can only laugh at his expense. Meanwhile, the sea monsters attacking Castle Grayskull are really well-rendered, and as someone that adores anything Lovecraft, I love them. They are definitely Kiddies’ First Cthulhu material. The scenes of them menacing the good guys are nicely staged and appropriately dramatic, and Stratos isn’t completely useless here. Party!