Ladybird Books, £0.70, ISBN 0-7214-0860-5
Skeletor is an imbecile, but I think we can now certify him as insane. Why? This is because, in Wings of Doom, he decides to get back at one of He-Man’s “most skilled” allies. Yes, he is targeting the “clever and brave”—wait for it—Stratos.
This is where we all throw our heads back and laugh, right?
Oh, wait, he’s serious?
Okay, out of the blue, it is revealed that Stratos has a wife, Delora, whom he dotes on. Hmm, so I guess he really is playing chess with Teela all those times when he goes off to pay her a visit at Castle Grayskull. So what Skeletor does is to summon a giant wyvern, which happily flies into the Stratos’s kingdom, and pluck the wife off to deposit her on a tiny island surrounded by magma and wyverns. Wait… these people have no security? Not even some guards to protect the queen?
While all this is happening, the devoted husband is as usual having tea and cakes with He-Man, Teela, and “Master-at-Arms”. The latter looks a lot like Man-at-Arms, but since he has a different name, I’d assume that he must be a twin brother or something, pulled out from the same rear end cavity that Delora came out from. Stratos receives Skeletor’s summon to go turn himself in or the wife will be ravished by reptilian fiends… oops, sorry, that’s the Japanese cartoon version of this story. Anyway, Skeletor tells Stratos that he has better get his rear end over to Snake Mountain or the wife is going to come to a bad end.
Of course, He-Man is like hello, strongest man in the universe here. Meanwhile, the Sorceress sends Zoar, her familiar, to tell He-Man that Delora is held captive in the Vale of Caldor. Great, who needs to do actual investigation and such, right? So off the good guys go to save Delora. He-Man sends Stratos off to Snake Mountain, telling that guy to merely pretend to surrender in order to distract Skeletor from keeping too close an eye on the movement of the rest of the gang. I suspect he also does this to keep the useless Stratos out of the way, and it’s also likely that he won’t be too sad if that useless feathered tosser gets himself killed in the process.
Meanwhile, we have seen that Man-at-Arms… wait, what happened to Master-at-Arms? Anyway, we see in the previous book linked to earlier that he keeps a workshop full of midget slaves. Well, surprise, this time around he claims to be good friends with some dwarfs of Ice Mountains, making them guide him and the gang through the underground tunnels to the Vale of Caldor. This is where the author pads the pages with pointless encounters with monsters that are quickly overcome by the good guys simply by wagging a weapon around. You know, for a supposedly hidden and forbidden place, the Vale of Caldor seems to be well-known by many folks nonetheless.
Finally, the good stuff comes. He-Man, Teela, and Man-at-Arms plan an admittedly pretty fun way to rescue Delora without being spotted by her wyvern captors. Stratos making a complete fool out of Skeletor also makes for some amusing moments, and seriously, Skeletor’s humiliation is complete when he’s outwitted by Stratos of all people.
So all in all, Wings of Doom is actually not bad for a story with Stratos being the pivotal plot point. Sure, the really good stuff happens only in the late third of the whole thing, but since this is a quick read, it’s not like I have to slog through many boring parts to get to the good bits. The artwork is also pretty good at times, with beefcake shots and loincloths for the kids that like to look at boys, and cleavage plus bikini bottoms for those that like to look at girls. Oh, it’s nice that Stratos actually gets a decent moment to shine for once without completely making a fool of himself. So yeah, maybe there is some hope yet for that useless feathered tosser.