It's... sometime in the near-future. And the Hulk is... happy?
Maybe... maybe not...
As the lies unravel, Dr. Bruce Banner - a.k.a. THE INCREDIBLE HULK - comes to realize that nothing is quite what it seems...
What's REALLY going on? And how does it all lead to the Hulk becoming the worst version of himself - the future tyrant, THE MAESTRO?
Once upon a time, scribe Peter David and artist George Perez wrote a little tale entitled Future Imperfect. It told the story of a Hulk in the distant future gone horribly evil, ruling over the final dregs of humanity with a cruel, iron fist. He murdered all the heroes, and only his past self could be brought forward to end his brutal reign.
How the Maestro came to power was briefly covered: “Rads didn’t bother him. When it all went down, the radiation pumped him up.” Now, almost thirty years later, Peter David returns to the peak of his seminal Incredible Hulk run for, at last, the Maestro’s origin.
George Perez isn’t around this time, happily enjoying a well-earned retirement. Hot up-and-comer German Peralta is, though, bringing a grimy, darkened sensibility to the world the Hulk finds himself in, one where nothing is as it seems – at first. Then, reality is all to palpable. With him, at least for the opening sequence, is famed Hulk artist Dale Keown, looking perhaps a bit worn with age but still capable of rendering the Hulk with a raw power that few other artists can match.
The set-up isn’t necessarily the most original, but by design it’s pretty easy to see through almost right away. The Hulk is, to paraphrase the famous tagline from Howard the Duck, trapped in a world he pretty easily made. Without spoiling too much, the Hulk finds himself in a world he is absolutely suited for – whether he wants to be or not. There’s a fun turn with a classic Marvel villain on his last legs (something of a Peter David specialty; see: Dr. Doom in X-Factor), and a whole lot of existential dread to unfurl as the Hulk learns the sad truth about humanity, society, and the failure of heroes. There’s a lot of rumination to be had on the limitations of the capes-and-tights set, and that rumination seems to pave the way for the Hulk to become the worst version of himself.
Throughout David’s masterful script, there are moments of fun, but more a sense of mounting dread, accentuated by Peralta’s masterful art. Peralta couldn’t have a more different style than George Perez, but he brings his own kind of gravitas to the story nonetheless. The artist seems to recognize the giant artistic shoes he has to fill, and more than rises to the challenge.
Prequels are, by their very nature, difficult to pull off, because readers already know the end of the story. The fun lies in uncovering unique and surprising ways to get there. To that end, it would have been easy – far too easy – for David and company to have rested on their laurels and had some fun revisiting a classic. Fortunately, that’s not the case. One issue of Maestro in, and what Peter David, German Peralta, and Dale Keown have instead done is created a dark and hopeless world where it’s not enough to be just he Hulk. A world that is leaderless, but needs more than a leader.
A world that needs a maestro.
Maestro #1 is no mere nostalgia trip. It's a dark, masterful look into the psyche of Marvel's most powerful force, and the world that ultimately forces him to become the worst, most vile version of himself. This is a stunner of a comic with a huge legacy to fulfill, and it more than does so as the entire creative team rises to the challenge - and then some.
Maestro #1: My Own Worst Enemy (EARLY Spoiler-Free Review!)
Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 9/109/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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