The Hulk is no more. It is the time of THE MAESTRO.
Swear fealty or die.
Following the smash success of last year’s Maestro miniseries, the prequel to legendary Future Imperfect, writer Peter David returns to continue the tale of the former Hulk’s rise to power with War and Pax. And with artists Javier Pina and Jesus Aburtov in tow, the high level of execution in that series continues to exceed expectations. And as a meditation on the dangers of authoritarianism, its arrival couldn’t be more in the American zeitgeist.
Now that the Maestro has taken control of his predecessor’s lands (in a spectacularly violent dispatch of Hercules, see previous series for all the gory details!), he’s faced with the challenge all conquerors face: holding on to what he’s gained. And that means smashing all resistance, including an enclave of humanity lead by Machine Man (who, it must be said, looks pretty cool in a very Gambit-esque ensemble).
Despite these tried-and-true plot points, David knows how to execute them in such a way that no one could possibly not be entertained. The man knows that he’s treading on his own sacred ground here, crafting a prequel to what is likely going to stand as the cornerstone of his career. Ergo, the story has to be up to the standard set by the original. War & Pax may not be the gamechanger that Future Imperfect was, but it’s worthy of the legacy it’s inheriting. Javier Pina brings softer pencil and inks to the world of Dystopia than George Perez did, but his style still brings a sense of power and threat to the Maestro’s presence. Bruce Banner is gone. Hulk is gone. Only Maestro remains.
And yet, fragments of the king’s past continue to make themselves known. Maestro will never be truly free from the hero he used to be. Last miniseries, Rick Jones and Hercules made their presences known in decidedly different ways. This go-around, it’s the Pantheon, and if there’s any stumbling block, it’s the inclusion of supporting players from over a quarter-century ago in David’s original Hulk run who haven’t been heard from since. Older readers will no doubt be happy to see the long-lost Atalanta, Hector, Paris, and the rest; but newer ones or anyone unfamiliar with who the Pantheon is or what their connection to Hulk was will no doubt be left underwhelmed. Their inclusion is a nice tip of the hat at best and a nostalgia trip at worst, but is generally inoffensive in terms of storytelling.
War & Pax may seem a bit like a throwback to some, to a different time in comics. And maybe to a certain degree, it is. But that doesn’t mean it reads like something out of a time capsule. No, this is an engaging, well-executed comic on all levels that should be checked out, even if readers aren’t familiar with Peter David’s previous Hulk run. In fact, it should even serve as a gateway comic for that historic run! Don’t miss out!
Maestro: War & Pax #1 is a solid, sometimes even frightening comic about the dangers of authoritarianism. To call it timely might be an understatement. Don't miss out!
Maestro: War & Pax #1: Peace Was Never An Option (ADVANCED SPOILER FREE REVIEW)
Writing - 8.5/10
Storyline - 7.5/10
Art - 8/10
Color - 8/10
Cover Art - 9/10
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