Maestro is a character hardcore Marvel Comics fans will know, but he’s far from overused to the point of saturation. Most recently he was used well by Jeff Lemire in Old Man Logan, but since his creation by Peter David and George Pérez in 1992 he’s been an Elseworlds-style version of Hulk that’s intriguing but never too complicated.
Enter Maestro #1, a new first-ever told origin story for the character. This is a story that will likely cause most to think, “Why should I care?” but once you put it down you realize Peter David and German Peralta have a bona fide good story to tell here.
The book opens with the traditional Peter David Hulk fighting a Sentinel and speaking eloquently. He’s a smart Bruce Banner in the Hulk body. Drawn by Dale Keown, the story is reminiscent of the classic ’90s run for the character. As the story pushes on, we meet his wife Betty and see he has two kids named Thaddeus and Rick. Those are two very familiar names to the Hulk mythos, but soon things don’t quite add up.
This tale takes a sharp turn from the opening pages to reveal a horrific future Hulk now must navigate through. There are plenty of nods to past stories, too — you can tell this is written by a seasoned Marvel writer like David. The fan-service flows well with a new imagining of what happened to the Marvel universe. Above all else, you can see how David and Peralta are pushing the Hulk to the point where he’ll eventually turn into the evil mastermind that is Maestro.
This chunk of the story does last a while, and when paired with the opening the story doesn’t move along quite as quickly I’d like. It does lead into an interesting reveal in regards to heroes in a world struck with a calamity that hits close to home given the pandemic today.
That strong statement is about heroes and their relationship with regular people. It’s a harsh idea and it reduces the narrative from the usual unrealistic good guys vs. bad guy comics to something much more relatable to our reality. In fact, I’d argue this book is offering a closer depiction of heroes in our world than what we usually see in the 616. By the end of the issue, I’m on board for what the creative team has in store as it tracks with other great Marvel alternate reality stories like Old Man Logan.
The art holds up this book too, bringing it to the next level. Keown’s super detailed style brings you back to the ’90s perfectly, and Peralta’s style helps convey the grungy, dark tone of this scary future. Jesus Aburtov colors Peralta with Jason Keith on the opening Keown scene and it’s a smart choice. Aburtov gives the “now” part of the book a more realistic tone while Keith gives a shiny, positive sheen to the opening scene. It helps juxtapose a dream-life versus harsh reality.
If you asked me before reading this if we needed a Maestro origin story I would have said flatly no, but now that I’ve read it I can’t deny the intriguing story introduced here. We’re essentially seeing the disassembling of a hero and I can’t wait to see how he continues to grow into a supervillain that could rival any other.