In a future where humanity has become the architect of its own destruction, the man formerly known as Hulk believes he is the only person capable of ruling the puny humans. Having gone to extreme measures to usurp the Maestro’s title and kingdom, the devious despot has now set sights on his next target: the world. But with a pantheon of other immortals standing in his path, will the Maestro’s dreams of global domination be dashed before they can become a reality?
“Because there are others out there who still dream of something else! And dreams beget disaster. We’ve seen it! Indisputably! Human dreams have left humanity in ruins!”
Picking up after the events of Maestro, Peter David, Javier Pina, and Jesus Aburtov’s Maestro: War and Pax #1 follows the titular character on his path to conquering the rest of the survivors in Washington D.C. A large portion of this issue’s success relies on Peter David’s excellent character work, as well as Pina’s artwork and Aburtov’s colors. Unfortunately, there are a few narrative problems throughout this book that hinder the overall experience. Thankfully, Peter David recovers any lost footing in the surprise reveal of a supervillain desperate to throw a wrench into the Maestro’s plans.
One of my favorite elements of Maestro: War and Pax #1 is Peter David’s exploration of Hulk’s despot persona, Maestro. In this issue, David gives Maestro all of the trappings of the most infamous dictators throughout history. David allows Maestro to lure the reader in with the character’s sense of confidence and charisma. When asked what to do with the children of his victims, the character scoffs at the thought of their disposal, claiming, “We’re not monsters.” Additionally, the character’s use of confidence and humor throughout each battle has a way of allowing the reader to lower their defenses. In fact, this humor is what makes the character so enjoyable.
However, Peter David does an excellent job of not allowing the audience to become too enamored with the villain, as he juxtaposes these moments of humanity with every mustache-twirling diatribe you could associate with a classic comic book supervillain. In one sentence, Maestro makes the very noble claim that he wishes to eliminate humanity’s division. In the very next, he claims the only way to accomplish this is to eradicate all the dreamers in their society. With Maestro: War and Pax #1, Peter David perfectly executes the delicate tightrope balance between charisma and evil in such a way that even if you aren’t rooting for Maestro to win, there is still fun to be had.
None of Peter David’s excellent character examination would be possible without Javier Pina’s artwork and Jesus Aburtov’s colors. Pina and Aburtov do a great job rendering Maestro’s quieter, and often more devious, moments as well as the bombastic action sequences. Additionally, much of this issue is devoted to Maestro’s assault on the remaining survivors. As a result, Pina and Aburtov’s work do most of the heavy lifting. These creators do an excellent job rendering each action sequence. The entire battle between Maestro and a character returning from the previous series remains a highlight of the issue for me as its conclusion punctuates the story perfectly.
“Oh freaking flark. We are so screwed.”
Unfortunately, I have a few narrative problems with Maestro: War and Pax #1. As this issue is a sequel of the original Maestro series, it is not the best jumping on point for a new reader. Someone new to the series will get some enjoyment out of the book; however, as with most sequels, it is better if you have read the first.
This problem can also be extended to the reveal of a certain group of immortals who are aware of Maestro’s actions. Longtime readers will assuredly be aware of their relationship to the Hulk. However, anyone new to the series will most certainly be confused with these sequences. Ultimately, this feels like a slight misstep in an otherwise enjoyable story.
A one-two punch of humor and action, Maestro: War and Pax #1 is pure fun from cover to cover. Unfortunately, a few missteps prevent this issue from becoming a true knockout. Thankfully, the reveal of a certain supervillain has my interest piqued for the next installment.
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