The Hulk has been in many capable hands over his multi-decade existence, but Peter David’s tenure with the character has produced some of his greatest story arcs. Way back in 1992, David, along with artist George Perez, crafted an excellent dystopian future in an arc called Future Imperfect. In this shattered world, a tyrant known as Maestro rules over this realm with ruthless abandon. Having read the story back in the early ’90s, I was surprised to see a return to this world with David being the main creative force behind it. While this trade (collecting Maestro #1-5) has many fine moments, it ultimately feels unnecessary, even for fans of the Future Imperfect arc from years past.
Our narrative acts as a prequel to the aforementioned Hulk story, with the slow devolution of Hulk into a merciless despot. We get details as to how the world fell into disarray and what happened to Marvel’s greatest heroes, as well as the Hulk’s development into this world’s ruler. We have an almost Cold War like descent into nuclear destruction, only to have M.O.D.O.K provide exposition and fill in the necessary details to Banner, who has been stored as a possible solution to the newly radiated world. As Hulk begins to navigate this new world, he encounters heroes of old and begins to transition into the villain Maestro.
We know that Banner will eventually become the Future Impact villain, so each reveal doesn’t carry much narrative weight, but Peter David’s focused and effortless storytelling kept me interested throughout. Few needed a prequel to a dystopian future from 30 years ago, but David’s love for the character and the Marvel Universe as a whole propels this book forward. Multiple nods to other Marvel dystopias (like Days of Future Past) are seamlessly worked into a character study in the Hulk without it feeling like pointless fan service. David could have easily found a way to shoehorn the biggest figures in the MCU into this book, but tactfully brings in those most appropriate for the story at hand.
German Peralta, an up and coming artist at Marvel, complements David’s script, giving Hulk’s journey a film-like gravitas. The action is smooth and engaging with strong panel layout; he gives Hulk somatic weight. His line work is in turn complemented by colorist Jesus Aburtov and the opening scene from penciler Dale Keown. The art team does consistent work throughout, with David’s minimal script allowing their pages to shine.
Mind you, with this being a dystopian comic universe, it’s a pretty depressing world. Considering the downer of the last year, it wasn’t exactly the type of story I was looking to explore. With that in mind, it’s put together with care and love thanks to Peter David’s script and the colorful art from German Peralta. The world may not have needed a Maestro prequel, but at least we got one from creators who hold reverence for the character.
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