Writer: Peter David
Art: German Peralta
Opening Scene Art: Dale Keown
Colors: Jesus Aburtov
Opening Scene Colors: Jason Keith
Letters: VC’s Ariana Maher
In the ‘90s the Incredible Hulk was a must-read book. For 12 years legendary writer Peter David chronicled the adventures of Marvel’s gamma irradiated goliath, their walking personification of mass destruction. Peter David gave depth to the Hulk that hadn’t been seen in some time. Too often a Hulk story comprised of the Hulk showing up in some desert town, getting into a massive battle with another super powered villain, and destroying said town in the ensuing battle and then the military would show up and attack the Hulk causing even more death and destruction and then the comic would end. Every now and then there would be a writer or artist who would add a little twist or some more depth but no one developed the Hulk better than Peter David. For over 140 issues David wrote incredible enthralling stories that developed the character of the Hulk, Bruce Banner, and his incredible supporting cast. Yet amongst David’s most significant impact on the Hulk was the Professor Hulk, a Hulk with the Strength of the Green Hulk, the cunning of the Gray Hulk, and the genius of Bruce Banner. Under this incarnation Bruce Banner was in full of control of his mental faculties while possessing the immense strength and power of the Hulk. It was an interesting incarnation of the Hulk and led to one of the greatest Hulk stories of all time– Future Imperfect.
Future Imperfect was the story of the Maestro, a future version of the Professor Hulk where the world had been devastated by Nuclear War and over 100 years the Hulk had asserted control of the world while becoming stronger from the massive radiation, he had absorbed over the years but also more cunning and vindictive. Maestro was in essence the worst possible version of the Hulk. Over a two-part prestige series David was joined by the magnificent comics legend George Perez in what was simply a masterpiece. In Future Imperfect the modern-day Professor Hulk goes to the future to deal with Maestro which leads to some of the most brutal Hulk scenes in the history of the book and one of the greatest most thought out endings in comics history. Maestro has returned in stories over the years, some written by David while others have not but nothing recaptures that first story. But what hasn’t really been told before is how Maestro came to be. That is until today and Maestro #1.
Peter David returns to one of his greatest contributions the Hulk mythology to finally deliver the origin story of Maestro. Maestro #1 begins in the near future of Peter David’s run if it had continued, when a Professor Hulk has joined the Avengers and lives a peaceful existence with Betty Ross and their two sons. In this future the Hulk battles Sentinels and every other threat affecting the earth. Yet this idyllic world seems to be that, idyllic and unreal. Enter AIM and the truth of the situation and the beginnings of how the Maestro came to be. Tying back to the original series David finally lays out what happened to the Marvel universe that would drive the highly intelligent and heroic Hulk to become the despotic tyrant, his own worst foe…. The Maestro.
Peter David’s the Incredible Hulk was a must read for me back in the day and it’s one of the few times I consistently read a Hulk book and I still remember being blown away by the original Future Imperfect. That being said I’m not sure that the world needs an origin story for Maestro, especially one that is catering to a small subsect of the comic reading world who read and remembers David’s time on the Incredible Hulk. It was nice to see ‘90s phenom artist Dale Keown draw the first few pages of this story as he was one of the hot artists of the era who climbed to fame and an Image book (Pitt) on the back of Peter David’s Hulk. His style has changed over the years but seeing him depict the Professor Hulk once more hit all the right nostalgic feelings I wanted from this book. German Peralta’s art is not a vast departure from Keown’s but it has a distinct feel all its own with a bit of a horror vibe to it. While I think having Keown do the entire book would have been a bigger sell for me due to his ties to the book’s past Peralta’s art is fitting for the content of this story. I understand that Perez has all but retired from comics due to his health issues but I do think it would have been smart of Marvel to persuade Keown to provide the art for this entire mini-series as I believe that would be a greater selling point. Yet this book caters to a very narrow audience as it is a nostalgic trip back to the ‘90s and those of us who revere Peter David’s run on the Incredible Hulk.
Verdict: Maestro #1 is a fun trip back to the ‘90s and the Professor Hulk era of the Incredible Hulk and the origin story of his greatest enemy… himself. With the return of Peter David and for few pages Dale Keown this is a book with a distinct yet narrow audience, but for that group it is a Buy. For everyone else, it’s a probably a trade wait and something you pick up after you dive into the glory that is Future Imperfect.