The origin story, more or less, of the Hulk’s Maestro persona seems to be moving along rather smoothly, but if anything, Peter David’s story has gone a long way to say where, perhaps, other Marvel characters might have gone when the world went nuclear.
It doesn’t always go well for the Hulk.
Issue: Maestro #3, October 2020
Writer: Peter David
Artists: Germans Peralta and Dale Keown
The Plot: The Hulk meets two old allies, and the encounters could not go more differently.
Commentary: For the most part, I trust Peter David to tell this story. Did it need to be told? Not really. But he’s telling it, so let’s see where he’s going with it. The thing about the Marvel Universe is there were always going to be people where the reader might ask, “Wait, shouldn’t Character X have survived that nuclear war?” The original Future Imperfect made it very clear that most if not all of the Marvel heroes and villains were killed in a nuclear war that wiped out most of the world’s population. But so far in Maestro, the series has given a better explanation for how the Hulk himself lived through it, and if the Hulk could live through the war, so could others. The series has shown that the Abomination and Vapor of the U-Foes are in suspended animation, Machine Man is keeping a small group alive underneath the White House, MODOK is doing the same for an AIM conclave under Los Angeles, and now Hercules is the ruler of a still largely intact (sort of) New York City. Yes, the mysterious Maestro is Hercules, and he’s very glad to see the Hulk.
That’s mostly because Hercules wants a good fight, and the Hulk can give him one. Granted, he gives no actual warning before he starts throwing punches, and the Hulk opts to escape rather than fight, but Hercules is mostly looking for his idea of a good time. It seems Hercules mostly runs the city as his personal playground, and he’s not exactly doing anything for the benefit of the greater good. He parties, breaks things, seduces women, and everyone else just tries to stay out of his way.
Enter Rick Jones, asking the Hulk for help. Now, I could point out that Rick’s hideout in the original Future Imperfect story, where he was collecting superhero weapons and the like, did seem to be a place where the Hulk didn’t know it even existed. This issue has the two go down there, look over the collection for a bit, and talk. So, by the time Future Imperfect rolls around, did the Maestro forget the place was down there, or did he just not care? I suppose either would work, though I prefer the idea that Rick was down there the whole time and the Maestro just didn’t realize it.
However, the meeting does prove useful to the reader in helping to establish why the Hulk would go bad. As a character, the Hulk generally had a low opinion of most people anyway as they just tended to attack him when he wanted to be left alone. But the Hulk could generally be counted on to do what was right more often than not. Even when he was cast in a villain’s position by various stories, he was still treated more like a victim than anything else. But this is the origin of the Maestro, so what would this Banner do when Rick suggests taking Hercules out to help everyone else?
He says he doesn’t care because regular people destroyed the world and caused all this in the first place.
Which, wow. That’s, like, villain talk. It doesn’t go any easier when the Hulk leaves to build his army of robo-dog monsters at an Alchemax factory (was engineering one of the Hulk’s skills before?) and after announcing his presence to the people of Dystopia…they all collectively shrug and wander off. Though at least Hercules can get himself a good fight…
Yeah, that sounds like what would happen if Hercules was in charge of a city.
This took a bit of a dark turn. It’s a welcome one, but still dark. How the Hulk went from basically a confused tourist exploring a destroyed world to an apathetic conqueror might be a bit on the fast side, but it still more or less fits with the Hulk as a character. I might have liked a more gradual descent to evil, but this isn’t bad. If anything, the Hulk’s attitude more or less fits in with the Hulk as a character. He’s always been a monster. He just hasn’t always been one on the inside as well as the outside.
Oh, and in the short back-up story drawn by Dale Keown, it shows how Rick’s wife Marlo was killed while the pair were out scavenging, but it opens with the interesting observation that in every future timeline, Wolverine always dies the same way as he did in the classic X-Men story Days of Future Past.