Overall, I was mildly disappointed with the Maestro mini-series as I felt it did not adequately explain the Hulk’s rationale to become a power-hungry dictator.
That said, the mini-series did make it clear there were other survivors in this post-apocalyptic world, so how would the newly-renamed Maestro finish his conquest of Earth if indeed he does rule the Earth during Future Imperfect?
Issue: Maestro: War and Pax #1, January 2021
Writer: Peter David
Artist: Javier Pina
The Plot: The Maestro decides to finish his domination of the human survivors, but not everyone is keen on playing along.
Commentary: OK, let’s just assume the Maestro is totally evil now and leave it at that. What causes him to change is immaterial since, well, he already has. This is about dealing with whatever handful of other survivors are still out there. The Maestro can claim Hercules’s old throne in what was once New York City, but there are other settlements out there, starting with what seems to be Hartford, Connecticut. The issue opens with the survivors there learning the hard way that they should have just accepted the Maestro’s offer to let him rule them as, within the first few pages, he’s wiped them all out with his own strength and his “dogs of war”. Oh sure, he initially just kills the adults, but it seems the surviving children aren’t all that grateful to the giant green man who just killed their parents even if he is promising food, shelter, and the like.
There’s really no redemption for a character like this.
The impetus does make a certain amount of sense. If the Maestro believes, as he seems to, that humanity left on its own is far too destructive and needs a (somewhat literally) strong hand to guide them, then why not just take them over? It doesn’t matter if these people want the Maestro to be their leader. They’re going to get it anyway. Free will is not an acceptable thing here.
Now, the Maestro does know of one settlement, the one Machine Man was running underground in Washington D.C. That in and of itself leads to an interesting confrontation that shows the Maestro is not necessarily unbeatable, and the best way to beat the Maestro might be to not fight him in the first place. That said, the real opposition to the Maestro is coming from other corners. There’s a fairly predictable one, and one that makes a lot of sense as long as the reader remembers this is Peter David’s work.
The former comes from one of Marvel’s heaviest hitters, namely Dr. Doom. While a twist in the narrative could reveal this Doom is just a particularly hardy robot, Doom is often depicted as the last man standing in any end-of-the-world scenario Marvel comes up with, and David himself has written stories set in the future where it turns out the last surviving superhero or villain is Doom. Doom is just a survivor. The only times when Doom might not be the last one standing might be when he is somehow taken down early. Doom isn’t without his weaknesses (his penchant for bloviating is what allowed Frank Castle to bring him down in Garth Ennis’s controversial What-If style story The Punisher Kills the Marvel Universe), but having Doom somehow survive a nuclear war and then go into some kind of hiding from the looks of things makes a lot of sense, and I would expect the Maestro to have to deal with Doom eventually.
The latter challenge comes from the Pantheon, a group of quasi-immortal characters David created and used for a while during his own Hulk run. The Pantheon weren’t exactly villains, but they do have a history with the Hulk, and given their general recuperative abilities, they could have survived a nuclear confrontation. That is, in a nutshell, what happened, though it looks like the group, all of maybe eight people with varying levels of superpowers, are just sitting in a bunker somewhere and waiting for a reason to maybe come out. They aren’t the type to join with Doom normally, even if he does come knocking, but they would if one of their own turned bad, and the Maestro is about as bad as they get.
So, the Maestro has a goal, and he has people working against him, but despite this, it’s still a prequel with a pre-ordained ending. For something like this, it’ll be the journey, not the conclusion that counts. I mean, I already know the Maestro will prevail, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good journey along the way.