Maestro: War and Pax review – the origins of a twisted take on the Hulk

Peter David once again revisits the Maestro, the evil future version of the Hulk from his acclaimed 90s story Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect in Maestro: War and Pax. After deposing Dystopia’s ancient ruler, the Maestro sets his sights even bigger. It’s time everyone left on the ravaged planet Earth recognized their one true god! But the Maestro isn’t the only would-be immortal left… and if he wants to truly dominate the globe, he’ll have to face the most powerful beings left in creation. The Pantheon sees all — including a Hulk too powerful to leave alive!

Peter David has long been one of Marvel’s top writers, with legendary runs on Hulk, Spider-Man and X-Factor under his belt. He has had many successful revisits of his most famous series in recent years with new runs on X-Factor and Spider-Man 2099, along with revisiting his first era of writing Spider-Man in the various Symbiote Spider-Man mini-series. But it his origin story of the Maestro which has arguably struck the strongest chord. The Future Imperfect mini-series has long been considered one of the high points of David’s seminal Incredible Hulk run, with the Maestro becoming an iconic favourite amongst fans. David has revisited the character a handful of times since, but his 2020 series Maestro: Symphony in a Gamma Key really got people talking about the character again, which leads to this year’s sequel.

Like in the previous volume, the main highlight of this series is the Maestro himself. The premise of the Hulk having strength at even further unimaginable levels with the intelligence of Bruce Banner, but all his morals stripped away has always been an intriguing one. David delves even further into the character with his ruthless streak growing further and all shreds of conscience gone. We get to see how The Maestro seizes power and batters any attempt at resistance, as well as some superb character moments. The way he plays off other characters like Machine Man and Doctor Doom (whmo he now has a lot in common with) display the dramatic shift in character from the Hulk most know and love. The key factor of this arc though is the return of The Pantheon – the Hulk’s former teammates during part of David’s run who now have to try and take down their former leader. It is a treat seeing these characters return and David hasn’t missed a beat.

Javier Pina handles the art and does a tremendous job in following on from the style set by German Peralta in the previous series. He excels in the action sequences and truly nails the nasty streak that the Maestro possesses. Maestro can go from calm and regal to destructive and violent in the blink of an eye, and Peralta’s art captures the little nuances that express these shifts.

Hulk fans definitely need this in their collection and any new readers should take this opportunity to delve into the origin of this villainous twist on one of Marvel’s most iconic characters.

Maestro: War and Pax is out now from Marvel  (9781302928742, p/b, £13.50)

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