What’s the greatest threat for the Hulk, the strongest one of all? Or even for Bruce Banner, the smartest one of all? I mean, he’d likely survive a nuclear apocalypse, and be left behind with the cockroaches and whoever might have hidden out…
There’s a story in the comics where just such a turn of events happens. As the strongest survivor of World War 3, the Hulk by right of conquest becomes the Maestro. And so we find the Hulk’s greatest threat – his own cruel future self.
The Maestro is the creation of Peter David, one of the best known writers of The Incredible Hulk series (and my personal favorite author). In a two-part comic called Future Imperfect, the Hulk is recruited to head to the future and defeat the Maestro. As the only one who possibly could.
They duke it out physically, where the 100-years-older Maestro is nonetheless stronger, having absorbed so much radiation. Of course, it’s still a pretty good fight…
The Maestro is stronger, and he wins the fight, taking Hulk prisoner. At that point, the battle turns internal. The Maestro wins the mental battle as well – as they fight over whether the death of the Hulk would alter the timeline. The Hulk doesn’t give in to try this desperate play.
The other battleground is internal, as the Maestro knows the Hulk and what he might want. He also has the arguments and simple proof that the Hulk eventually gave in – and became the Maestro. So the third battleground is temptation. The idea that the Hulk could join the Maestro, and that together they could rule, and as the strongest ones, take whatever they wanted.
The future that was painted was interesting. It reminded me a lot of The Incal and I was surprised to see it wasn’t Moebius doing the art. It’s a full-on dystopia (literally called Dystopia), with a lot of new slang and a lot of horrible things. The Maestro, in particular, is ridiculously chauvinistic and most of the women in the society might come to be his possession. It’s good of the Hulk to come around and beat him…
It also has one of those great sorts of future scenes that often show up in visions of Marvel’s future: a room full of the paraphernalia of dead heroes and villains.
Future Imperfect is a fascinating little comic, so if you’re looking for something to read that will make you really root for the hero to overcome the villain, check out this classic!
All images from Incredible Hulk: Future Imperfect, copyright Marvel, and captured from the Marvel App.