Nestled in the south east of the northern continent of Battleworld, is the small country of Dystopia. The definition of the word is simply: “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one.” Any Hulk fan of any worth would tell you that this is the name of the post apocalyptic land ruled by a mad Hulk that called himself MAESTRO. His madness came due to a nuclear holocast that destroyed most of the world's heroes. What brought this attack on or who perpetuated it is not covered. Only that it happened and the Hulk (our own Bruce Banner) survived by absorbing much of the radiation. It was the radiation that drove him mad. But not only that, it made him the strongest one there is; reportedly twice as strong as a regular hulk. This mad monster finished off the competition both hero and villain and took over. He became an insane despot who fed the more depraved side of Banner's psyche.
The story named the same as the upcoming series, FUTURE IMPERFECT, saw our time's hulk pulled from the past to face off with his psycho possible future. The version of the hulk (and there have been many) that existed at this time was the one called 'Professor Hulk'; a Banner who had total control of his brilliance and the Hulk's power at the same time. He was defeated , humiliated and, then,raped by Betty Ross lookalikes. Yes, THAT happened!
In the end, our 'Professor Hulk' with the help of some rebels led by Rick Jone's granddaughter sent Maestro back in time to the very place and time that the Hulk was created: The gamma bomb test that went wrong. Only they dropped this unstoppable beast right into the heart of the blast, supposedly incinerating him.
Well, not quite. Marvel never lets any great story go without a diminishing side story or two. I mean, they never stop to ask whether a story should be told. They just tell it. That is my question about bringing this story back. Is this just a publicity stunt? Or do they have a story to tell? And, if they have a story to tell, where do they begin telling it?
Is the 2015 Secret Wars Tie-In a world before 'Professor Hulk' showed up and fixed things? Is this a future where that never happened and Maestro was left to reign unfettered by pesky rebels? Is this a future where our Hulk failed and Maestro continued on? Lots of questions remain. But what possibilities remain? What stories are left from the handful of side stories mentioned earlier?
This story-line has been left alone for the most part, but Maestro has made one comeback and a few cameos since.
The FUTURE IMPERFECT story appeared in Incredible Hulk Vol. 2 #401. But Maestro returned in the same title and volume in #460-1. The Hulk of that time learns that every time he comes to 'ground zero', the Maestro has learned to siphon radiation from him. Little by little, he has begun to reassemble himself. But he was still too weak. After failing to use the Destroyer armor as a vessel, Hulk forces his future self back to his body buried in the rubble of ground zero. This leads to possible returns if he gets enough radiation. But, I digress. Obviously this has no effect on the new story.
But there have been other sightings of the Maestro. One of my favorite comics, The Exiles, has a group of cross reality heroes righting wrongs in different realities. One such reality was Dystopia before the arrival of 'Professor Hulk'. Proteus, a 'reality hopping' shape changer and possessor of other bodies, decided he wanted Maestro as a vessel. And who wouldn't? He was thwarted by the Exiles which included the Spider-Man of 2099. Interestingly enough, it has been announced that there will be a new encounter between the dreaded Maestro and young Miguel O'Hara aka Spider-Man of 2099.
Building on the story written by Peter David in 2002 during Captain Marvel Vol 4 #27-30 where Miguel is sent to Dystopia and barely escapes Maestro, it seems David is returning to the scene in the all new Spider-Man 2009 series. We won't see that till April of 2015 which means it will be leading into the Secret Wars event. But we wonder what ramifications of this meeting will have on the Dystopia we will see in the Secret Wars event and where the Spider-Man of 2099 will end up.
In the 2010 Heroic Age story-line, the Avengers found themselves up against a different version of Hulk that seemed to be a combo of Maestro and World War Hulk. He was aiding the Avengers next generation to stop Ultron and Kang, the Conquerer, from destroying everything!
About all we really got out that story was this awesome cover!
Also, a curious mini-story in the A+X event #1 comes to mind. It was written by Jeff Loeb and, strangely enough, drawn by the artist who gave us the teaser for 2015, Dale Keown. Hmmm. It was a quickie story, almost a waste of paper actually. The only intriguing thing was Maestro and old Wolvie fighting their younger self looking for the Red Hulk. Even odder was the final splash of a Red Hulk in the white house with a white mustache ranting about to save things the Red Hulk must die. Ok, weird stuff. But, if you know Jeff Loeb, it's nothing new. A lot of people refer to his flash over substance style of writing and, in flashback, it seems confusing at best but mostly just strangely out of place and has no bearing on the coming story.
Of course this isn't the only hulk making an appearance in the Secret Wars or showing on Battleworld. We've seen the Hulk referenced in AVX and House of M; so there are plenty of Hulk versions to go around. But the possibilities in Greenland and Dystopia are endless. We have a land overrun by Hulks and nestled in the southeast corner is a land ruled by the strongest, most ruthless Hulk ever. We will either get to see a real World War Hulk or see Maestro rule over an already beaten Greenland. Also watch for Maestro, like several of the despots out in Battleworld, make a play to take everything. It's going to be a great Secret Wars, people. You won't want to miss it!
To see a gallery of possible Hulks, go to jackeduptales.com