In Review: Maestros #1

Sumptuous visuals make this adult fantasy blast into the stratosphere.

The covers: Four different covers to purchase for this first issue. The Regular cover is by series creator Steve Skroce. This features William Kahzar, the last of his line, sitting on a zebra skin sofa, drinking champagne from a flue while watching a tattooed woman walk by. If he only looked behind himself he would see a creature has opened its maw to devour him. The back of his father, Meethra Kahzar, is also shown as he looks upon his realm of Zainon; a nice symbolic gesture of how Willie has turned his back on his magical heritage. The details on this cover are awesome. I love the look of the character, the creature, the stars within his father, and the funny wizard tats on the woman walking by. This is poster quality. There’s also a Retailer Appreciation Variant cover that features the exact same art, but the logo in the lower left has changed from celebrating Image’s 25th anniversary to the iconic wide letter i, now in gold. The Pia Guerra Variant cover features William holding an apple in his right hand, a baseball in his left, his left shoulder is on fire, and a grown has been scrawled in gold chalk above his head. If I hadn’t read this book first, this cover would have left me scratching my head. Too symbolic and not direct enough for a first issue cover. There’s also a Geoff Darrow & Dave Stewart Variant cover, but I couldn’t find an image of it anywhere online. Overall grades: Regular A+, Retailer Appreciation Variant A+, and Guerra Variant C

The story: Meethra Kahzar, the Maestro, has been murdered. His body has almost been severed by a slash from his neck to the center of his chest, while his left arm has been pulled off. He was killed, along with the rest of the royal family, by the wizard Mardok and his minions that have escaped from their long imprisonment. His ex-wife, Margaret, is told of this massacre by Gah’ree. The reason she’s being told is that the Kahzar bloodline must continue — son William must be brought back to Zainon to be the new Maestro. The premise from Steve Skroce is told in a quick six pages, but the story doesn’t really begin until Willie is seen on the pages that follow. The heir is no longer a child and uses his magic to live a lavish, slacker’s life in the most unseemly of ways. What the protagonist is doing on Pages 7 – 9 is sad, funny, and completely places this book out of children’s hands. He tells a showgirl that he wants to live the simple life, “Open a used bookstore, maybe teach scuba diving or something…” Willie is completely unfocused with no direction. That’s when one of the showgirls invites him into a backroom for a private dance and all hell breaks loose. What happens to him, who comes to his assistance, and where they go is fantastic. Then the book takes a turn for 14 pages to the past that left me wanting a return to the present. These last pages deal with when young teen Willie learned of his father, who visits his mother in a most interesting way. The dialogue from Willie became predictable and Meethra’s dialogue had me hearing John DiMaggio saying his lines as Aquaman from The Brave and the Bold cartoon. Was it readable? Undeniably, but I was really enjoying the present action and a detour to the past interrupted the flow of the story. I liked Meethra’s history of the universe, which is unique, but everything in this final half was fairly routine for an adult fantasy. Overall grade: B

The art: This is what got me to pick up this book. The visuals are incredible. I haven’t seen art this detailed since I encountered the work of Geoff Darrow years ago. When I did some checking on Steve Skroce I learned he worked on The Matrix films, as did Darrow. Makes sense. The first page is a dramatic full-paged splash showing the dead body of Meethra. It’s graphic, vivid, and stunning. The next two pages are a double-paged splash of Mardok and his minions slaughtering the Maestro’s bloodline and it’s the type of illustration one expects to see in the closing of a series and not in the opening. The characters, the design, and the violence is something one cannot help but stop and get lost in. Wonderful! The transition to Gah’ree and Margaret is much more calming, visually, but still epic. The setting seems as if it hails from Little Nemo in Slumberland or Prince Valiant. So epic and elegant. Willie’s first panel is great, with him looking like a millennial who’s trying to be hip, but comes off as a creep: unkempt hair, a vest that doesn’t fit, socks that don’t stay up, and black vans. His reaction to the women in the establishment he’s at is one of indifference; his face shows he’s above this fracas, but will indulge if the desire hits. The creature that attacks him is amazing and what it does to him staggering. The arrival of the individual to help him is terrific and the battle that commences is jaw-dropping; for example, Page 14, panel three; Page 15, panel seven; and all of 16 and 17. Holy crud! The flashback has some fun visuals as well, with Willie’s first encounter with his father and what the family is eating as they talk. 25 has a neat visual hint at his father’s anger, but the showstopper of the flashback is Meethra’s history of the universe. Pages 28 and 29 cover so many varied races of the Infinite Realms, I want to see as many of these people and places as possible in upcoming issues. This is unquestionably one of the best drawn books on the stands. Overall grade: A+ 

The colors: Everything is gorgeous with Dave Stewart’s colors on this book. The opening page, though graphic, still maintains it royal tone due to the colors of the Maestro’s clothing. Granted, he’s covered in blood and is laying in a pool of his own life fluids, but the colors are fantastic. The next two pages contain a lot of devastation and death. The colors make the imagery seem like an ancient parchment’s art with tans, grays, and faded yellows aging the visuals. Specific characters are brightened to highlight their violent deaths, but they still fit in with the classic feeling of the art. The colors on Gah’ree complete his humorous design and made me smile. Willie’s first three pages tease the location with some fantastically garish reds used for the curtains, seats, and wall. When magic is employed in the battle sequences fantastic pinks, violets, yellows, and blues are used. It’s so refreshing to read a fantasy comic where one color isn’t used repeatedly to show magic — it should be every color imaginable. When Meetha reveals himself to his son in a more appropriate manner, the lack of colors in the setting show how he uses his abilities to influence others’ impressions. My favorite panel of the book is on 25 with the red being a nice shock to the proceedings. Having Stewart color a book is a sure way to make the artwork look exceptional. Overall grade: A+ 

The letters: Fonografiks is responsible for dialogue, the speech of Margaret’s sword, yells, monstrous dialogue, and sounds. I like all that this group does, especially with the unique fonts for the sword and monster. Seeing them look different from the others made them much more magical. The sounds are also extremely well done, with them being as epic as the art. The POOM on 13 is my favorite. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Sumptuous visuals make this adult fantasy blast into the stratosphere. The story took an unnecessary turn to the past, but that’s just my preference for linear storytelling. This is definitely a book to follow, but keep it out of the hands of younger comic readers! Overall grade: A- 

To order a print or digital copy of this book go to https://imagecomics.com/comics/releases/maestros

To see the covers visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer’s Guide for several years with “It’s Bound to Happen!” and he’s reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He’s taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.

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