Maestros #6 (May 2018)

Maestros #6

Two big surprises this issue. Not counting the little, almost expected double-crosses. No one is particularly nice in Maestros. Except Willy, his mom, and his girlfriend. The Devil’s daughter isn’t so bad either.

It’s the end of the universe, with Willy battling it out with the magical elf for the control of not just the universe, but creation itself. Lots and lots of magical action, all beautifully realized by Skroce. It’s a shame he couldn’t do more of the battle scenes, which are awesome when they’re the wizards, but even better when they’re the hordes. Maestros has such great design on its hordes.

The surprises both come at the end. First, it turns out this issue, #6, is the penultimate issue. Skroce’s had a very successful book to this point and all he’s got to do with the finale is wrap it together for a trade. He ought to be able to do it, based on how well he paces out the action and twists in this one.

Because there’s a big cliffhanger, brought on by the other big twist.

Maestros has been one hell of a book. Skroce’s done some excellent work.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #5 (February 2018)

Maestros #5

Willy goes to Hell! To ask for help. Hell gives Skroce a lot to draw. Some gross stuff in terms of blood and guts, some gross stuff in terms of dick and fart jokes. Maestros has such an excellent balance between those two interests.

Skroce splits the issue between Willy negotiating with the Devil–I think he’s got a name, but I can’t remember. The Devil hates Willy’s family because Willy’s dad–the previous maestro–gave him all sorts of weird curses. Skroce goes for sight gags and he goes for jokes in the dialogue. Everything in Hell is very, very good.

The stuff with Willy’s mom and his love interest being attacked by the evil elf wizard? While at a CostCo? Not as good. It’s fine, but it’s not as good. Skroce doesn’t have any humor for it; in fact, most of it’s just distraction given the evil elf’s plan, which gets a cliffhanger reveal.

Good issue though, as usual. Some great art, as usual.

Maestros keeps on truckin’.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros #4 (January 2018)

Maestros #4

I’m still excited about Maestros but I’m no longer worried about it. Skroce has got a handle on the book. He knows what he’s doing; four issues in, he’s established his characters. The split between present day and flashback–something he introduced and then temporarily abandoned–serves him well this issue. He’s got the mom back. The mom’s a cool character. She’s even cooler after this issue.

And the Maestro himself has an all right story to himself this issue. In the flashback, he’s background, but in the present, Skroce actually takes the time to explore the Maestro’s personal philosophy. We’ve already seen it in action–his attempts at benevolent ruling–but here Skroce shows it from the Maestro’s perspective.

Great art. Some hell imagery. Skroce does a good job with the hell imagery. And demon princesses. There are now demon princesses in Maestros.

Skroce knows where he can excel–visually–and he stays focused on those narrative possibilities. Maestros is conservative in its scope, but outstanding in that scope.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros 3 (December 2017)

Maestros #3

Skroce moves Maestros along faster than expected. He resolves his cliffhangers, he sets up for his next plot point, he moves through it, he repeats a couple times, he sets up his new cliffhangers. It’s awesome pacing, actually. Even though Skroce’s artwork on Maestros is breathtaking–especially in this issue, where he gets to do disaster and war action–his writing is rather strong as well.

Sure, it’s villains scheming writing, but it’s good villains scheming. He plays with some familiar tropes–the evil elf guy seems like every fantasy villain for the last twenty years–while still keeping it fresh. Only some of it is because Willy the Maestro is from Earth and not Fantasyland, but a lot of it is Skroce’s design of Fantasyland and its denizens.

There are good twists, some of the characters are getting more established–Skroce hasn’t established a firm cast list yet so it’s hard to get too invested–and it looks gorgeous. Maestros is getting better with each issue.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros 2 (November 2017)

Maestros #2

Skroce delivers with the second issue of Maestros. He’d had two storylines going in the first–flashback and present; he sticks mostly with present here, the occasional flashback for expository purposes. King Willy (is his name even mentioned in the comic or is he just Maestro?).

Anyway, King Willy is making some changes to Magicland. Kind of socialism. All at once. Even when people warn him he’s moving too fast, he points out (rightly) these people have actual magic. There’s no reason for delay.

And Skroce gives Willy a love interest. And manages a fantastic twist at the end for the cliffhanger.

Not getting the flashback split more evenly is a little bit of a lack. The comic’s a lot funnier when it’s the adventures of spoiled little wizard versus naive man-child wizard. And the mom doesn’t get to hang out much, which is strange since she had such a big part before.

But these quibbles are small ones; Maestros is holding strong.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

Maestros 1 (October 2017)

Maestros #1

“You know, I’m sorry but, I didn’t mention it earlier but actually I preferred to be called Maestro.”

How can you not think of “The Maestro” just a little in Maestros, which is about an obnoxious wizard king who rules fantasyland. Earth is just a magic-less world created to amuse those who have magic. And the Maestro visited modern day (or close enough) Earth and there he did become bewitched with a fetching Earth woman and take her to be his bride he did.

A son was born. And now, in the future, the son–never intended for the throne–will be king.

And there’s some awesome gory art from Steve Skroce. His writing is good too, but he’s mostly just going for comedy. Not low brow comedy but somewhere in the middle. The jokes hint at depth and back story and they do keep things moving. This first issue doesn’t just have major action sequences and well-paced dialogue exchanges, it also kicks off a flashback into the already introduced leads, the Earth woman and her son.

The monsters are awesome. Everyone’s hair looks fantastic. Skroce gets lost just the right amount in detail; he never lets it go too far. The story comes first. And the story means to amuse.

Maestros is off to an excellent start; it should be fine so long as Skroce never lets the art falter.

CREDITS

Writer and artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Dave Stewart; letterer, Fonografiks; publisher, Image Comics.

We Stand On Guard 1 (July 2015)

wsogWe Stand On Guard is what Future Taylor of Crossed +100 might call “Really, REALLY Wishful Fiction.”

Similar to that series, Brian K. Vaughan has imagined a future one hundred years and change from now, but his speculations aren’t nearly as realistic. Imagine a future where not only has Canada NOT been assumed into the United States, they’re also a multicultural utopia. Oh, wait, that’s what Canada is supposed to be today, right? What if I told you it’s also full of brave men and women ready to stand up and take arms – you know, if they had to – against American Imperialism, after we’ve invaded them for their water? This book is such a perfect illustration of uniquely Canadian delusions it should be taught in Canadian Studies classes a hundred years from now.

Vaughan incorporates Canadiana, of course – Tim Hortons, French Bilingualism, Canadian Tire – but the two biggest cultural touchstones of the issue are an early conversation between parent and child about the War of 1812, and later, one between freedom fighters about the nationality of Superman. In the former, Vaughan momentarily tries to trick readers into thinking his story is anything but a hacky Anti-American screed by having a child informed that Canada’s burning of Washington was really by the British, because Canada “wasn’t even a country back then.” Why? “For trying to steal this land.” As if unlike the rest of North America, the British had a moral and legal right of ownership to what would one day become Canada because there weren’t any Native Americans above the 49th Parallel to kill or subjugate. Sorry, “First Nations Peoples.”

This happens mere seconds before Ottawa 2112 is bombed by the US, mere minutes after the White House is attacked. It’s either ludicrously lazy writing, or, more likely, setup for some end-of-the-first-trade reveal about the attack being faked as a pretext of military invasion – you know, like 9/11. Given that the villains of Vaughan’s incredibly overrated Saga are thinly veiled caricatures of Bush and the Saudis, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

The dialogue about Superman is a little more layered. This one smug Anglican defends his ’S’ tattoo as a mark of Canadian pride because although the city of Cleveland is, like Vaughan himself, “just where the writer was from,” the guy “who did all the real work” was “born and raised in Toronto” and that’s “actually what the entire comic is about!” So not only do you have Vaughan disparaging his own half of the craft AND Cleveland just to let this twerp make his flimsy stretch of a point, he goes on to say that America is like Metropolis – “this huge wonderland that’s mostly run by greedy bastards like Lex Luthor” while Canada is “like the planet Krypton, this peaceful place that sends our most amazing people out into the universe.” Desperate bluster like this reminds of the times I’ve been told by Canadians that guys like Jim Carrey were “stolen” by the US; any rationalization is preferable to the idea that someone born there might have good reason not to stay. Oh and by the way, Joe Shuster left Toronto around age 10 and moved to – yeah, you got it – Cleveland, where he later met Jerry Siegel in high school. No doubt the subtext of Canadian values and virtue was a frequent discussion between them during the creation of Kal-El.

Post-Trudeau Canadian pride isn’t a real belief; it’s the post-colonial self-hatred of an incredibly lucky colonial inheritance with nothing to replace it but jealous contempt for the older brother who moved out of their parents’ house instead of waiting for them to die of old age. The surest defense against existential uncertainty is to define oneself in opposition to others. We Stand On Guard will no doubt be an unwittingly thorough treatise on how Canadians can only define themselves in comparison to the big, mean USA, replete with Vaughan’s TV sitcom beats and Joss Whedon quality characterizations.

Steve Skroce’s art is really good. Awesome mechs. Matt Hollingsworth’s colors are almost as boring as Canada so good job there too, eh?

CREDITS

Writer, Brian K. Vaughan; artist, Steve Skroce; colorist, Matt Hollingsworth; letterer, Fonografiks; Coordinator, Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

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