MAESTROS #1 by Steve Skroce
Plot
Characterization
Art
Summary
MAESTROS #1 is a visually stunning fantasy comic that provides fans of the genre with over-the-top artwork and cosmic lore.
90 %
Tripping Brawls
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MAESTROS #1 is all about excess. If you like big, bold stories, it is the new series for you. Best of all, the entire comic looks like an awesome psychedelic spray painting on the side of a VW bus. This issue features an overblown cosmic story, detailed layouts, and graphic imagery. For the most part, the comic’s use of sensory overload works.

There is a good deal of substance to go with the style. However, there are some missteps, as a few story and dialogue elements feel a bit forced. Plus, the book’s reliance on gross-out humor can sometimes be grating. Still, overall, writer/artist Steve Skroce’s MAESTROS #1 is an excellent start to a new series that upends many of the fantasy genre’s biggest tropes.

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MAESTROS #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

THE CHOSEN ONE

Willy is the banished son of a Wizard King, who, due to unforeseen circumstances, inherits his father’s throne. Our hero would much rather use his magical abilities for financial gain, but the hands of fate have taken hold. An evil demon has murdered his entire family. The basic bones of this story are nothing we haven’t see before in fantasy stories. Like Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker, Willy is pulled from his normal life into another world because of his lineage. However, the comparisons to typical fantasy stories stop there. The world of MAESTROS #1 is harsh and unforgiving, despite the comic’s bright visuals. No character in this book is typically heroic or particularly nice. The character’s dispositions are as brusque and acidic as the violence.

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Skroce turns the fantasy elements up to 11. His world building and additions to the basic Hero’s Journey plot are spectacular. His universe combines fantasy, sci-fi, and psychedelic imagery to create a dense lore dripping with detail. He throws dozens of strange character names like Mardok, Zainon, and Meethra Kahzar into the mix, in addition to an origin story that spans the entire history of our universe. The origins and motives are so lofty and complex that they are almost intelligible. This is big scale, convoluted sci-fi in the best way. We see a satisfying collage of realms, cosmic deities, and strange alien species on almost every page.

I appreciated Skroce’s eagerness to pull a little bit from many sources for the comic’s visuals. To me, this comic was an ideal combination of the best elements from Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN, Conan the Barbarian, and The Final Fantasy games. Skroce’s knack for world-building is evident. He does not rely too heavily on any one particular visual inspiration, which makes this comic feel like a unique vision. Rather than being a humorous play on other fantasy stories, the MAESTROS #1 world feels fresh and uncharted.

MAESTROS #1
Courtesy of Image Comics

Taking a Trip

MAESTROS #1’s visuals are trippy and psychedelic, without being incomprehensible. Skroce’s ability to lay out swirling, overlapping, richly detailed fantasy elements on every inch of the page is the highlight of the book. His brightly textured European style reminds me of Moebius. Despite the overlapping details and lack of negative space, the images never feel convoluted. There is a clear focal point to every panel. Skroce is skilled at guiding the reader’s eye to the most important elements, despite the busy backgrounds. I found myself re-reading this comic just to see what tiny details I missed in the big splash pages.

Cutting Edge

Hopefully, in future issues of MAESTROS, Skroce will be able to expand on Willy’s background and motivations so that his persona feels like a natural extension of the story. Right now, he seems unnecessarily edgy in an attempt to subvert fantasy tropes. Rather than highlight the absurdity of the genre, Willy’s actions (like enlarging the genitals of a client in a strip club) feel like unnatural excuses for flashy visuals and gross-out humor. The violence and sexual imagery in the book that take place in the fantasy realm (versus real-world locales) work more because they are natural extensions of the barbaric genre.

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MAESTROS #1: Final Thoughts

MAESTROS #1 is an inspired start to what will surely be a visually spectacular series. Skroce’s mastery of strange sci-fi visuals and fantasy tropes are an amazing combination. I cannot wait to see what is in store for the rest of the series.

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