BY MATT TUCK
Did Loki trigger an alternate timeline ruled by an evil Hulk? That’s right: the Maestro could be on his way to the MCU.
Between WandaVision and Loki, consider everything on the table for the MCU. Whether it’s playing with the magic of the Multiverse or tampering with the Sacred Timeline, Marvel Studios is opening the MCU to a bigger range of possibilities than ever before. Not only does that leave windows for the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and Blade’s vampires, but it lays the groundwork for virtually every story ever told in the Marvel Universe. Following the latest episode of Loki, it is safe to assume that the MCU is about to venture into plenty of alternate realities.
SPOILER ALERT FOR LOKI, EPISODE TWO
Episode Two sees Loki confront his evil doppelganger, who happens to be a female version of himself. This might raise eyebrows were it any other character, but this is Loki. Going back to Norse mythology, he practically invented genderfluidity. One of the stranger stories (and that’s saying something coming from the Viking myths) saw Loki transform into a female horse in order to seduce a frost giant’s stallion. It gets weirder. Mare-Loki becomes impregnated by the stallion, thus giving birth to Odin’s magical eight-legged steed, Sleipnir.
The comics kept it less weird. In Thor Annual #18, Loki became female for a time, and the Disney+ series is clearly drawing from that concept. For those complaining about a female Loki, at least we didn’t see Mare-Loki give birth to a magic colt.
Back to the episode at hand. As Loki confronts his alternate self, she reveals her plan to destroy the Sacred Timeline with a series of charges. Once those are detonated, we are treated to a visual aid when a Time Variance Authority screen shows innumerable branches forming all across the timeline.
The genius here is that in one scene, Marvel Studios has effectively reset the entire MCU in a sense. With all those variant timelines, anything and everything can occur, which I am certain will be the ongoing thread for the remainder of the series. This could lead into three different Marvel movies: Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. All three of those films will revolve around the Multiverse or time travel, and Loki can now easily tie into all three of those movies. In a sense, it makes Loki the most important character in all of the MCU as he is the only major character who knows what has happened.
If there is one plot device Marvel Comics has loved over the years (besides the death-and-inevitable-return trick), it’s alternate futures.
Through the decades, Marvel has made a business from churning out apocalyptic visions of the Marvel Universe if only one small piece of history is changed. There’s been “Days of Future Past,” “Age of Apocalypse,” “Old Man Logan,” “House of M,” and “Secret Empire,” to name a few. Right now, Marvel is toying with the “Heroes Reborn” angle, imagining a world in which Squadron Supreme became Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. For that matter, 2015’s Secret Wars crossover could fall into this category.
And there all possible thanks to Loki doing her job as the Goddess of Mischief and causing chaos. In a way, she brought about a true Ragnarok for the entire MCU, which is impressive and could be the most fun we’ve ever had in this sandbox of characters and worlds.
A fan-favorite apocalyptic vision of Marvel’s future is Future Imperfect. Written by Peter David in 1992, this story featured Professor Hulk (with his figure-skater onesie and stylish ‘90s haircut) travelling 100 years into the future to a world decimated by nuclear war. After absorbing excessive amounts of radiation, Hulk’s mind and body are transformed into an even more powerful version of himself, the Maestro. This evil Hulk rules what is left of society in a massive dystopian city.
Lately, Marvel has been reinvigorating Future Imperfect. Last year, the company published a Maestro solo story detailing his origins. The real surprise was when he and the Wastelands were added as a DLC package for the Marvel’s Avengers video game. Whenever Marvel/Disney suddenly thrust a character into the spotlight, it should raise eyebrows since Kevin Feige has ultimate control over everything Marvel from movies and television to games and comics. Considering the success of the MCU, all roads lead to Marvel Studios one way or another.
Now that Loki has caused an infinite number of branches to the Sacred Timeline, this could lead to the Maestro and the world of Future Imperfect. The events of Loki make it easier to incorporate these odd, dystopian futures into the MCU without disturbing the central Earth 616 plots.
Ever since his early-’90s debut, fans have been enamored with the Maestro, and Marvel has answered that call by giving him his own corner of Battleword in 2015’s Secret Wars, adding him to video games, and giving the Maestro his own comic. That makes this the perfect opportunity to at least give him an Easter egg or two in Loki.
Before that happens, here are the three Maestro keys you’ll want to have on your wish lists.
INCREDIBLE HULK: FUTURE IMPERFECT #1
Naturally, the first issue of Future Imperfect is where collectors will want to start their searches. Here we have the debut of the Maestro as he laid down an impressive beating on Professor Hulk, who was left in traction after the encounter.
Since mid-May, the fair market values for FI #1 have shot up. Before then, the graded 9.8s for the direct editions generally sold for about $150-$200. Then on May 11, a copy suddenly jumped to a then-record $275. From there, it would hit $300 and $299 three out of the last four sales. Then there is the newsstand edition, which last sold for $500 on May 24.
Although prices are much lower, the 9.6 has gotten a bump as well. For most of this year, it had averaged about $60-$70, but the last two sales, both on May 11, were for $115 and $119.
INCREDIBLE HULK: FUTURE IMPERFECT #2
The other Maestro key you’ll want could become the bigger key to have down the road: Future Imperfect #2. While it is not his premiere issue, FI #2 marked the first time the Maestro graced a comic cover. As graded comics continue to dominate the hobby, those first cover appearances could become as valuable as the overall first appearances because they would display the character in all his/her glory. The debate over the importance of the first cover could join the first cameo versus first full appearance argument.
For now, many of the first cover appearances are still very much affordable. If you don’t want to spend $300 on a 9.8 Future Imperfect #1, you can have the same grade with the Maestro on the front cover for a fraction of the price. In fact, the most recent sale was for $68 on June 6. With prices that low, now would be an opportune moment to get a high-grade copy of your own.
OLD MAN LOGAN #25
Anytime Hulk and Wolverine go head-to-head, it sells copies. Those fights are especially collectible when it has great cover art and is the first meeting between two versions of those characters. Here we have the Maestro’s first run-in with the Wolverine from the future, Old Man Logan. This would make for a fantastic episode of What If…?
While you can get a standard trade dress cover for about $50, the biggest seller has been the Mike Deodato sketch cover of Old Man Logan popping his claws. At a 9.8, this issue has averaged $170 over the past 90 days, and the most recent sale was for $120 earlier this month.
Another couple of editions to snag are the standard virgin cover and the Tom Grummett variant, both of which are averaging $130 or higher when graded at 9.8s.
AN IMPERFECT FUTURE FOR LOKI AND THE HULK
When you think about it, having Loki catch at least a glimpse of the Maestro makes sense. It has been a running gag that Loki is terrified of the Hulk, even more so than his brother, Thor. We saw it in Avengers and years later in Thor: Ragnarok. This could be part of the “nightmare” that Mobius referenced in Episode One; nothing would be more horrifying to Loki than being stranded in a world with a stronger, sadistic version of the Hulk.
All that being said, I don’t see the Maestro arriving in the MCU anytime soon, though I will be on the lookout for an obscure reference to either him or the dystopian future that created him. Let’s just hope he doesn’t become the next Mephisto meme.
With so many possibilities, who knows where the MCU is headed in the coming years?