If you've seen Mad Max: Fury Road, you know that the movie doesn't explain much about the blasted world it happens in. But there's a new comic that fills in more backstory about the crazy War Boy called Nux and the albino tyrant he works for.
Published by DC Comics' Vertigo imprint, the Mad Max: Fury Road miniseries will be focusing on the characters from director George Miller's gorgeous new post-apocalypse movie. The first issue out this week shines the spotlight on Nux and Immortan Joe, with Miller getting credited for plot and Nico Lathouris and Mark Sexton handling the script.
(Spoilers follow. Hover over the top left of each image and click on the magnifying glass icon to expand it.)
Fair warning: as far as storytelling methods go, the Fury Road comic exists on the opposite end of the spectrum from the movie. The sequential spinoff is verbose, when compared to the long stretches of quiet in the cinematic cousin. But the dialogue and captions still manage to capture the sense of half-intelligible, jumbled-up wretchedness that runs through the Mad Max universe.
The overall look of the book is a mosaic of different styles, with art by Mark Sexton, Leandro Fernandez, Riccardo Burchielli and Andrea Mutti for the different sections. But, despite having so many contributors, the visuals cohere into a faithful translation of Fury Road's art direction. There might be less detail in, say, Burchielli's linework than in a shot from the movie but each artist channels the bright, sandblasted overexposure and tense energy in their own way.
Nux's story starts far below the Citadel where we first see him in the movie and explains the tragedy behind his manic drive to go out in a blaze of glory. Even though it doubles down on some of the squalor seen in the film, this portion of the comics doles out some humanity to the unwashed masses exploited by warlord Immortan Joe. You see displays of stubborn affection amongst the mud and pulped worm breakfasts and some semblance of altruism even peeks through the hardened ranks of the War Dog army commanded by Joe. Venal and darwinist as Joe's Citadel society is, it still needs some sort of devotion to be the glue that holds it together. Love still exists after the world breaks; it's just incredibly twisted.
The latter half of this issue isn't about love, unless you're talking love of power. The story of Immortan Joe's rise to power is surprisingly disappointing. I wanted it to be a balls-out orgy of warfare and sheer cussedness. Instead, the tale on these pages goes by the numbers in its portrayal of pillage and focuses on Joe's willingness to sacrifice others' bodies to meet his own ends. Even with a gap of decades between stories, the quasi-religious charisma that oozed out of Immortan Joe in the movie doesn't track with what's shown here. He's just another generalissimo-style bad guy.
It tries for a bit of subversion by presenting Joe as a formerly upstanding soldier gone rogue in his pre-Immortan life but there's not enough oomph to that particular beat to make it stick. You do get a bit of backstory for the bonds that Joe has with his lieutenants and his sons/henchmen but nothing that matches the surprising amount of heart found in Nux's short sequence.
Here lies the risks and rewards of doing this kind of tie-in comic. On one hand, an endeavour like this can buttress the vision of a great movie and layer on some nuance onto characters viewers grow to love. On the other, it can also undermine the under-explained charms of a film that makes conscious decisions to leave things vague and mysterious. The next issue of the Mad Max: Fury Road miniseries will be about Imperator Furiosa. Let's hope they don't fuck a comic about the best character in the movie.