Mad Max: Fury Road made one heck on an impression earlier this summer, but the prequel comic series from Vertigo? Not so much. The character backstories we've seen so far – for Immortan Joe, Nux and Imperator Furiosa –have all proven to be stories that could have been left untold.
Aside from a little backstory into some of the film's characters, nothing from the prequel tales really stand out. Neither the writing, the art, nor the stories themselves, as they seemed more preoccupied with tying into the film than actually telling a story worth reading.
That thankfully changes in this issue, the first in a two-part tale dedicated to Mad Max himself. The issue starts with the same narrator we've seen in previous issues, this time speaking of Max with an almost legendary reverence, in a post-Fury Road wasteland. We then get several pages that cover the entire Mad Max film saga, starting with the original film and going through Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome.
These pages are a welcome addition, especially for newcomers to the franchise who may have only watched Fury Road. The "recap" portion of the book doesn't get bogged down in plot summaries or overly long explanations, but instead tells readers just what they need to know and lets the visuals do all the talking.
From there, it's a brand new tale separate from the events of the film. One of the interesting choices George Miller made in Fury Road was for Max to serve almost as a side character for much the film, despite the movie's title bearing his name. While he performs plenty of heroic feats, the film is really about Furiosa and Immortan Joe's wives, with Max just being along for the ride out of necessity.
This issue lets Max hog the spotlight. He strolls into Gastown (a location glimpsed but not elaborated on in the film) to battle in the gladiator arena. It's here we get to see how ruthless yet cunning Max can be. Similar to Tom Hardy's portrayal in Fury Road, this Max seems more than a little odd. He is a man of few words, and the few insights we get into his mind are always survival-based. He is always analyzing his situation, laying out a plan of attack. He fights tooth and nail to come out on top.
The battle royale for a rare car engine serves as the centerpiece of the issue, and the fights make for a much more visually entertaining book than those before it. Previous issues suffered from a lack of detail, color and flow, but this story has it all. The action feels visceral, the world feels alive and the characters look great.
Perhaps the best part is that this is only Part One of the tale, with the next chapter coming soon. If you've been waiting for a chance to get your Mad Max fix, forget about the last two issues. This is the comic you need to be reading.
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