It’s no surprise that director George Miller grew up a fan of comic books. As he writes in his introduction to Mad Max: Fury Road INSPIRED ARTISTS Deluxe Edition, as a boy being raised in rural Australia he didn’t even have a television. But being so visually oriented as he was comics became instead his window into imaginative worlds.
“[…] We collected, hoarded, swapped and devourted them,” he writes. He also states, “Making Mad Max: Fury Road was actually one big comic fest. I had the privilege of devising and storyboarding the entire movie (3,500 panels in all) with artists as fine as Brendan McCarthy, Peter Pound and Mark Sexton.”
Of course, comics (or sequential art, as Scott McCloud calls them) and movies have always had a tight relationship and have influenced each other. Never has this been more readily apparent than in the recent surge of superhero-themed movies. Mad Max: Fury Road is also evidence of this close marriage between the silver screen and the comic page but more so in terms of the enormous planning through sequential art that Miller refers to in his intro.
We don’t get a glimpse of those pre-filming storyboards in Mad Max: Fury Road INSPIRED ARTISTS Deluxe Edition, a new volume of Mad Max-influenced comic art from Vertigo Comics. For fans who want that, The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road from Titan Books would probably be the better book to purchase. Moreover, Mad Max: Fury Road Inspired Artists should not be confused with the comics also to be published by Vertigo in June and July, respectively. The latter are tie-in stories, narratives bound to the events depicted in the movie. Inspired Artists is purely a volume of art from a wide variety of comic artists and illustrators including big names like Simon Bisley, Dave McKean, Jim Lee and Bill Sienkiewicz.
There is a wide variety of styles on display here, and Mad Max fans seeking to revisit the feelings evoked by the film will surely find something here to hit the spot. The only problem is that without a narrative thread linking it all together, the art feels disjointed. It isn’t just because the disparity in styles which is normally part of the appeal in an art volume like this. It’s that without the story and the action as the fulcrum, there isn’t all that much to explore from a purely visual standpoint. There are desert landscapes here, lots of cars, Max, Furiosa, and then more cars. And more Max and Furiosa. Even with such a splendid diversity of artists, it does start to get a bit old about halfway through the book.
Another problem is that comic art often depends on a sequence of panels that work up to a specific moment culminating in a visual payoff. Without that sequential aspect, many of the panels here aren’t as impactful as they potentially could be. The art here is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. And comic art is definitely art; don’t get me wrong there either. But comics work differently from, say, paintings. Comic panels work together in concert for maximum effect. That’s why they’re called sequential art. Without that narrative drive, the art here feels lonely and disconnected. Moreover, on my Kindle version (for my iPad) there weren’t any captions or artist credits on the pages of art themselves. The artists are credited in an index in the very back. So unless you’re already well acquainted with each of these many artists or enjoy going back and forth, you don’t know who did which piece.
For hardcore Mad Max fans or those who are very highly visually oriented, Mad Max: Fury Road INSPIRED ARTISTS Deluxe Edition will make for a good addition to your collection of Mad Max tie-in merchandise. For those with limited budgets, though, I would recommend waiting for the spinoff comics, also from Vertigo Comics, to arrive later in June and July.