Written by: George Miller, Nico Lathouris, and Mark Sexton
Art by: Mark Sexton, Leandro Fernandez, Riccardo Burchielli, and Andrea Mutti
Published by Vertigo Comics
Release Date: May 20, 2015

If you were looking for all the things you loved about Mad Max: Fury Road expanded in a comic, well–you should probably look elsewhere. I’m still turning this over in my mind, whether the value of a spin-off comic should be somehow dependent upon the property itself. My answer, at least for now, is that certain promises are made with works based off of intellectual property that you probably ought to keep unless you have an amazing reason not to. In case you can’t already tell, I don’t really think Nux & Immortan Joe #1 held up its end of the bargain.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. We’ve been talking so much about the film being a feminist triumph that I thought the comic–whose story came straight from the director–would follow suit. But, alas, the story really is just about Nux and Immortan Joe and all the women (what few there are, none have faces) do die — and oh yes, just like the film, pretty much everyone is white.

It’s not bad so much as it’s now just like everything else. But that’s harder to accept when you’ve been given something better before.

Despite having four different artists work on different pages of the issue, the style is very cohesive. I actually had to go back and look at the credits to realize the whole thing wasn’t done by one person. That’s more consistency than some artists working on a single issue can offer, so I think it’s worth applause. As you’d expect, the color scheme is dominated by browns, oranges, and reds. The name of the game for this issue, though, is really ‘silhouette,’ as well as its cousin ‘shadow.’  Both features run across all four art styles and are effective in building suspense, intimating menace, and generally making characters seem larger than life.

Characters were expressive and well-translated from the big screen to the drawn page, but I do wish the comic had taken more risks. This is always something I want to see from a comic but, once again, the book is suffering in comparison to its source material. Fury Road was a visual feast and George Miller took some big but calculated risks. Though the art is probably the strongest part of the book, I could have been thrilled and chilled a lot more than I was.

The ‘thrills and chills’ I was looking for might also have made it easier to tell the difference between certain groups of characters. I had a lot of difficulty understanding who was on what team as a result of character design. When you have two sides battling, knowing who is on whose side and which of those sides is winning (or losing) is pretty key to the narrative. I basically had to rely on context from the dialogue because the visuals were getting me nowhere. I knew the eventual outcome (since I’ve seen the film) but that didn’t make trying to read those scenes any less frustrating.

There are some nice narrative callbacks to the film. The opening is thematically similar to the movie opening, Nux’s catchphrase (I’m assuming it’s a catchphrase, since it appears here) is included, and we see how things got to be the way they are at the start of Fury Road. So, in that way, the mission was accomplished. The point of a prequel (typically) is to tell us what happened before and lead up into the main story. The goal was achieved; it just wasn’t achieved with all that much finesse.

Again, it’s not bad–it’s just not anything special. Nux’s origins are unremarkable and, despite being a significant supporting character in the film, he’s worth about eight pages out of thirty. Maybe this makes sense because, in the film,  we spent more time with him than Immortan Joe, so it’s Immortan Joe who should get more comic–but I felt cheated. That being said, Nux’s story could have been anyone’s, but for a somewhat trite anecdote that somehow explains his popularity amongst the Warboys. So, which is or would have been worse? More pages with a tepid story because I’m already invested in Nux, or the thing I was given–a very basic backup comic that didn’t do much (or anything) to expand the Mad Max world? Fortunately, the Immortan Joe section is around fourteen pages longer so I can answer this question: you lose either way.

Maybe the mistake was starting with these two. Of all the supporting characters whose backstories I’m interested in, I admit that neither Nux nor Immortan Joe ranks very high. I’m dying for an origin story for the Doof Warrior and fortunately, next up on the docket is a prequel comic about everyone’s fave, Furiosa. Still, even if these the two characters don’t tickle my fancy, that’s still not much of an excuse for cookie cutter story telling. Nux was ready to give his life for Immortan Joe. And Immortan Joe had spent his life lying to his people about his powers and abilities. There are stories worth telling there, potential looks into cults and cult leadership, emotional nuances, power structures–so much. And look at what we got.

I’m being harsh, I know. I’m being quippy and sassy and when I do that, I get a little mean, but I’ll remind you again that Nux & Immortan Joe #1 is not bad. It is just also not good. It’s fine. Totally fine. Totally and completely average. And that hurts, considering where we started.

The Verdict: 6.0/10


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