The illustrations and luxurious comic takes on offer are simply ravishing to behold
Writer-director George Miller is a self-confessed comic-book geek, and has been devoted to the medium since a child. The influences of DC, which was his first love, reach deep into the films that he has made and, especially, the visual style and vocabulary that he employs. Whilst he plans, directs and edits his movies as though he is composing for and conducting a vast orchestra, the immediate imagery and frame composition is very profoundly comic-book in nature and depiction. In fact, the artistry that he reveals, and none more evident than in Mad Max Fury Road, is very akin to 2D comic panels coming to life and leaping from the page. That the two mediums are so closely linked, suckling one another, as it were, is not surprising. Comic art sought to heighten life. Progressively over the decades, movies have utilised such pen-and-ink concocted dynamism to do the same. To the point where it would be unthinkable to have a season in which a smorgasbord of comic-book adaptations weren’t hosing themselves across the screen.
It is refreshing, then, to discover that George Miller’s own name-making, trendsetting and iconic series of Mad Max films, themselves influenced by the super-reality of the comics, have, in turn, fostered that creative germ in many artists working today.
Thus, with this potent heritage in mind, sixty-five comic book artists and illustrators were shown the movie and then tasked with creating work that reflected their experience with it to be presented in a Deluxe book of Mad Maxian riotous colour and invention. Published by Vertigo and DC Comics and priced £18.99, this 144-page compendium is another outstanding entry in Fury Road’s growing range of spin-off material.
Each double-page showcases an artist’s contribution, all in-keeping with Max’s sojourn down the Fury Road and all boasting the particular creator’s own signature style. Some of the most esteemed toilers in the medium have been gathered together, along with a slew of new blood practitioners who have burst upon the scene with passion and vigour. All, however, owe a debt of gratitude to the original Mad Max films and cite the influence that the series has had upon their career.
The illustrations, paintings and luxurious comic takes on offer here are simply ravishing to behold. Every page carries a work of art that captures the spirit and character of the story, and the sense of chaos. The range of images that the artists have created run the gamut of Fury Road’s momentum. We see some very poster-inspired pictures – old school montages built out of characters and set-pieces that collide and coalesce into an implausible structure of giddy violence – from the likes of Earth X’s John Paul Leon. Others, such as Gilbert Hernandez’s unusual depiction of a punkish Furiosa carrying a rather blasé infant from a field of death and destruction, take on the Manga style. Broad cartoonic bedlam is conjured in immediate colour and vividness by Rebekah Isaacs, Michael Allred and Javier Rodriguez, who employ rich colours and starkly rendered in-yer-face volatility.
Brett Parson has a glowering sky-full of Immortan Joe as the backdrop to a War Boy fuelled death-race, Max atop the War Rig with a rictus-grinning Nux, whereas Guillermo Mogorran has Max piloting the Interceptor out of a tsunami of explosion-flung Rock Riders and Buzzards. Look closely and you’ll see one of the shockwave-pummelled bikes has “The Toecutter Lives” scrawled on the side. Mitch Gerads goes for a breathtaking aerial view of the Wasteland punctuated by a distant, tiny vehicles, a huge fireball and a squadron of vultures all eager for the fresh meat way below to cool down. Teddy Kristiensen goes for a strikingly abstract approach. His view of the approaching enemy armada, led by a high-jumping Giga-horse, is mapped out with those matte-blocks that look like the old superimposed TIE Fighters in the pre-doctored Star Wars. The colour-scheme is ominous and sour, yet lit through with angular scythes of light. I can imagine this image taking on a real life of its own if hung huge on a wall, and stared at for a while.
My own personal preference is for the more realistic and detailed offerings from artists like Lee Barmejo, whose awesome contribution has Max fending off a massed attack of pouncing War Boys from the bonnet of a jalopy, blasting with the sawn-off. Or Francesco Mattina, who depicts Max in a more customised leather jacket, stylised muzzle hanging free, against a surreal backdrop of mounted skulls, the haunting remnants of a half bridge and storm clouds composed of Immortan Joe’s face and that of a very scary and Joker-ish War Boy. Mattina worked on DC’s The Joker’s Asylum, and it is great to see this element creep in. Paul Pope tackles the image of the Wives unhitching their chastity belts, jettisoning the fangs, but with a sense of urgency to the act.
There are some occasional spazzy images – but then they are spazzy by design and intention. I’m talking material from Allred, which is broad and possibly juvenile, though no less compelling than the more intricate, vivid and retina-searing work from the likes of Dave McKean, Simon Bisley or Nimit Malavia, whose painting of Max lashed and muzzled on Nux’s hotrod and roaring through a tumult of fire is so genuinely scorching that your fingers leave the page with blisters on them.
Naturally, we are drawn towards the big splashes of colourful action, what with all manner of hellish vehicles colliding and overturning and mid-air battles taking place, but there is a great sense of serenity to be found in the quieter, more reflective moments that have also been captured. From Daniel Dos Santos, Furiosa simply standing amid the dunes beneath the canopy of a descending sky, looking back the way they have come with an expression of beatific grace. Some ravens, a series harbinger, can be seen circling against the thickening clouds. Jenny Frison, again, opts to conjure up the image of a pensive Furiosa, scanning a horizon that we cannot see, as the world behind her is engulfed by an inferno-coloured toxic storm. Whilst Max has always been seen as the lone, undaunted and un-deluded warrior painted against the vast backdrop of a barbaric Wasteland, Furiosa is often seen as a figure of hope and resilience. The artists paint her with a Lawrence of Arabia-style yearning for peace.
I like the variation of Max with his iconic sawn-off shotgun taped over his shoulder from R. M Guera, capped-off with a side-panel boasting some ferocious cave-man-cum-steampunk War Boys. A lot of imagery sees Max taking frantic last stand action from atop a speeding vehicle – which always looks tremendously effective, and there are splendid evocations of this traumatised road warrior simply standing against a background of baked maelstrom. Although Max can appear quite different, facially, from artist to artist, there are some fine attempts to capture Tom Hardy’s likeness, especially from Dean Motter and Gabriele Dell’Otto.
Indeed, from out of this rabid infectious collection, it is extremely hard to pick a favourite. They all possess a unique quality and an individual style that stands proud and demands attention, all find a way of bringing this bizarre road war into scintillating clarity. However, there is something monstrously appealing about the sight of Max speeding straight towards the amassed War Boy armada in his battered V8 Interceptor, courtesy of John Van Fleet, that virtually opens this collection of petrol-head wargasm. We may never see this image in the film... but the point is very gratefully received, nonetheless.
One complaint about this book format, though, carries a fair bit of weight, I feel. The tall and narrow perspective of the presentation can often spoil the gorgeous landscape imagery of the scenes being depicted. Having the artwork carried over two pages unfortunately means that the middle section is curled inward for the book’s binding... and nobody is going to want to crease the spine of this beauty to gain access to those precious few millimetres of illustration. The format of the large Art of Mad Max: Fury Road coffee-table book would have been the better option here, as well. You want to pore over every flick of the pencil, every detail embedded in the canvas, and that is not entirely possible here. Even so, I would not, for one second, imply that this should dissuade you from picking up a copy. You will still be perfectly blown away by the imagery unveiled herein... and possibly even inspired, yourself.
George Miller calls the results of this artist experiment “a little piece of paradise.” Well, he’s not wrong. But if this fuel ‘n’ fire drenched miasma of helter-skelter destruction is paradise, then I doubt that even Satan, himself, can comprehend what the good Dr. Miller regards as hell!
This is, without doubt, another fabulous book to place on the coffee-table next to the Art of and the comic prequels to impress guests.
Mad Max: Fury Road – Inspired Artists comes, unsurprisingly, very highly recommended indeed.
You can buy Mad Max: Fury Road - Inspired Artists here
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