There has been a trend in Vertigo that many people have not been too happy with. For years, Vertigo took comics beyond where they thought they could go, eventually moving away from the DCU entirely into a world of creator owned work. In this way it bucked the trend of continuity and licensed properties that characterized much of comics, and the “mature readers” tag was just along with its mark of quality. In recent years it has begun to bring a few licensed properties over to Vertigo with Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Django Unchained, the Fables A Wolf Among Us videogame adaptation, and now Mad Max. Many have pointed out that instead of Vertigo pointing to what comics could be, it was simply being what comics are typically, but with an R-rating. This seemed especially true with Mad Max being brought over without much reasoning.
With that commentary in mind, Mad Max Fury Road Inspired Artists Deluxe Edition is much different than it appeared and actually stands out as an inspired art book that strays far from the other adaptations on Vertigo. Though it is certainly a part of the promotional run-up to the summer Mad Max: Fury Road film, what the book actually is is a list of A-list comics artists doing their own interpretations of the Mad Max world in fully realized splash pages. These are not just typical comic art and instead drawing on heavy paintings and mixed media, really building on the history of high-quality single-image Vertigo covers. Sixty-five different artists, including people like Mike Allred and Framcesco Francavilla, take on George Miller’s original liberatrio-apocapytic vision, focusing in on the machine, warfare, and heat of the desert.
While you may not be a fan of Mad Max as its cult power has diminished in recent years, the art here is absolutely breathtaking. This could be the best collection of inspired comics-related art to come out all year, and you will be hard pressed to find something better all year. Some are incredibly abstract, some include characters known to the universe, and some are snapshots of beauty and community developing in the middle of Purgatory.
The end of the book has short paragraphs from each artists talking about their image and inspirational history with Mad Max. It would have been nice to see a little bit more of this, but we could also see that with so many artists it could easily have overwhelmed the book. What would have been nice is to see something drawing it closer to the universe, providing a little more relevance to the franchise, or even a short essay overlooking the project.
The Deluxe Edition itself is of beautiful quality with crisp matte pages that pop and maintain the quality. This is exactly the kind of quality that you want from a Vertigo Deluxe Edition, though the price certainly matches it.
The quality of this volume leads up to a little to the upcoming Mad Max Fury Road graphic novel and two-part miniseries. All of these will likely fall to many of the same traps that other Vertigo adaptations have, but it seems like George Miller is using the advantages of the comics medium to bring unfilmed stories and images to a narrative form in the same way that Darren Aronofsky first did with The Fountain. This may be an acceptable use of the licensed properties on Vertigo, and is similar to what will be happening this summer with Fight Club 2 on Dark Horse. Either way, Mad Max Fury Road Inspired Artists Deluxe Edition has certainly made a welcome spot on the coffee table, and may even lead us to dig out Road Warrior from our closet. Hopefully I can find a VCR somewhere.
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