Vertigo Miniseries Tour Part 45: Mad Max – Fury Road; Strange Sports Stories

Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller, story; Nico Lathouris & Mark Sexton: script; Tristan Jones & Riccardo Burchielli, art
Vertigo Comics, 2015

This is a relative rarity in the Vertigo catalog: a movie tie-in. These stories are all prequels to some of the key characters in the film, and the comic book versions came about at writer/atist Mark Sexton’s suggestion after he had worked with Miller and others on the film team creating storyboards for two years during pre-production.  The stories were all created by Miller during during the production of the film, and were told to the actors to give their characters depth and history. So they are “legitimately authentic tales,” as Sexton says in his Introduction.

“Nux and Immortan Joe” tells how the child-like Nux found his way into the Citadel, and how the warlord called Immortan Joe took possession of the place, winning the day single-handed after a failed invasion. There are a number of artists who did not get cover credit, in this case Leandro Fernandez, Andrea Mutti, Mark Sexton, and colorist Michael Spicer. “Furiosa” is about the woman who was charged with supervision of the imprisoned women known as Breeders–and wound up leading them to freedom instead. “Max” is a two-part story that tells the origin story of Mad Max, including his epic odyssey to restore his signature car. Finally, “The War Rig” is a short, previously unpublished tale tracing the individual stories behind the component vehicles that made up the huge hybrid vehicle that is a central player in the movie. An interesting look at how the apocalypse affected common people in the early days, it is let down a bit by Peter Pound’s art, a simpler style that is incompatible with the look of the rest of the stories.

It’s hard to replicate the widescreen thrills of the movie in cartoon form, but this collection comes reasonably close. Definitely recommended to fans of the movie.

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Strange Sports Stories
Paul Pope, CM Punk, Gilbert Hernandez, Nick Dragotta, Darick Robertson, Lauren Beukes & others
Vertigo Comics, 2015

Strange Sports Stories collects a four issue anthology miniseries: a classic Vertigo publishing format with an unexpected theme. This being Vertigo, the sports theme is interpreted fairly loosely; in fact most of these short eight-page tales could also be classified as science fiction or fantasy.  Gilbert Hernandez’s “Martian Trade” is set in a street kickball game. The kids playing accept a ball falling from the sky as a Martian one (or maybe Venusian or Uranian). A former playmate reappears as an adult–having spent thirty years hard labor on a Martian slave ship–until he manages to swap places with the local bully. Hernandez’s typical magical realism approach fits right in. Novelist Lauren Beukes joins Dale Halvorsen to write “Chum” (art by Christopher Mitten, colors by Eva De La Cruz), a violent tale about a kind of battle hockey: set in Calgary, appropriately enough.  But when a giant alien tentacled creature emerges from under the ice it’s game over for both sides.

There are no sports in Ivan Brandon and Amei Zhao’s “Regugees” until the end. Escapees from a city in the midst of an apocalyptical bombing wind up in Cuba, where a baseball game becomes a celebration as the flames move in. The story is narrated by a woman who was in the midst of breaking up with her boyfriend when everything started happening, giving it an intimate tone. CM Punk’s “The Most Cursed” tells the story of a baseball team that truly seems cursed, beginning with a pitcher losing his arm to an escaped zoo tiger. But that’s nothing compared to the current pitcher changing into a werewolf during a night game. In “Lottery” Brian Buccellato, Megan Levens and Giuia Brusco tell the story of a boxing match to the death in which random audience members are called to the ring, with surprising results for one family.

Lots of other odd twists are included: a tryout for a “cosmic ball” team rejected for being straight; a pétanque game played against the devil; a race between sharks and mermaids; and a wrestler who travels through time using his fighting skills to correct wrongs throughout mankind’s history. The final story “1 v. A” finds Paul Pope in familiar dystopic mek territory. It’s the tale of the IRFL World Football Classic in San Diego, and begins with one of the robot contestants heading to the stadium through an apocalyptic wasteland. As the two players fight, there is an announcement of a trajectile terminating outside the city…and both radio commentators and emergency messages abruptly cease.

About marksullivan5

Freelance Journalist & Musician; Senior Contributor, All About Jazz.com; writing on comics at mrvertigocomics.com & No Flying, No Tights.com
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