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Furiosa Returns in 'Mad Max - Furiosa #1'

But is it the Furiosa we know and love?

Mad Max: Furiosa #1

Publisher: DC/Vertigo
Length: 40 pages
Writer: Mark Sexton, Nico Lathouris, George Miller
Price: $4.99
Publication date: 2015-08

Over a month after its release, Mad Max: Fury Road is still sweeping the world as the surprise hit movie of the summer, revitalizing George Miller’s post-apocalyptic film franchise for a new generation. Since Miller’s first film in the series, Mad Max starring Mel Gibson, in 1979, Max and his world have influenced and defined the post-apocalypse genre for years to come, with influences and homages still noticeable to this day including most recently in the Borderlands and Fallout video game series.

And yet, many have noticed with Fury Road that Max serves as almost a supporting character in his own franchise, with the undisputed breakout character being Charlize Theron’s ass-kicking women’s liberator, Furiosa. Since seeing her in action audiences have fallen in love with the character, and naturally have requested more of her in the franchise’s future. With the announcement of a one-shot comic focused around Furiosa, written by the team behind the movie, fans eagerly awaited this new addition to her character arc. Unfortunately, what they got was a comic that is not only disappointingly terse on Furiosa’s backstory, but also frustratingly unfaithful to the film’s depiction of the character.

The comic’s story takes place just before the events of the film, in which Furiosa leads the captive “wives” of main villain Immortan Joe out of his stronghold, the Citadel. There, the wives are kept in a vaulted suite and given access to books, music, and clean food and water so long as they are kept in prime condition to carry Immortan’s children. We’re introduced to Furiosa after a scene in which one of Immortan’s sons, the extremely muscular Rictus, attempts to seize one of the wives for his own use. Joe realizes he needs someone to safeguard the wives from anyone but himself, and thus summons Furiosa to keep watch over them. There isn’t much more plot afterward save for Curiosa’s interaction with the wives, and the wives’ grievances at the hands of Joe.

And herein lies the first major problem with the comic: it doesn’t present anything we couldn’t have surmised by seeing the film (or quite frankly, the trailer). We already know the women are sexually enslaved to Immortan Joe. We don’t need to, and rather wouldn’t, see it depicted for the purpose of plot. We already know they are strong-willed and intelligent. We don’t need further justification or explanation for this (i.e. the women are rebellious because they read a lot of books).

Which leads into the comic’s attempt at a subplot: the aftermath of Joe’s assaulting one of the wives, Angharad (played by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in the movie). Joe’s medic informs him that Angharad is pregnant, which throws her into despair. Later that night while on guard, Furiosa overhears Angharad in pain and rushes to her side. She stumbles upon a rather gratuitously graphic scene of Angharad attempting to perform the equivalent of a coat hanger abortion on herself. An enraged Furiosa stops her and berates the wives when they try to pull her away. Furiosa explains to the wives that they should be grateful for what they’ve been given, for out there in the world “there is nothing but squalor and disease,” and no real freedom. Angharad then accuses Furiosa of knowing nothing but war and killing, prompting Furiosa to say the most troubling line in the book: “and what were you just doing?”

For a character and movie that were so thematically focused on women’s independence and bodily choices, to see such a pro-life statement as this is bothersome to say the least, and likely contrary to the mentality of the film’s feminist consultant, Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues. It’s also a viewpoint Furiosa doesn’t seem to let up on, given weeks later Angharad decides she’s going to keep the baby, to which Furiosa simply responds “good.” To cut a celebration of women’s autonomy short at what she does with an unplanned baby is a disappointing betrayal of the film’s focus. Especially when concerning a woman like Angharad who’s been sexually assaulted. Regardless of whatever the politics of such an apocalyptic world might be, or Furiosa’s intentions in preventing the girls from being tossed to the wind, to see Furiosa not the least bit sympathetic to or concerned for Angharad’s plight is a regrettable detraction of her character.

This is only made more troublesome by information we learn about Furiosa later on in the comic. As Furiosa is further exposed to the wives’ abuses, she begins to feel greater pity. She mentions the land she came from, known as the “Green Place” in the film, and here referred to as “The Land of Many Mothers,” a place where “there were men, but it was women who ran it.” She agrees to help the women escape and take them to it. The scene sets up an interesting background for Furiosa as someone born in a matriarchal society and culture enslaved into an oppressively patriarchal one. In which case why wouldn’t she be more sympathetic to the women’s troubles beforehand? Why did she have to be repeatedly exposed to Joe’s abuse of the wives before she turned to their side?

It seems to be another instance in which the writers felt it necessary to explain why Furiosa is the way she is, and what turned her into the hero we love as if to justify her altruism through one moment of trauma as in a superhero origin story. But, like the wives, we took most of who Furiosa was in good faith. Most viewers probably didn’t imagine her as a not-so-sympathetic character who through some event or trauma turned over a new leaf, so why invent this turn? We never questioned her heroism in the movie, why do so here? Additionally, are we meant to believe that Furiosa only adopted this newfound heroism maybe a day or so before the events of the movie?

All in all, despite some impressive artwork, Mad Max: Furiosa #1 is one of those books that leaves you with more questions than it does answers. Hopefully the upcoming sequels will again provide us with the Furiosa we know.


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