Main story arc
Mr. Gone, a serial killer and rapist with a telepathic link to Julie and extensive knowledge of and access to people’s various Outbacks, starts phoning Julie. She thinks he is merely an obscene phone caller, and ignores him. Eventually, The Maxx gets in Gone’s way by “protecting” Julie, so Gone tries to kill him, assisted by the Isz, the Outback’s main predators. The Maxx fights him in both The Outback and the real world.
Eventually, Mr. Gone makes Julie see the truth about her past, and reveals to her how The Maxx came to be. A twist is revealed by Gone: the fact that Gone first met Julie when she was a child. She knew him as “uncle Artie”, a friend of her father’s. Gone’s tall tales about a visit to Australia helped shape Julie’s Outback. As Julie begins healing herself and The Outback, the series follows Sarah, a depressed teenager whose mother sends her to Julie for counseling. Sarah is often in conflict with her mother, who disciplines her so she won’t grow up to be like her father, eventually revealed to be Mr. Gone.
The backstories of several characters are revealed midway through the series. While in college, Julie stops her car to help a man in the street who beats and rapes her, before finally leaving her to die. To cope, she hides in what is referred to as her ‘Outback’ (a primeval landscape situated entirely in her subconscious, where she has control). In The Outback, she becomes “The Leopard Queen”, an all-powerful goddess. She spends so much time dwelling in her Outback that the real world and The Outback gradually become unstable.
One night, she accidentally hits a homeless man with her car. Remembering what happened the last time she stopped to help someone, she covers the unconscious body with trash, but in doing so she unintentionally opens a link to the Outback. After Julie leaves, a lampshade in the trash (which had brushed the Outback) expands over the man’s body, becoming a mask that costumes him and links him to Julie.
After the conclusion of the first storyline, the action leaps forward from 1995 (the then-present) to the year 2005. Julie and Dave (the former Maxx) having vanished, the action focuses on Sara (as she now spells her name) and Iago, a giant, murderous yellow slug from her Outback. Iago has a list of people to kill, and it turns out that Julie and Sara are both on it. Sara is hounded by a homeless man named Norbert whom she soon realizes is her Maxx. Sara has constant confrontations with Mr. Gone, who is repentant of his past crimes. He is visited by three special agents intent on arresting him, but he turns them into insects. Later, after reading a diary he leaves for her that reveals his tragic origin story, Sara eventually feels sympathy for and a connection to her father. She also begins developing a strange power that she may be inheriting from Mr. Gone.
Julie and Dave return to the story after Julie is attacked by Iago and loses a few fingers. It turns out that Julie abandoned her son, Mark, to keep him safe from Iago. She tries to have Dave tell Mark that she’s dead so he will stop seeking her out, but Mark doesn’t believe him. Sara, Dave, Mark, Mr. Gone and Norbert band together to rescue Julie from Iago, who kidnaps her and takes her into Sara’s outback. Norbert cuts Iago open, apparently defeating him, but Julie has already escaped. Norbert and Iago are never heard from again.
Mr. Gone soon reveals that time is unraveling for the group, which now includes Glorie, one of Mr. Gone’s past victims who now has a friendly relationship with him. Gone returns Dave’s Maxx power to him. Sara returns as a being whom differently people perceive as a giant Isz, pink fairy or football. Mark has an odd dream about eccentric kidnappers. Each member of the group begins to disappear from reality to be reborn in another. Before Mr. Gone can disappear, the three agents who previously tried to arrest him, who now appear as humanoid beings with insect bug heads, return and kill him, as he expected. Mark is the last to disappear.
In Julie’s outback, Mr. Gone is reunited with Sara, who is now a child again. The Maxx considers attacking him, but the Jungle Queen says to leave him be, because even evil deserves a place to rest.
In the new reality, Mr. Gone is a professor and Dave is a janitor at his school. Julie and Mark are still mother and son, but seem to live in better conditions. All the principal characters now lead completely different lives, yet retain a small part of their connection to the Outback and to each other.
One of the dominant concepts of The Maxx is that every human being has a spirit animal, which is linked to the person during a pivotal moment in their life. Julie’s spirit animal is a rabbit. When she was very young, Julie rescued a dying rabbit that lay in the road in front of her house (as seen in The Maxx #10). Julie later witnessed her mother bludgeoning the rabbit to death with a shovel to put it out of its misery. This traumatic event linked the rabbit to Julie’s subconscious. Julie projects the rabbit onto Dave as she tries to take care of him like the rabbit she was unable to save. Maxx, who is linked to Julie and her spirit animal, worries that, if he removes his mask, she will find the head of a rabbit beneath it.
Sarah’s spirit animal is a horse. In the latter half of the series, this spirit animal manifests itself as Norbert, a homeless man she takes pity on.
The main inhabitants of The Outback, this Isz are small, eyeless beings with egg-shaped bodies, arms and legs, about as large as housecats. The omniverous white Isz of the Outback become cannibalistic black Isz when brought into the real world. They are stronger, faster, and have sharper teeth than white Isz. However in one instance, a single White Isz was able to cross over into the real world unchanged when there was a small punctured hole in an alley wall that directly connected both realities. The Black Isz proceeded to torture their less aggressive kin after its initial mission had been completed, showing the completely opposite degrees of aggression the two types exhibit. The Black Isz can assume different appearances depending on the clothes they wear, and their intent. If an Isz is dressed as an elderly woman, it appears as such to anyone who does not know already that it is an Isz. In the latter part of the series, Sara’s Isz appear as pink, flying, eyeless fairies that explode if not kept in water.