In Fever Ridge #2, Michael Heimos brings the reader up to speed on a little war you might’ve heard of… involved a few people… had the clever name of WORLD WAR 2. Heimos is taking us on a trip around the Pacific in Fever Ridge: A Tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War #2!
FEVER RIDGE: A TALE OF MACARTHUR’S JUNGLE WAR #2 (of 8)
Written by: Michael Heimos
Art by: Nick Runge
Colors by: Nolan Woodard
Letters by: Brandon DeStefano
Edits by: Tom Waltz
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Previously, in Fever Ridge: A guy got bit by a snake in Arizona!
In high school, we sometimes did this thing with our chairs. If we were leaving a particularly valued chair for a few minutes, we’d holler “seat check” to reclaim it upon our reappearance. But if we were feeling really classy, we’d say “MacArthur” – the war nerd’s shorthand for “I shall return.” This, of course, derives from General MacArthur’s famous words when forced from the Phillipines during the early stages of World War 2.
As one might expect from the title, Fever Ridge is a comic focused on the Pacific Theater in World War 2. Specifically, the actions of the Alamo Scouts in the campaign for Papua New Guinea, based in part on writer Michael Heimos’s grandfather’s own experiences. Heimos has done his research for this miniseries, and he shows it off in this issue which is basically a greatest historical hits record from the Meiji Restoration to the Battle of the Coral Sea. This violates the traditional story-telling rule of “show, don’t tell” but Heimos makes it work. Last issue introduced the characters during training camp and kicked off the story. This issue provides the larger context for the whole shebang. If it had come first… well, let’s just be glad it didn’t. In any event, Heimos was able to tell the history well, pulling enough little details from MacArthur’s life, and highlighting the dramatic, to make this an entertaining read. It was a bit strange to read a comic without any of the main characters, but I think that having this historical context will heighten the drama down the road – in a five issue miniseries, this might come off as wasted space but not so here. And there was at least some backup material explaining the inspiration for three protagonists, which whetted my appetite for future issues.
Nick Runge has a tough job with this issue. How do you take what is basically an issue-long history lesson and transform it into something more than a textbook? Fortunately, Runge succeeds in his task. His use of layouts is imaginative, using the panels to highlight the cinematic (such as the bombing of the USS Panay) or the idiosyncratic (MacArthur’s derringers). The imagery is striking and memorable, due to Runge’s expert employment of light and shadow. In particular, his decision to keep MacArthur’s face mostly in shadows turns a well-known historical figure into a mysterious protagonist. My only complaint comes in the last two pages – a personal note from Michael Heimos about some Germano-Papua New Guinean historical apocrypha delivered in white letters on a black background in a font so tiny it made my eyes collapse in on themselves. It was interesting stuff, but much too hard to read for no particularly good reason. White text on black background is a big no-no, but especially don’t compound that with tiny type!
BOTTOM LINE: I SHALL RETURN… TO THIS MINISERIES
Fever Ridge #2 is a bit of a strange follow up to the first issue, as it takes a break from the main characters to present the historical background of the Pacific Theater. But history is all about the context, and Heimos and Runge ably deliver what could be dry exposition in an exciting way. Heimos and Runge are building up a promising war comic, reminiscent of The Thin Red Line or The Naked and the Dead. All-in-all, I definitely did not regret shelling out four bucks for this. Fever Ridge #2 earns three and-a-half out of five stars. Check it out.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!