Fever Ridge – A tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War – Comic Review

Fever Ridge - A Tale of MacArthur's Jungle War 001-000Fever Ridge is a limited series of 8 issues published by IDW, last week issue three of this title was released. So I think it’s about time I made a full review for this comic which its story and set up has been made in a unique way and which to be honest at first had me confused. It’s not the type of comic I’m accustomed to reading, but when I stopped analyzing and comparing it to all the mainstream comics I used to read I really enjoyed it and saw what a good read it actually is.

The story takes place in Papua New Guinea during World War 2 as we see a group of soldiers mature and change from wars hardships and the situations they have to deal with in an unknown dangerous environment but exotic too. The main influence for Fever Ridge is the real events of the writer’s grandfather who had lived them during this war. Mike Heimos is the creator and writer of this comic while the rest of the creative team consists of Nick Runge who does pencils and inks and Jordie Bellaire who after issue one passes her duties as colorist to Nolan Woodard.

As I said before I was taken aback on how Mike Heimos had setup and wrote this comic. It’s more like a comic book documentary if something like this can be said because actually Fever Ridge is two things. One part is the comic and the other is a narration of documents, essays and thoughts of the writer. Each part can stand alone but it would not be as interesting and intriguing if you don’t read it as a whole. What I mean is that the comic is interesting with its art and story but the “extras” give you a general feeling of the environment, conditions and thoughts that Heimos wants to put Fever Ridge - A Tale of MacArthur's Jungle War 002-000out there for the readers to know. This way the extras make you appreciate and understand the whole comic aspect of Fever Ridge even more.

Also Mike Heimos has made a tremendous research to build this comic. This is obvious and you can see it in the way he has built both the environment the story unfolds in and the personalities his heroes’ have. In issue one where all his main characters meet in the 6th Infantry in California the conversation between Erik and Franz although through simple and everyday talk it reveals more of their personalities and the concepts, perceptions of the societies they lived and live now. In issue two we see in a detailed historical comic narration of the main events that lead Japan in the late 19th century to start an aggressive colonization of the Pacific up to WW II when General MacArthur states that he will fight back and win the Philippines. Even Papua New Guinea is fleshed out with specific details about its environment, culture and history in all three issues. Essentially all this research has succeeded in bringing you more into the story and making you understand the forces which are in the background and pulling the strings of the lives and destinies of the characters that are featured in this comic.

Fever Ridge - A Tale of MacArthur's Jungle War 003-000The characters also will have to deal with a mystical element which Heimos has confirmed will appear in the story as well. This element is seen from the start of the series and becomes more obvious by issue three but still it hasn’t been reveal to its full degree. I do not want go in details on what this magic element will be and how it will affect the characters because at this point it will be only speculations and will spoil the whole story anticipation. I will only say that it must have to do with a common experience that Erick and the third main character of Fever Ridge Blackie had shared in the first issue. So apart from the raw battle action we will see a deeper mystical and perhaps spiritual aspect to the story that it only makes it even more entertaining. Also a great aspect in the story is the environment of Papua New Guinea and how it’s visually shown.

Nick Runge has done a brilliant work of visualizing Heimos detailed research into Fever Ridge especially when he has to draw parts of Papa New Guinea’s natural environment, landscapes and animal life. His art is detailed and full formed and his inks add a shadowing element that make it realistic both in the panel sequences as in the splash and spread pages, in general you can see he has a background of traditional training in visual arts which grips you and makes you a part of the story. Jordie Bellaire although for one issue has also done a great job in coloring you can see this in the very first spread page of issue one, she uses specific colors and tones to add to the atmosphere  just as Nolan Woodard does in the following two issues. Woodard’s coloring becomes even more dynamic by issue three his tones and color choices add to the art giving you a vivid feeling of the atmosphere you can actually sense the heat and humidity of New Guineas environment. I have to say as a whole the art is simply awesome!

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Finally I will tell you about the extras and what Mike Heimos’s main goal is by including them in Fever Ridge. In issue one he states and I quote”one of my several ambitions for this book is to raise awareness of one of the historical, anthropological, environmental and aesthetic treasures of the word the island of New Guinea.”

Fever Ridge - A Tale of MacArthur's Jungle War 003-003And he succeeds in doing this at least for me, in each issue he reveals details of this islands history and how it has struggled throughout the ages, on how it was and what conflicts have arisen in the present and in what dangerous it will lead it in the future. He also gives information about the wild life of New Guinea and its importance. The extras also include original character designs and essays about historical events and even on the origins of several words. All this add to the comic and as I already said makes it all the more intriguing.

If you haven’t read yet Fever Ridge I would strongly suggest you do. It is a comic of action and historical interests and as the story unfolds the plot thickens and the art becomes even better. It really is a good read with a different approach on how most comics are done which only makes all the better entertaining and unique. Read it and you will see.

This Monday I continue with an interview with Mike Heimos the creator and writer of this comic. He answers in several questions about comics and future works.

Do not miss it. 

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