‘Lost in the Longbox’ with Brad Gischia, Episode 10

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Fever Ridge #1
(IDW, February 2013)

WRITTEN BY:  Michael Heimos
ARTWORK BY:  Nick Runge
COLOR ARTWORK BY:  Jordie Bellaire
LETTERING BY:  Brandon Destefano

Greetings from the Wasteland!

This week, as you’re browsing the longboxes while waiting for your comic book purveyor to deliver into your hands the magical pile that has collected in your pull box, keep your eyes open in the top left corner for the letters “IDW”.  Over the past couple of years IDW has become known for being the “licensed property” company.  They’ve taken many of my favorite 80’s properties and made them comics, from Ghostbusters and G.I. Joe to Terminator and Dr. Who.  If it’s a popular television show or movie, you can bet IDW will release it in comic form, and usually successfully.  But if you like original fiction, I encourage you to look into the past.  Not as far back as ’85, but only to this past February, when Fever Ridge #1 was released.

Fever Ridge: A Tale of MacArthur’s Jungle War is a realistic and powerful look at an often over-looked arena of WWII, specifically the island of New Guinea, and brings it to haunting life.  Our boatman across this Stygian river is Michael Heimos, who has captured my imagination and dragged it kicking and screaming into the Pacific arena.

The story is centered around two German immigrants, men who find each other at training camp and form a bond when they are both bitten by the same snake.  They end up on the island of New Guinea, hunting for the Japanese soldiers who have dug in there.  The story takes several disturbing turns that include the massacre and cannibalism of a group of Australians.

Nick Runge brings the story to life.  The beginning is very wordy, not uselessly, it needs to create the backdrop for what comes later, and Runge uses creative paneling to give great reference for all of the dialogue.  The pencils are gritty and he follows the action in the story with more exciting paneling.  When the snake bites the men it is a three-page, twenty-five panel process with lots of break in the edges of the frames, so that more important images explode from the page.  Later on in the story the narrative is more visual, and Runge takes full advantage, using sequential art that explains the story as well as words could, showing rather than telling. (I can hear at least two of my college writing Profs chanting in the back of my head.)  After the wordiness of the prologue piece, it’s great when we have a couple of pages with minimum dialogue, letting the art speak for itself.

Jordie Bellaire colored this book wonderfully.  The first arc takes place in the desert at the training camp.  All the men are wearing khaki.  You would think it would be brown on brown on brown, but she takes dashes of other earth tones to distinguish form and uses a splatter technique in some of the coloring that is just fantastic.

Fever Ridge is deep into the story, five or six issues at this time, but if you like historical fiction, perhaps brush off your Delorean and take a trip back to 1943 New Guinea, where Heimos, Runge, and Bellaire have made things more terrifying than you would believe.

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Follow Brad Gischia on Twitter:  @comicwasteland

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