Early morning on Monday, October 9, 2017, wildfires burned through Northern California, resulting in 44 fatalities. Author Brian Fies’s firsthand account of this tragic event is an unflinching depiction of his personal experiences, including losing his house and every possession he and his wife had that didn’t fit into the back of their car.
Shares lesser-broadcast hardships as well as how quickly wildfire victims are expected to process a frenzied cycle of emotions ... But a vulnerable Fies doesn’t grieve alone — the careful accounting here culminates in what’s better described as a work of comics journalism than it is autobiography ... Aesthetically reminiscent of Sarah Glidden’s nonfiction works or Josh Neufeld’s reporting on Hurricane Katrina, A Fire Story utilizes the techniques typically practiced by those working in the comics medium — sequential art, word balloons — to present a rich newsworthy story. Fies’ sparsely embellished but expressive figures don monochrome apparel and populate uncomplicated building interiors. He produces explanatory diagrams about fire science and dissects a county’s flawed emergency response program. An integration of digital photos and satellite imagery of Northern California — while discordant at first, clashing with the otherwise clean lines and minimal illustrative style — beckon us in as observers and news consumers.
... masterly ... Fies uses vivid language and dramatic art to put us inside his shoes ... This is beautiful writing, visceral and deep. The deceptively simple drawings make the horror accessible and clear. The way the story unrolls, from fleeing danger to recognizing the depth of the loss, is dramatic and natural at the same time ... Just the story of the fire and its aftermath would make for a stunning book, but Fies adds layers of depth to the memoir by including other people's stories.
... elegant ... Breakout stories spotlighting some of [Fies'] neighbors deepen the book’s emotional tug ... Fies weighs just what 'home' and 'tradition' really mean when your life has been leveled; piecing together his story reflects the act of reconstructing his existence ... the veteran cartoonist again displays a gift for pacing. Subtly and gradually, Fire Story lures the reader into his trauma, till one feels as keenly vulnerable as its victims.