For my debut at The Los Angeles Times (!), I wrote about cartoonist Brian Fies’s graphic account of losing his home in the 2017 California wildfires. A Fire Story is his chronicling, in comics, of life during and after the second-most destructive wildfire in the state’s history:
Following a tense sequence that has the cartoonist and his wife springing from bed and frantically hauling belongings out to their driveway and the palpable heartbreak that materializes later when Fies scouts out their rubble-strewn streets, A Fire Story shares lesser-broadcast hardships as well as how quickly wildfire victims are expected to process a frenzied cycle of emotions.
A drawn five-key keychain has three keys that “don’t do anything anymore,” explains Fies in a caption. Homes elsewhere are reduced to wholly blacked-out, cross-hatched blots on stretches of sepia-toned blocks that look like a war zone, where neighbors comb the charred ruins of their houses’ foundations. Discussions with utility companies prove pointless. A tally of long-gone items on a single-panel page is slugged “Things I Will Never See Again.” 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.
Read my whole piece at The Los Angeles Times.