The comic “Flight into Fury,” published in The United States Marines No. 8, is an intense second person narrative which placed the reader in the shoes of a pilot about to embark on his first mission after being shot down over enemy territory. The comic addressed issues of traumatic events, and the questioning of one’s own abilities with some complexity and understanding. However, in the end, the protagonist resolves his issues by setting aside his emotions, bearing down, and acting courageously and aggressively.
The comic opens with the protagonist, who later comes to be known as Joe,[^] standing on a runway wondering, “Can you trust yourself?…You who remember so vividly that terrible — Flight into Fury.”[^] The comic begins walking the reader through the terrifying memories that haunt him. More terrifying than the dangerous events is the reaction from others back home, and the damage caused to his reputation. The narration reads: “But mostly you remember the voices…the unheard voices that ran through your mind as you wandered around the base after returning to safety…” and a haunting dream sequence is shown across the panel, with disappointment, depression, mocking, and laughter.[^] A depressed man in shown drinking at a bar with his head in his hands, and a range of people, including associates, mechanics, a superior officer, and an enemy pilot all reinforcing the protagonist’s failures. He sees himself as a failure, and he presumes others do as well, and this is what leads him to question himself so intensely. This questioning, and the pressure from the presumed comments occurring behind his back, pushed him to request a transfer and start anew with a new unit.[^]
As a soldier on the ground, the protagonist withstands an intense attack, but then disobeys orders to hold the position and orders the men to move to a ridge in preparation for another attack. He questions his own motives, saying, “Why don’t you face it? You’re not thinking of the men…you’re thinking of yourself. You’re afraid to tell them they have to withstand another attack like that! You’re a coward…A COWARD! A COWARD!!!!”[^] On the ridge, additional troops converge on the location, and the protagonist, in a rush, turns and fires upon them. He is stopped when another soldier realizes that the troops are American.[^] His superior excoriates him, saying his decision to take the ridge cost them men and, because the enemy is able to bring up artillery, left them almost hopeless.[^] He then adds, “But I don’t suppose it’s entirely your fault. A man with your record should never have been given such an assignment!”[^] This statement plays upon all of the protagonist’s fears and insecurities; the following narration reads, ”A man with your record! The words burn into your memory…”[^]
As these thoughts go through his head, he is faced with an opportunity to redeem himself. He spots an abandoned enemy plane and contemplates attacking the enemy artillery, while battling insecurity: “But do you have the courage? Can you step inside that thing and do the things you’re supposed to be able to do? Can you conquer your fears? Or are you going to be a coward all your life?”[^]
Without much further narration, he is up in the air, searching for the artillery. He destroys the installment and encounters some enemy MiGs, reminding him of his painful past. He realizes that his back is against the wall this time, and receives enemy fire. He is able to maneuver and attack the MiGs, and he tells himself; “But this time you haven’t got a parachute! There is no escape! You have no alternative to death! All right, if you’re going to die, the least you can do is die like a man! You’ve certainly never lived like one!”[^] With the situation clear — kill or be killed — he finds new determination to take out as many MiGs as possible before he goes down. He shoots down another plane and then notices the remaining MiG running. He says, “He’s running! He’s actually running from me! He’s more scared than I am! He’s afraid of me!!!”[^]
The next thing he remembers after this triumphant realization is waking up in a hospital with an officer referred to as ‘the old man’ sitting beside him.[^] Joe learns that his crew was able to hold out for reinforcements thanks to his work.[^] The officer adds, “One thing I can’t understand, though, is how a guy who can fly like that didn’t stick to aviation,” prompting Joe to say that he found his own worst enemy, but “The guy is dead now…His name was Joe.”[^]
The story explores the mental cost associated with war, and especially the role in which one’s own pride and reputation can cause them real harm. This portion may bring some comfort to soldiers dealing with their own post-traumatic stress, by showing that it’s natural to feel this way and question your own abilities if things turn sour. This sensitivity is rather shallow, however, as the story paints his decision-making in response to legitimate threats as selfish and made as a result of his fear and insecurities. Furthermore, Joe’s solution to his stress is not through treatment or therapy, or even reassignment, but through further repressing his emotions, doubling down on his courage and “being a man” to make up for his mistakes. Here, aggression and courageousness are used to kill his own worst enemy, his own self-consciousness and anxieties.