"The Fuse: Volume 1 – The Russia Shift" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Image Comics
Originally published as The Fuse #1 - #6
Written by Antony Johnston
Illustrated by Justin Greenwood
2014, 161 Pages
Trade Paperback released on August 27th, 2014
Sooner or later we're going to live in outer space, right? I mean, it's an inevitability. I'm sure it will be nice at first, but given enough time things up there will become just as shitty as things down here. That's kind of where The Fuse picks up. A space station in retrograde geostationary orbit has become the home of politicians and hobos alike. A homeless woman turns up dead on Detective Ralph Dietrich's first day on the job, spiraling into a case that goes right to the top of the Fuse. Not a bad orientation, huh?
Writer Antony Johnston is quick to establish the world of The Fuse. There are haves and have-nots. The police generally concern themselves with the former, however Dietrich is not your regular cop. Usually cops are sent up there because they did something bad down below. He's the opposite. He came up to the space station voluntarily. He sees the death of the cabler (someone that lives in the walls and inner workings of the Fuse, aka: where the cables are) as just another case that needs to be solved. All of the pieces need to be put together and the killer brought to justice.
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This comes as a bit of a shock at first to Dietrich's new partner, veteran officer Sergeant Klementina “Klem” Ristovych. She has a tough time adjusting to Dietrich. He's a know-it-all young gun who doesn't know his way around the Fuse. She has to concentrate on the case while also keeping an eye on him. Of course, the two eventually come to terms and see eye-to-eye. They're both dedicated detectives, even if they have to work the space equivalent of the graveyard shift.
The beauty of The Fuse is that it's a good cop story first. It just happens to be set in outer space. The overall story could be taken out and dropped into any American city and it would still work. Johnston creates a dynamic between the characters first and foremost. The tidbits about the space station and the culture of the people living there are only sprinkled in, with promises that they'll be explored further in later issues. There are things like the FGUs (which stands for First Guys Up, the workers that built the Fuse and just never left) and the Fuse Liberation Front (which works as a terrorist organization) that are just previewed, giving just enough information to pull you in.
Justin Greenwood captures the hard-nosed nature of both Dietrich and Klem. I don't think either of them smile throughout the entire first arc. They're so concentrated on the job and doing what's right. You get a vibe from each character from the first moment they appear on the page. Dietrich is quiet and disciplined. Klem is snarky but resolute, unafraid to challenge authority. This is all brought to life with Greenwood's pencils.
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The background of The Fuse lends itself to classic noir stories. You can occasionally forget that these people are in a space station miles above Earth. The buildings and vehicles look only slightly futuristic, possibly because the bulk of the comic takes place in the slummier areas. When the book gets to the richer neighborhoods, it's a little more sci-fi, with huge windows showing the stars and hover scooters. Even with these, the houses are the same basic style we have now. There are no video phones, holograms, or robots.
The first volume of The Fuse tells a complete crime story with a beginning, middle, and end, but drops more than enough information about the world to keep you coming back for more. Johnston is a solid storyteller that has created a damn fine murder mystery to get the ball rolling on this new series. The sci-fi angle only serves to amplify the plot.