The Fuse: The Russia Shift
What sold me on The Fuse was hearing writer Antony Johnston describe it.
“Sci-fi, detective stories, and murder mysteries are three of my favorite things, and The Fuse mashes them all up into something unique,” said writer Johnston. “We’ve been blown away by the response from our readers — especially women, who love Klem and her kick-ass attitude — and we hope this collection will encourage even more people to visit the claustrophobic, corrupt, and violent world of Midway City.”
I can get behind a good cop procedural, particularly one with such a unique setting. Midway is a satellite city, and detective Ralph Dietrich is arriving from Germany for his first shift. His partner, Klem Ristovych, fills the role of grizzled, tough-as-nails mentor. She’s been there much longer than he thinks, and she knows all the tricks and subcultures of the society.
Dietrich arrives to find a woman dying in front of him at the shuttleport. She’s a cabler, the equivalent of a homeless person, yet her murder leads the new partners into a political conspiracy that involves the mayor, his security detail, and his bid for reelection. I won’t say more because watching the story develop as the detectives follow the clues of their case is a large part of the fun. Johnston is expert at pacing the cliffhangers, with each chapter/issue ending with a reveal engineered to bring you back to find out what happens next.
The story requires the reader’s attention, which is a good thing. (There are too many comics where the text tells all you know, so you don’t have to read the art as carefully, or those where every element is laid out for you in insulting detail.) As they move through different settings, we’re learning more about how this world works. It’s science fiction, but it’s people-centered, showing how humans adapt to an unusual environment and what pieces of human nature (mostly the base ones) stay the same. It’s dense, with subtle moments that reveal their true meaning on a re-read, once you know what many characters are hiding.
Justin Greenwood’s art is sharp. No comfortable curves here, just angles and lines. It’s a harsh environment, which comes through in the settings, which are either basic (not much room for extraneous decoration when survival is at stake) or overstuffed (showing the lack of space in a limited, artificial environment, or alternately, how exclusive a rich person’s home is). It’s a mundane, street-level world, not one with flashy tech or showy astronauts; the high concept is Law & Order in space. You can see sample pages at Greenwood’s website.
I appreciate the way they made this world diverse. The mayor is black. So is Dietrich. Klem is a non-traditional comic woman, wearing jackets and pants that de-emphasize her physicality. A non-observant reader may not even realize she’s female, since she’s a tough talker and rarely trades on her gender. It’s just matter-of-factly a place where there are a lot more types of people than short-haired white males.
The first volume of The Fuse, The Russia Shift, collects the first six issues for a bargain price of $9.99. It’s due out in comic book stores on August 27 (Diamond preorder code JUN14 0504) and in bookstores September 9. Issues #1-5 are out now, with #6 due on July 30. The series returns with issue #7 in November with a new case.