Spoilers for The Fuse #1 -
In a more interesting world, Image Comic’s The Fuse, written by Antony Johnston and drawn by Justin Greenwood, would be optioned for a television series, playing off the still prevalent loyalty to Firefly, the popularity of Neill Blomkamp’s filmography, and America’s seemingly endless appetite for weekly crime dramas. Barring a few atypical props and some CG wideshots of the titular space station orbiting Earth, it would be a surprisingly simple world to translate into a tv series – thanks to dystopian set pieces of crowded city streets, and pipe-lined corridors necessitating little more than creative modification to a down on its luck city’s abandoned industrial district. The hardest part about the entire project would likely be finding a television actress who could best pull off a Judi Dench impersonation for the role of veteran detective Klementina Ristovych to play opposite to Ralph Karl Dietrich (my personal choice for his role being Coby Bell).
Unfortunately the world isn’t nearly as interesting as we might wish it to be, so we make due with a story such as this one being confined to a monthly comic.
Our story starts right out the gate by setting up the makings of a serial killer conspiracy which appears to prey on Midway City’s lowest class of citizens (known colloquially as “cablers”), as well as the apathy of the rest of the populace has for them. Shortly thereafter and we are introduced to German born Dietrich, who plays the role of our as-you-know-bob and rookie detective arriving in Midway City just in time to stumble upon his first space case as well as meet his seemingly Russian veteran partner.
Midway City is an even bigger mystery so far than the story’s starting homicide. It’s not yet known if the entire satellite is Midway or if it’s simply a layer of the orbital enormity, but what we are introduced to is no Elysium: tourists and the downtrodden alike seem drawn to the starbound city but we’re not entirely certain why quite yet. The book’s introductory glance at the floating superstructure showing clear signs of urban sprawl and cluttered infrastructure that make it seem as worn as the people breathing its recycled oxygen day in and day out. In this future, it seems people don’t journey to space so much as they escape to it.
New blood polizist Dietrich seems to be among the escapists himself: he’s remarkably tight lipped about why he left Earth (likely to give him an air of mystique while his partner explains the world to everyone) but it’s made clear early on that he’s a good detective despite his apparent youth. Veteran politsiya Klementina picks up her partner’s slack, setting up her status as someone who knows the beat inside and out while peppering everyone she glances at with salty remarks. Years patrolling her section of space seem to have left her little patience for her new partner and his fresh-from-the-academy smell, sarcastic quips and curses about both Dietrich’s somber mood and her jurisdiction’s woefully underfunded security are all too telling of a cop on the force too long to know when to quit. The first issue fleshes her out rather well; if you’re a fan of characters that take male-dominated tropes and make them their own, you might already be sold on this dystopian sci-fi crime drama.
The Fuse isn’t an entirely open-and-shut case though: those hoping the futuristic setting would serve for more action-packed fare or openly outrageous trappings will be sorely disappointed, as will those expecting Image’s typical over-the-top gore. Part of this may be due to the artistic direction, as the slightly stylized and dirty look of Justin Greenwood’s art lends itself decently to the story’s overall aesthetic but it lacks definition or real flavor beyond “gritty.” Panels and pages are by the books too, lacking any distinct emotion aside from fatigue. And while previous hypothesizing about whom best to play Klem in a live action role might have led you to suspect she was purposely written to make you ignore her gender, it doesn’t help that most the non-essential characters blur together into an androgynous tangle of vague caricatures. Hopefully future issues won’t necessitate the eye of a crime solver yourself track of who is who, especially if we start dealing with multiple suspects and motives.
At the end of the solar day your appreciation for The Fuse will depend on whether or not you can appreciate its slow burn and pseudo-cyberpunk aesthetics. If you wish a series like this actually existed on TV then give it a try: it certainly beats wasting an hour on another incarnation of CSI.
My Rating: 4/5