by Matt Puddy
Digging deep into a large selection of styles he loves, Antony Johnston brings us The Fuse this week, bringing science fiction and police procedurals together 22,000 miles above the surface of the Earth. The Fuse is a five-miles long space station, inhabited by roughly half a million people - all of which needed to be watched over. Much like a normal city the citizens have separated into various social statuses and roles. There are the obvious staff and services on the station, but equally poverty has crept in as well and “cablers” – the equivalent of homeless people – have propped up the human hierarchy.
On his way to the station is Ralph Dietrich, a young detective who has volunteered to get his position on the station, and upon his arrival he is thrust straight into the thick of it with a murder almost falling into his lap. To make matters worse he also meets his new partner, a veteran of the force, and they both make a less than impressive first impression. Putting this aside the two push forward to start solving the crime. With little practical knowledge or understanding of how the station works, Dietrich is a little left behind on the processes, and owing to Klem’s cold demeanour, the partnership doesn’t really start working, creating a growing animosity. With dead ends and odd clues, including the arrival of another body – the vagrant we are introduced to in the first page, who is appearing to be a scapegoat – it all just complicates matters further. So what happens next? The hunt for the metaphorical needle within a huge floating pressurised haystack begins.
To me Image is known for being more of a non-typical publisher, and by typical I mean capes and powers. This is a good example of taking a straightforward style of story and giving it an extra twist. If you wanted to be flippant about it you could drill Johnston’s story down to a simple detective story, with the location and settings being merely incidental, but it’s the added layer of uncertainty in his surroundings that is given to Dietrich that turns things on its head. Johnston is also used to writing in a non-realistic realistic style after being on Oni Press for a very long time and his sci-fi credentials are easily verified by his work on the Dead Space computer game series to name just one.
Justin Greenwood is the artist for the issue and has a quite particular style. In some frames there is an almost cartoon like quality. Faces are smooth and - with the exception of the Cablers - fairly blemish free. It’s almost like social status has once again had an influence on a person’s visible standings. My one gripe is that the style leads to Klem having a certain androgynous appearance, that even after Klem's gender is confirmed I still wasn’t convinced as a reader .
There is certainly a lot of mystery in this issue, which was the desired outcome that Johnston was aiming for, and there is plenty room for manoeuvring in future issues. I would hope that Image keep this title for a long time, as this is just what happens on the “Russia Shift” meaning there are so many other places to go and things to do or see. One for fans of 2000AD or the wealth of comparable science fiction stories coming from European band dessinée, and definitely worth a look for anyone who loves Arthur C. Clarke.
Matt Puddy was impressed by the trailer for The Crew on the next-gen consoles.