I want to bathe in the “dirty sci-fi” of “The Fuse”. It’s my new favorite sub-genre of science fiction. This isn’t hard sci-fi—there will be no technical explanations of big, scary gadgetry, nothing highly scientific going on. But it’s gritty as hell. That combined with its smartly speculative plot make for a sci-fi that’s appealing and palatable to tourists in the genre yet remaining entertaining to the die-hards. This fantastically crafted comic has the guts of an old pulp rag with the experience of the 21st century comic culture.
WRITTEN BY: Antony Johnston
ART BY: Justin Greenwood
RELEASE: March 19, 2014
To refresh your memory, “The Fuse” is a science fiction/crime/cop drama comic set in the near future in Midway City, an orbiting energy platform 22,000 miles from planet Earth. Emancipated from Earth, Midway City is a five-mile-long steel pressurized environment with very strict laws and a lot of corruption. Veteran Fuse detective, Ristovych, and literal brand new Fuse detective fresh in from Germany, Dietrich, are a seemingly incompatible team until they start digging into the case.
In issue two, as they really dive into the murders of two Fuse cablers (think homeless person meets a computer hacker of the Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller variety), the low-level compatibility between the two transforms into mutual respect for each other. I love the way that Johnston writes this partnership’s dynamic. It’s definitely got the tropes of an “Odd Couple” relationship mixed with a genuine power that leaves the reader with absolute confidence in their relationship and ability to kick ass together. This is such an urbane and effective dynamic.
Greenwood’s illustrations have completely seeped into the fabric of Johnston’s world. At first I struggled with the stark simplicity of his art but over the course of these first two issues, I’ve grown to love the way his characters and worlds are so distinct yet so light on detail. Literally. His illustrations have very little detail and can appear shifty or blank at some points. But that’s what’s so damn amazing about this style, all the expression in the comic comes from the impact of one single frown line, a raised eyebrow, a tight lip. It blows my mind that he’s able to accomplish so much emotion with such a minimalistic style.
The plot—pacing—is quick and smooth, which is hard to come by in science fiction. Reading in this genre can often feel long-winded and tedious but “The Fuse” manages efficiency and simplicity without losing the hardened edge of crime set in science fiction. It gathers up armfuls of other sub-genres (see: cop-procedural, crime drama, dystopian, speculative fiction) putting them in a melting pot with sharp writing, perfect pacing, and intuitive wit. It’s truly a bold combination of slow burn tension, in-your-face dialogue, and cerebral execution.
Reviewed by – Bree Ogden