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The Fuse Volume 1: The Russia Shift Paperback – September 9, 2014
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With a build up like that you are probably expecting me to say I hated this and that it was awful. I am not, but in a way I am probably going to say something worse. If I wrote for sensationalism rather than fairness I could jump up and down frothing at the mouth about how boring this book is and generally making myself look like a bit of a prat. But really my feelings about this book are summed up with this very modern sentiment ‘meh.’ This is not a bad comic, it is not (too) badly written; it is not terribly drawn; the pacing is fine as is the concept, but overall it just does not do anything.
The book does have a few half decent twists to the story, but for the most part it is just a standard police procedural. This could have been mitigated if the writing had been perfect, or the art exceptional, but neither was the case. The German policeman is given a distinct method of speaking involving absolutely no contractions and it reads horribly. It was clearly intentional because none of the other characters talk like it. I would have had no issues with subtle hints as to his accent, perhaps an inflection in the spelling of certain words, or a replacement of ‘yes and no’ with ‘ya and nein’ but as it stands he reads like a badly edited Wikipedia entry. I can see what they were trying, but it really did not work as I found myself re-reading and mentally re-writing what would sound like incredibly stilted speech if read out loud.
In a similar way the art is fine, but had it of been exceptional it might have saved the book. It is merely ‘ok’ and it neither assisted nor hindered my understanding of this book. With the exception of a few panels there was almost nothing that indicated to me this was a space station, it could have been anywhere on Earth. I get the impression this was partly intentional, to show how ‘normal’ this way of life has become for the inhabitants, but it left me very disconnected with those times that it was shoved in your face. It almost felt like the artist made a mental effort every 10 pages to stick something in so he could forget about it the rest of the time.
Overall this is a half decent crime comic with average art, interesting if not well executed concepts and is worthy of a few minutes of your attention. However it is clichéd, over familiar and a rigid retelling of every good crime drama you have ever seen before. Like all episodic TV you know who the villain is before you get there because there are a very limited number of characters to choose from. If you like Image or IDWs non-standard quirky comics then this is probably a book for you, otherwise, give it a miss.
Story: Young detective Dietrich arrives on The Fuse - an orbital station with a bad reputation. Immediately, he becomes embroiled in Fuse politics when a homeless 'cabler' ends up dead at his feet. Paired with a mature native detective, he's about to learn all he needs to know about The Fuse as they scramble to solve the case. But this one random murder goes much deeper than either could have imagined.
Most of the components of the murder mystery in this story are rote - double crosses and obfuscations popular since noir became big in the 1940s. Where The Fuse really excels isn't the story so much as the backstory, worldbuilding, and especially dialogue. The world set up is intriguing and not your typical sci fi story in space. The dialogue is brisk, nuanced, and very much a part of the setting. We don't have 2014 dialogue in a futuristic story, fortunately.
As the plot began to devolve and motivations uncovered or discovered, I admittedly wasn't all that impressed with a 'seen this before' murder case. But this complete story arc in this first volume is clearly an opening gambit for much more to come. Tantalizing hints at the end of the volume suggest there is much more to our upstanding protagonist Dietrich - and that he has a vested interest in coming to the down and out station. I look forward to seeing where the authors will take this now that the first mystery is solved.
Reviewed from an ARC.
It kicks off with a bang when a woman is found dead outside a dock on the station shortly after his shuttle arrives. The nice thing about this book is that the reader and the protagonist get to experience the space station for the first time together. So the implications of her death and people's reactions to it come about naturally within the story. This lets the creators explore the setting in a way that I found engrossing.
Yet, the story does unfold slowly at times. I felt like the pacing was good, but there were things that could have been tightened up a little bit. The way it is written actually works well for foreshadowing events and developing the characters. And the art sucked me in. It may not be the prettiest, but it has a grittiness that complements the story perfectly. Part of what made the characters work so well for me is the illustrations.
Fans of police procedurals will definitely want to check this out. I say bring on more.