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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.
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.
Top international reviews
This doesn’t stretch for any new concepts or big ideas like say Powers, but it refines the procedural drama to as shiny as it gets. We are all so postmodern we are expecting aliens or magic to pop up but this is just human drama. The twists are subtle and believable and the plot rock solid.
The worldbuilding – with a future and an unusual location - is top notch. You feel as much of an outsider as the newly arrived protagonist, yet not confused or lost. There is no clever hook, it just hits the ground running and it isn’t till a few dozen pages in that you realise this is basically dialogue between two characters.
The art isn’t minimalist but sparing. Good colour brings depth to the page and a smaller palette allows colour to entice emotion. The lack of detail ensures a streamlined read and snappy pacing.
The ending is a bit Agatha Christie with a massively detailed explanation of the murder to make sure you know what happened and that feels a bit out of place considering the light and energetic pace of the rest of the book.
It never tries to overreach itself but that guarantees a solid, and entertaining, read.