“The Russia Shift Part 1”
Writer: Antony Johnston
Artist: Justin Greenwood
Colorist: Shari Chankhamma
Working homicide 22,000 miles up on an orbiting energy platform, in a five-mile-long jury-rigged steel city stuffed with a half million people, with no help from your so-called colleagues back on Earth, is more than tough… it’s murder! Cynical, foul-mouthed veteran ANTONY JOHNSTON (UMBRAL, Wasteland, Daredevil) gets partnered with fresh-faced idealist JUSTIN GREENWOOD (Wasteland, Resurrection) for a new crime series with attitude! Murder, mayhem, and mystery-22,000 miles straight up.
Tradepaperback: The Fuse v1: Russia Shift
Antony Johnston is one of those few remaining comic writers who manages to regularly churn out new work without ever really breaking into the Marvel or DC universes. He has done a one mini-series and one-offs with them, but never anything substantial. That has not stopped him from making a bit of a name for himself with titles like Wasteland and the recently launched Umbral, both of which are getting fairly good critical receptions. His newest venture is the Image-published Fuse, which is a near-future police procedural on a space station that is filled with people trying to escape their past on Earth.
Our main character is Detective Ralph Dietrich, the new member of the so-called Red Shift. He is an interesting character who has just enough real-world experience to not be a blind-idealist who thinks he can clean up the space station, but not so run down that he is cynical like his new partner, veteran Klementina Ristovych (Klem, for short). We do not know much of his motivations for coming to the station yet — everyone there is running from something — but that should come in due time.
The world of Fuse is pretty well realized, but there are definitely moments when you feel like you are an outside looking in. Some of the slang does not make sense yet, the background and assisting characters barely even have faces and the actual plot has still only appeared in the fringes of the book. It is a bit slow to start, but there is enough here to make reaching for the second issue worth a shot next month. A bit of time spent helping to make some of the background data bit more coherent would be nice, though.
Intermixed with the introduction of the characters is a nice bit of humor. Dietrich introducing himself as a cop just after a young woman confides in him that she is escaping a massive amount of debt on Earth is a nice touch, as is Dietrich not recognizing his partner-to-be upon his initial arrival. Some of it is a bit forced, but there are more hits than misses, and the overall flow of the story is good.
Fuse may not be the best sci-fi or police procedural on the comic market right now, and its out-of-the-gate start could use some tweaking, but it is still a solid read. I think this issue will strengthen when read as a whole with the upcoming issues and the space station is given a chance to show us what it is made of. In a letter to his readers at the end of the book Antony Johnston claims that people say that sci-fi books and cop books do not sell well (to say nothing of sci-fi cop books), but if he keeps writing Fuse at this quality level (or higher) I will be happy to help him prove those people wrong and read this book each month.