THE FUSE is a perfect juncture of things-Image-is-doing-right-right-now: it's a hard-boiled crime book with a dystopic sci-fi setting, and it's scripted in such a way that neither aspect feels lacking. I'm not sure that there could be a high concept more likely to pique my interest, and based on trends in Image readership, I'm betting that I'm not alone here. Space detectives, you guys.
It's not just a high concept, either; THE FUSE thrusts us immediately into a future that seems grimy rather than shiny, and cold rather than optimistic, and it's an impeccable setting for a neo-noir. Also sparking a wonderfully suspenseful feeling right out of the gate: The Fuse is a contained location, which means that our detective pals have limited space to roam, and tight quarters in which to find themselves in danger. Said danger willingly presents itself immediately; how can you not love a book that gets straight to the point and dumps a body on you within the first half of the first issue?
I'm also digging the wordplay snuck in to this issue's title -- "Russia shift" the noun, and Russia shift the verb -- both wrapping neatly around Klem. And Klem herself? Immediately likable for her til-death-do-I-retire attitude and unconventional demographic. Justin Greenwood serves up an older lady detective that's less Jessica Fletcher and more…well, the kind of lady detective that puts guys like Dietrich in their places. She's not lying about her age, but she's not trading the badge for a bingo card. I'm already really into this character, and I've only seen her for a first issue.
There are a lot of things I really like about this book's art. There are also more panels than I'd like that pop a gradient in the background instead of an environment. It works in small doses -- the city sequences get a hazy sort of look that makes us wonder how weird it must feel to be on The Fuse -- but I feel like the issue loses a little bit of its energy when there are too many panels of still-person-sans-backdrop.
Sometimes a book just comes out that feels eerily tailored to one's personal preferences, and for me, this first issue is that book. Space. Murder. Cleverness. Pairing new-kid-in-town Dietrich with hard-boiled Klem is -- to use Klem's words -- a slam dunk. Not only are we getting some decidedly not-bland characters, but we get to watch them solve intriguing crimes in a neo-neo-noir setting. I'm going to call this one a must-read for fans of just about anything Image is putting out right now; there are notes reminiscent of both the gritty crime fare that fans of FATALE, TEN GRAND, and the like will enjoy, but also a healthy does of dystopic future adventure for BLACK SCIENCE, SAGA, and EAST OF WEST aficionados.