by Antony Johnston, Justin Greenwood and Shari Chankhamma
The police-procedural series from Antony Johnston and Justin Greenwood is in its fifth issue and shows readers each and every time that this genre is perfect for the comic book medium when handled well. Johnston brings readers even closer to the truth over the course of this issue, while also filling in a few more of the aspects of Midway City and the interesting landscape that has been slowly uncovered thus far. In issue five of The Fuse the case begins to align and the pacing will have you earnestly flipping towards the final panels.
Since the beginning of the series, Johnston has managed to tease details of the floating city in a way that felt natural. This is a lived in world and the characters do not spend much time catering to the audience to be sure that nothing is left unsaid. Instead, readers are left to imagine and fill in the gaps when terms like “bouncer” and “cabler” are used. Johnston has done an excellent job in teasing these different elements without distracting from the story at hand. Last issue, Dietrich ventured into Cabler territory in hopes of learning more about this case. Unfortunately, just as Klem had warned, the people living in this hidden world are not at all phased by the concept of cops or authority and the rookie cop is quickly in over his head. Johnston uses this situation to expose the readers to this society and how it came to be formed. Not only does the story continue to progress, but the world, somewhat naturally, fills in a mystery.
There is still the wig hair, the video tape, and the mystery of the Swanson family that are all stirring around. This issue, as have several before it, is made up of mostly a series of conversations. One of the difficulties in a detective series is maintaining intrigue when most of the story is taking place after the crime. Unless further crimes are being committed, the case is a series of conversations and inspecting evidence. Fortunately, Johnston with Greenwood and Chankhamma deliver a story that manages to handle that structure in a very exciting way. Whether its researching individuals on a computer, a dialogue in the interrogation room or an apology to the mayor’s office, the story has a way of carrying a sense of momentum and weight from cover to cover. Readers will try their best to put the pieces together, as any good detective story will lead the audience to do. But Johnston manages to keep just enough out of play to make even the best assumptions nothing more than that.
The issue reaches the story arc’s climax as the case comes together in the final moments. With only one issue left in the arc, The Fuse is making a statement. Greenwood and Chankhamma continue to handle the visual storytelling rather well, and in the moment that the case comes together, the art depicting the flashes seen in so many detective stories as it all takes shape is fantastic. The panel arrangement to capture this moment does so very well and its an excellent moment in the series’ best issue.
While it may take some readers a bit of memory jogging to remind themselves of some of the character’s or how certain pieces were involved as the story is playing out over months, Johnston has managed to keep the case relatively intimate so that readers are not left to balance an enormous amount of information month to month. For those with the patience to let a case unravel over that amount of time, The Fuse has been quite fantastic.