by Antony Johnston, Justin Greenwood, and Shari Chankhamma
The first arc of The Fuse managed to convince monthly comic book readers that the concept of the ongoing crime procedural is impressively adaptable to this medium. Though the wait time is longer than with TV, the creative team put together an excellent arc. In this second story line, they look to prove that The Fuse is more than an exception, but a genre that is missing in comics today. After last issue, the story lined up a few suspects and motives and Johnston had managed to continue to move the plot as well as expand the universe of Midway. With the ninth issue, the story features some more great moments, but ends in a way that may not completely work.
One of the more impressive moments in the series is one that goes unmentioned for a few pages. After visiting Smacktown in search of clues, the detectives leave I-SEEC and try to regroup. The following scene finds Klem arriving at Ralph’s apartment to go over details of the case. She even brings coffee. The story initially makes no mention of the occurrence being odd, but at the ninth chapter in the story, readers will recognize the odd behavior. This is the sign of good writing. It is not overt, and it is not flashy. Johnston, instead, has managed to develop the leads of this story over the chapters so far in the most natural way. Klem showing up was interesting on its own as the hardened police detective seems as if she has no interest in ever going out of her way. Beyond that, the gesture of getting her partner coffee is certainly out of character. The story eventually acknowledges this odd behavior as it plays a part in her movements and the story. The moment is small and does little to affect the plot. However, the talent involved to create such developed characters such that this inconsistency is noticeable by the reader is worth mentioning.
A large portion of the issue finds Klem and Ralph interrogating or discussing possible suspects. Johnston does a decent job to keep the momentum up, even cutting to a call from the M.E. at a point. These tactics keep the issue feeling lively, even when most of the scenes are filled with long stretches of dialogue. Justin Greenwood and Shari Chankhamma pair successfully and they add to the personality of the individuals involved through their stature and emoting. There are a number of characters who have little time on the panel, but readers still get a sense of who they are and their voices through these choices that Greenwood and Chankhamma make. That and the continual tweaking and adjusting to the layouts and depictions of the landscape of varying levels make the story feel like a developed universe. No pieces are placed to fill space or time in the plot. Instead, the creative team has found a way to keep building on the universe. Mentions of the level numbers and a few words beyond that tease readers of the class order (and all that is implied with that) anytime the story travels to a new part of Midway.
As the issue comes to a close, readers are given a bit more information about the overall plot surrounding the demise of Cathy Huang. For some readers, this new bit of information may be an exciting and unexpected twist that only adds to the arc. For others, this piece may look more like such a drastic diversion from the leads that had been followed thus far. While this type of shift can happen in a case, the time spent on the suspects and motives so far feels like lost panels if the plot is to shift. Johnston has managed to tie the story and the many layers together thus far. Hopefully, he is able to take this final tease in a direction that feels as natural as the other choices that have come before.