Well, the first two volumes had their endings derailed by the old “talking killer” trope. Did writer Antony Johnston go for the hat trick with this third volume of his and artist Justin Greenwood’s sci-fi police series? No he did not, and that just one reason why this is the best volume of “The Fuse” yet. The title refers to the day of the year when the station’s orbit is the closest to the sun. It’s also called the “Day of Chaos” by the cops because this is when crime is at an all-time high. Some of the stuff is strictly small time: fights, crowds getting unruly, diapers being stolen from different stores, indecent exposure, and the like. However, there are several big-ticket items that our protagonists Klem and Ralph wind up lucking into. There’s the mystery of the “haircut killer,” a mob boss who suffers a heart attack, a bomb threat called in during the mayor’s speech, a mass shooting at a hospital, and more on top of all this.
The previous volumes focused on one main story with a few subplots to pick up the slack and flesh out the world and its characters. What Johnston does here is that approach dialed up all the way to eleven. Granted, some of these stories do have the ring of the familiar to them and play out in fairly conventional ways. Yet what makes the volume as a whole compulsively readable is that Johnston and Greenwood manage to juggle things in way that keeps all of these stories straight and constantly delivers key information regarding each of them. So the pace remains relentless throughout and you feel the tension and eventual wind-down along with the characters throughout this “Day of Hell.”
Speaking of them, Klem and Ralph remain a likeable and engaging “odd couple” between their banter and complementary skill sets. She’s the grizzled veteran who knows how things really work on the Fuse, he’s the skilled (and seasoned, at this point) newbie who can look at things from a different angle. Ralph’s also keeping a secret from his partner that could ruin their relationship, which is touched upon at the very end of this volume as a tease for the next one. I felt the wait for this third volume, and it looks like it’ll be the same thing all over again for vol. 4. May you live in interesting times indeed.