The long-running thread of just what Detective Ralph Dietrich is doing on the Fuse finally reaches its conclusion with this volume. Yet vol. 4 takes a roundabout, though not unappreciated, way of getting to that as it kicks off with one of the station’s inhabitants making a suspicious call at night before transitioning to the high-spirited retirement party for Ralph’s partner, Klem. Those high spirits are subsequently quashed when an attempt to get a late-night ballgame going has Kelm and her crew turning up a corpse instead. Subsequent investigation of this corpse reveals that he was a member of the Fuse Liberation Front, a known terrorist organization and that he was likely involved in a plot to assassinate the station’s mayor. While assassination plots are a dime a dozen on the Fuse, rumors of the involvement of Viking — a top F.L.F. official — and the implication of Klem’s son in the conspiracy give the case even more urgency. That’s even before Ralph’s romantic involvement with a F.L.F. member threatens to send him to jail for the rest of his life.
Writer Antony Johnston and artist Justin Greenwood weave another compelling tale that, for the most part, plays effortlessly to the title’s strengths. There’s solid worldbuilding as we learn more about the culture of the Fuse and the history of its characters, great character work as the cast’s personalities clash over the course of the investigation, and the delivery of an efficient procedural plot as the details of the case are slowly revealed. It’s all the more effective because the creators have done a great job in developing their two leads into people we care about over the past three volumes so we’re thoroughly invested in their fate here. Particularly Ralph’s as there’s some great “How’s he going to get out of this?” tension to be had here. All of this is good because the volume nearly throws it all away in a climax where the intricacies of the plot are explained while everyone patiently waits with guns out and one of the core cast threatens to bleed out. It’s fairly ridiculous, even by the standards of the “talking killer” scenes in the first two volumes. Still, such a scene can’t derail the entire experience and while things end with a certain amount of closure I wouldn’t be averse to seeing Johnston and Greenwood pick things up again at a later date.