Wasteland Book 1: Cities in Dust – Antony Johnston

W01

This a strong opening to a post-apocalyptic saga that runs for more than ten volumes.

The theme of a human culture re-emerging and adapting to the fall of technology and civilisation may seem familiar but it is executed here distinctively and elegantly. The world is revealed in discrete and logical steps and the characters and their emotions are always the driving force.

The world is similar enough to our own not to need a glossary or a wordy prologue and pretty soon it is clear humanity and its shortcomings are common to any epoch. Set more than a hundred years into the future the language is subtly different but you can see where it had grown from and it is never a barrier to the story.

The art is excellent, black and grey with a similar feel to The Walking Dead but with less detail and more tonal range. It is a digital style with almost every frame being artificially blurred to bring depth and interest to the background. This is very well executed and a real asset to adding motion and life to the page.

The whole thing may be an allegory for America of the past, present or future and some of the names help convince you of this. The themes however are universal and the woes and prejudices of any culture, civilisation or time-period never change and always make great literature.

A superb beginning.

Thumbs Up!

The Fuse Volume 2: Gridlock – Antony Johnston

fuse 2This is another excellent police procedural that builds on the strong characters and setting of the first volume.

It is just the right length for us to hit a few dead ends and mysteries in solving the crime as well as learn more about the station and pick up titbits about Earth and Mars too. The characters were well defined in the last book so now we get to follow their developing relationship. And there is another almost epilogue as Dietrich advances his own agenda.

The art is the same as the original and all our regular characters are well drawn and expressive. The book is basically talking heads but the art and layout don’t take it easy with creative touches sprinkled throughout.

This is a superb work. The only weak point is the reveal of how it was done at the end. This isn’t bad or clumsy but considering the elegance and flow of the build-up it feels less sophisticated than it should with the pacing grinding to a halt.

Thumbs Up!

The Fuse: The Russia Shift – Antony Johnston

Fuse 1This is a cop buddy movie. But on a space station. In the future.

This doesn’t stretch for any new concepts or big ideas like say Powers, but it refines the procedural drama to as shiny as it gets. We are all so postmodern we are expecting aliens or magic to pop up but this is just human drama. The twists are subtle and believable and the plot rock solid.

The worldbuilding – with a future and an unusual location – is top notch. You feel as much of an outsider as the newly arrived protagonist, yet not confused or lost. There is no clever hook, it just hits the ground running and it isn’t till a few dozen pages in that you realise this is basically dialogue between two characters.

The art isn’t minimalist but sparing. Good colour brings depth to the page and a smaller palette allows colour to entice emotion. The lack of detail ensures a streamlined read and snappy pacing.

The ending is a bit Agatha Christie with a massively detailed explanation of the murder to make sure you know what happened and that feels a bit out of place considering the light and energetic pace of the rest of the book.

It never tries to overreach itself but that guarantees a solid, and entertaining, read.

Thumbs Up!