*Looks up from the comic I was reading*
Uh, hey guys! Let me guess, you’re here, for this week’s review, aren’t you??? I’ve been waiting for you to get here, all week! And away we go…
This week, I’ll be reviewing Ruse #1, a $2.99 comic, published by CrossGen/Marvel, and written by Mark Waid, with art by Mirco Pierfederici, and cover art by Butch Guice, Mike Perkins and Laura Martin. Ruse #1 is the first issue, in the relaunch of the CrossGen title, of the same name, and the first issue of the series, since CrossGen’s purchase by Marvel Entertainment. This issue was originally released in March of 2011, as part of a four issue monthly run that was published from March to June 2011.
Ruse is set in Victorian era England, in the town of Partington, a civil parish within the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, in Greater Manchester. Partington is historically a part of Cheshire, and it lies on the southern bank of the Manchester Ship Canal, opposite Cadishead, on the north bank. Ruse is an old school Sherlock Holmes-esque detective mystery book that stars Simon Archard, in the role of the Holmes-like detective, with Emma Bishop, Simon’s assistant/partner filling the role of dear Dr. Watson.
The story and series, centers around “the world’s greatest detective”, Simon Archard. He is a brilliant investigator, whose powers of deduction are matched only by his ego and scathing sarcastic sense of humor. The latter of which, I personally loved! One of my favorite barbs comes when a delivery boy expects a tip, for his services, and Simon says to him, “Fine. The police commissioner is secretly a cross-dresser. Pass it on.” Simon doesn’t seem to care much for, or have any confidence in, the bobbies (read “police”) of Partington , and also holds a great disdain for the press, who’ve taken to calling him “The Maestro”. Simon, in addition to being the genius detective, is also an inventor and scientist, who makes his home and headquarters in a refurbished cathedral, he purchased with the reward from a previous case. Interestingly, Simon is also shown to spend time in a “beastly contraption” that he calls his “thinktank”. It is described as a sort of “reverse bathysphere”, designed to deprive him of all extraneous sensory input.
Also central to the series and story, is Simon Archard’s partner/assistant/sidekick, Emma Bishop. She is a young attractive blond woman, who seems quite adept at handling herself physically, as evidenced by her climbing aboard a moving horse and carriage and subduing it’s driver, in the first action scene, of the issue. I grew fond of Emma, and she plays a fitting foil to Simon, and nicely fills the role, of being there for the genius sleuth, to bounce his ideas and such off of, so we readers can see how ingenious his thinking and deductions are. My favorite lines of dialogue from Emma are, when she describes Simon and her own jobs, in her internal monologue. She muses, “Simon’s job is to solve those mysteries and crimes too twisted and diabolical for Partington’s bobbies to unravel. Mine is to keep everyone else from bludgeoning Simon to death while he does so.” I say, she GETS it. HeHeHe!
We open the issue with Simon and Emma, on the scene of what appears to be the gristly murder, of Archduke Ehrlich. Simon immediately concludes it was a suicide, in a wonderful scene that really showcases just the type of masterful a sleuth Mr. Archard truly is. Then, in a wonderfully drawn scene, the pair chases down and stops the perpetrator, who’s stolen a horse drawn carriage, with some quick teamwork and clever ingenuity, by Simon. In the following scene, we get into Emma’s head a bit, and from her perspective, she explains Simon and her partnership, or as Simon would say, “She is my assistant.” We also learn there is much more to Archduke Ehrlich’s death, than was initially thought. Then, as our pair set off to follow another lead, Simon gets a surprise delivery, from the delivery boy he gave that marvelous tip, I mentioned earlier, to. In regards to that surprise delivery, I think, Simon says it best, “Nothing worth mentioning yet. We’ll attend to that later.” Next, we’re off to Finston Square, to explore that lead! Once at Finston Square, our pair encounter a motley crew of “scoundrels and runagates” placing bets on something called rat-baiting, where bets are placed on how many rats a trained dog can kill, and side-bets are placed on the rat victories. Simon approaches the oddsman for information, and the oddsman promptly leads them into a trap. Cue dark and ominous music! End issue.
Now, friends, it’s time to discuss the art, by Mirco Pierfederici. I liked the art, in this book, a lot. Pierfederici handles the action and the character moments with equal competence. The carriage chase scene and the rat-baiting scene were, perhaps, the best illustrated parts of the book. He really captured what was going on, in those scenes, perfectly, the furious action of the former and the grotesque grime of the latter. One of the artist’s biggest strengths, in my opinion, was the way he portrayed the facial expressions. If and when you folks out there, in internet land, read this comic book, pay attention to Emma and Simon’s faces, during their conversations; good stuff. The colors, in the book, give the feel of being painted, which I also liked.
Finally, let’s talk Mark Waid’s writing. He has a great grasp of writing the Victorian era. He does really well, with a lot of the word choice and terms, from the era, and he writes the characters well, with the British speech patterns. As I was reading, I found myself imagining the way these characters voices might sound. Waid laid out the initial crime scene and walked us through Simon Archard’s thorough dissection of it beautifully, and put Archard’s sharp detective mind on full display, for all to see. Waid also planted the seeds of mystery, for the future issues to pick up on. He left us hanging, with a fine mess for the heroes to find their way out of, in the last scene of the book, as well.
All in all, I greatly enjoyed reading Ruse #1, and have procured the remaining three issues of this series, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the tale. If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes or of the detective/mystery genre, then I highly recommend Ruse #1!
All images are property of Marvel Entertainment.