Comics Spotlight on: Ruse

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Happy Comics Release Day!

Several different threads of my summer reading led me to focus on this week’s pick, Ruse, a wonderful but now obscure book from the now defunct CrossGen comics company.

The first was Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been reading and enjoying The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World’s Most Perplexing Cold Cases (to be later reviewed on Geek Dad) and I’ve been lusting after BBC’s Sherlock series, put together by the team behind the latest season of Dr. Who.

And I’ve been re-reading some of my favorite stories from Mark Waid since I reviewed The Flash: Born to Run and Irredeemable and Incorruptible.

Add that to a workshop focused on steampunk that I attended during my writer’s conference in Florida, and all that led me to pull out my copies of Ruse.

Cover to Ruse: The Silent Partner trade paperback collection


Summary:

The setting is another world that closely resembles our Victorian Age. Call it alternate universe steampunk.

Simon Archard is a detective much like Sherlock Holmes in a city much like Holmes’ London. He’s supremely smart, arrogant (almost smug), courageous and dedicated. His ostensible assistant is Emma Bishop, who has magical powers that she’s trying to conceal from Simon. There are hints that she’s a guide sent by some unknown agency to either watch or protect Simon. Together, they battle the evil Miranda Cross, a rich, beautiful woman who is many thousands of years old and not a native of Archard’s planet at all.

Those are the basics but they don’t really do the book justice. The stories are packed with wonderful, witty dialogue, the plots have a wry sense of humor (like the above cover) and the comic is decorated with absolutely gorgeous, eye-popping and detailed art. Laura DePuy, the colorist, won an Eisner Award in 2002.

What Kids Will Like About It:

It’s dialogue heavy but full of action with a very quick pace Still, I think it’s better suited to tweens and teens rather than young readers. It just depends on whether your kids are interested in mysteries or not. They’ll like the jokes and my youngest son likes the banter. But, then, at age nine, he watched Entrapment multiple times, so clearly he has a thing for mysteries and banter.

What Parents Will Like About It:

I love the characters and for those looking for banter, this book is full of it. The mysteries are solid and the supporting characters are all great fun. The creators took care to populate their fictional city with all manner of residents, from ladies of the evening to high-class lords to boxers to servants, including gravediggers.

Favorite Panel:

It’s the cover I posted above, which was originally the cover of a single issue of the comic. I love the juxtaposition of the calm detectives surrounded by all manner of assassins.

About the Creators:

I’ve talked about writer Mark Waid already in the past columns, so I wanted to focus on Jackson”Butch” Guice, who is criminally underrated. His name should come up in discussions of top superhero artists. I’d seen some of his earlier Marvel and DC work but I become hooked on his art during his run on one of my favorite comics, DC’s Birds of Prey. He uses a realistic style and his characters tend to be lush, beautiful, and his backgrounds detailed and fascinating.

Also, I can’t talk about Ruse without mentioning Scott Beatty, who took over as writer after Waid left the book prematurely. Beatty’s first few issues were a little shaky but by the time the book ended, he was doing an excellent job.

Where to Find It:

There are several paperback collections available. Ruse: Enter the Detective, Ruse: The Silent Partner, and Ruse, the Omnibus Edition that collects issues #1-17. I’ve also noticed my local library has the trade paperback — CrossGen had a great library outreach program–so you might want to check your local library as well.

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