I’m back from the comic shop this week and I got four new comics plus two hard cover collections. It was a big week:

  • Glamourpuss – 13
  • Echo – 21
  • Sparta U.S.A. – 3
  • Buffy Season 8 – 35
  • The Barry Windsor-Smith Archives Conan Volume 2
  • Conan Volume 8 “Black Colossus”
  • And now for a review of something I’ve read recently.

  • “Ruse” Issues 1-26 by Mark Waid, Scott Beatty, Butch Guice, and others
  • I do miss CrossGen. They published a lot of good comics. “Ruse” is yet another series I’ve meant to go back and read but seven years have slipped by since I last read an issue in 2003 or so. Heck, CrossGen has been gone since 2004. Time continues to fly.

    I bought “Ruse” regularly for the first sixteen issues. After that I only picked up one issue. Twenty two or so. At the time I was buying about eight CrossGen books a month. That was the first time in a long time that I bought so many monthlies and I haven’t bought that many since. It was easy for “Ruse” to get cut as it dipped in quality when Waid left the writing chores. Like I said, CrossGen made a lot of good comics so there was plenty else to buy.

    A couple of months ago I tracked down the issues I was missing because I wanted to give the whole thing a read. I’m glad I did. In particular the first four issues are even better than I remember them. “Ruse” is a comic in the Sherlock Holmes tradition. It stars Simon Archard as the Holmes like character who has a woman partner named Emma Bishop. They live on a different world than ours but it has a Victorian Era flavor to it. And they solve mysteries.

    The first four issues are especially beautiful because of Butch Guice. Sure the writing is good but the art really shines. It’s drawn in an old school photo referenced style that is very lush and effective. Plus it uses an unusual story telling style. Instead of two separate pages next to each other each two page spread reads all the way across. It’s essentially all double page spreads.

    I’ve seen this gimmick before except here it is not gimmicky. Usually I find this gimmick gets in the way of a story but in “Ruse” it is used so effectively that it makes the story unique. Guice’s story telling is so good that I was never confused as to which panel to read next as I have been before on other stories told as double page spreads. This story telling style was used throughout the whole series but some how it was at it’s prettiest in the first four issues. The art in the other issues was excellent to though.

    “Ruse” is fairly dense writing wise. There is a lushness to the style of writing the matches the lushness of the artwork. There is a running narrative by Emma as well as a lot of dialogue between the two detectives as they detect. All written with a Victorian flare. It’s not overwritten or anything but don’t expect the decompressed writing that’s easily found these days. Be prepared to spend a little time with Archard.

    I really enjoyed reading these again. They’re good comics. I can see why I stopped buying it though. The transition from Waid to Beatty’s writing was a little rough. There was some uproar about it at the time. Issue sixteen, a few issues into the Beatty run, was the worst issue of the lot. It’s a gimmick issue where two kid characters replace the lead characters and do some detective work. It’s nearly unreadable and I gave up on in a bunch of pages in. Issue twenty two was another unreadable gimmick issue. Beatty found his voice though and wrote some good stuff.

    Other than those two gimmick issues everything else ranged from solid to excellent. Butch Guice drew twenty one out of the twenty five issues and they all are really good. The fill in guys did a nice job too. Not as nice as Guice’s but still good.

    “Ruse” is well worth tracking down if you want something that’s well done but different from the usual super hero comics. It’s worth tracking down just to see Guice’s art. It might also be best read in comic book rather than trade paperback form because TPBs don’t open flat and the double page art can be better seen in a comic. That’s my advice.