Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be doing theme weeks (more or less), with each week devoted to a single writer. This pseudo-week: Mark Waid. Today’s page is from Ruse #7, which was published by CrossGen and is cover dated May 2002. Enjoy!
In the early 2000s, Waid, along with a bunch of other creators, went to work for CrossGen, a new company that didn’t last all that long for reasons that aren’t germane right now. Waid created a new series, Ruse, which is about a Sherlock Holmes analogue named Simon Archard who is aided by Emma Bishop, who’s as smart (if not smarter) than he is, but doesn’t get any credit because she’s an icky girl. Waid was on the book for 12 issues, after which he passed the torch to Scott Beatty. I haven’t read the CrossGen issues of the series yet (I’m getting to it!), but I have read the Marvel revival from last year, and I do wish Waid would consider writing more stories with Archard and Bishop, because they’re pretty neat characters.
Emma narrates this page, and we get the sense of Victorian “Watsonianism” with which she tells the stories – why use one word when four will do? In the opening narration, Emma basically wants to get to the point that Simon is arrogant and doesn’t adhere to a train schedule, but it doesn’t appear that the idea of a clock being the “great leveler” of society is brought up again. Maybe it is. It’s not bad writing, and Waid cleverly shows that Emma, despite wearily getting to the point that Simon is arrogant, might be a bit arrogant herself. Waid also shows that Simon has some nice observational skills – who would have noticed the watch going to the right side but Simon? The dialogue also shows that Simon is as Emma tells us – a bit arrogant. This little scene to begin the book does a nice job introducing the two principals and, while it doesn’t have much to do with the main plot, shows us that Simon is actually somewhat good at his job, even if Emma helps him more than the general public knows about.
Old pros Jackson Guice and Laura DePuy draw and color this (Mike Perkins inks it and Dave Lanphear letters it), and we can see how Guice’s art is evolving into the style that he and Perkins and a few others use on Ed Brubaker’s Captain America, where several artists early on in the book had very similar looks so that the book’s art was consistent. Guice has gradually smoothed out any hard edges that used to appear in his art, and presumably Perkins is digitally inking this, because he complements Guice’s smooth pencils nicely. DePuy is a fine colorist, and she adds nice computer effects when the train arrives, for instance. DePuy’s colors smooth the art out even more, giving the book a slick look that still manages to evoke a nostalgia for Victorian times, thanks to Guice’s character designs and DePuy’s subdued and subtle tones. After we get through Emma’s narration in the first panel, Guice’s train directs our attention to the left side of the middle row, where Emma waits to tell Simon that the train is leaving. In the final panel, Simon looks back toward the right side of the panel, where the miscreant is being hauled away and where our eyes finish, just where we need to turn the page. It’s not a very exciting page, but it’s designed well.
Waid gives us a lot of information on this page and makes it easy for us to continue without being too confused. This comic is the result of several experienced comics creators knowing what they’re doing, and while the issue doesn’t begin with a bang, it’s still a nice way to begin the issue.
Next: Waid writes about a villain taking over the world. Well, isn’t that just dandy? Check out some other inspirational comics in the archives!