“Ruse” is a new series for me, but if the original is this good, I’ll be tracking it down. Well written and well illustrated, there’s a pervasive sense of humor in both the writing and art of “Ruse” #1. It takes what could feel stilted and restrained and makes it enjoyable and engaging.
In this first issue, we are introduced to “the world’s greatest detective,” Simon Archard, as he does a fairly traditional Sherlock Holmes bit to a royal family with a dead patriarch. Emma Bishop, his “assistant” or “partner” (depending on who you ask), does nothing for several pages, which leaves one curious as to why the tagline reads “He’s the World’s Greatest Detective. She’s even better.” However, as the action heats up and our heroes chase the killer out of the house and into the streets, we’re treated to the great dynamic between Archard and Bishop, the skills Bishop brings to the table, and the humorous way in which it’s clear she’s unlikely to ever get credit for her role in things. Mark Waid does a particularly funny bit that apes a newspaper article praising the nearly mythical exploits of Archard, adding unceremoniously at the end “A blonde woman was also somehow involved.” It’s clear that Archard needs and trusts Bishop, and maybe even likes her. Archard’s brilliant but a bit pompous and it’s a safe guess that Bishop’s around because she likes him more than she wants to admit. Also, it beats her other career options in the Victorian Era. Regardless, they make an engaging team.
Waid does a lot in this single issue, dropping us directly into a mystery, wrapping it up, and showing us a bit of the more private aspects of Archard and Bishop’s relationship. Then he drops us back to another mystery that ends with a cliff-hanger, putting both of the lead characters in serious jeopardy. It’s the mark of a great storyteller and a master of the comics format that Waid can pace everything so well, make it rewarding, and get us intrigued about our two main leads in a single first issue. If he can keep it up, he’ll have a great little mini-series on his hands.
Waid wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of this nearly as well as he does without the capable lovely art assist he gets from Micro Pierfederici. Pierfederici has a strong sense of place and character and tells a clean clear story while also making time for some really beautiful panels, especially of Bishop. There are a few minor inconsistencies where the art looks slightly rushed, but overall it’s excellently paced and easy on the eyes. It synchs up well with Waid’s slightly off-beat story.