cover image RUSE: The Silent Partner

RUSE: The Silent Partner

Mark Waid, Scott Beatty, . . CrossGen, $15.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-931484-48-0

Although CrossGen describes this work as a cross between Sherlock Holmes and The X-Files, it's actually closer to the TV series The Avengers. Rather than John Steed and Emma Peel fighting bizarre Cold War baddies, Ruse features Simon Archard, a brilliant, handsome, misanthropic detective, and his perky blond assistant, Emma Bishop, solving uncanny mysteries in an off-kilter Victorian England. Whether the two are taking on townsfolk who are stealing gypsy women or investigating a murder at a posh estate with a circus bearded lady as an aide, the stories are a highly entertaining mix of mystery and humor. The action is episodic, with Simon racing about in pursuit of Malcolm Lightbourne, his former mentor and present nemesis. This master detective has become a master criminal under the influence of the Enigmatic Prism, a mystifying gem that focuses (and corrupts) its possessor's personality, which, of course, makes it insanely desirable. The book's real fun, though, is its characters. Simon and Emma are exceptionally clever, attractive people who make witty jibes at each other while jumping off trains and tumbling down mountains. Emma makes additional droll comments as narrator; Lightbourne does a boisterous turn as a raving fiend; and they're surrounded by an agreeably quirky band of supporting characters. Guice's art is outstanding. His characters are individual, not cookie-cutter, and the pages burst with detail and atmosphere. Unfortunately, this volume marks the departure of Waid, the comic's original writer, but the continuing staff of artists should help Ruse survive as an enjoyable series. (June)