cover image RUSE: Volume Three: Criminal Intent

RUSE: Volume Three: Criminal Intent

Scott Beatty, . . CrossGen, $15.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-931484-74-9

The enjoyable interplay between misanthropic but sexy master detective Simon Archard and his sardonic, even sexier assistant Emma Bishop was central to earlier installments of Ruse, along with the slightly off-kilter Victorian England setting, where Druidism is a recognized religion and the monstrous gargoyles perching on the sides of buildings are alive. This time, however, the hero and heroine are separated more often than not as the story takes them to more exotic locales. First they go to the seacoast to trap a band of criminals who wreck ships to steal their cargoes; Simon prowls about unrecognizably disguised, while Emma acts the part of a Druid priestess and wonders which of the disreputable scoundrels around her is her boss. Then it's off to the South Seas, where, following a fiery dirigible crash, the two are cast away on an island, where Emma is kidnapped by veteran villain Miranda Cross and then almost served up as a scantily clad sacrifice to a monster. Obviously, this work deliberately exaggerates the clichés of melodramatic pop fiction right up to the edge of self-parody, and the art emphasizes this glamorous, almost-hokey milieu. It's good-natured fun, though, including an entire issue in which Simon and Emma are both absent and it's up to a pair of children to thwart various evildoers. Oddly enough, while Simon is searching for Emma on the island, their separation produces a rather moving moment: Simon's quiet but forceful acknowledgment that he considers her his full partner. Absence evidently has made his heart grow fonder. (Aug.)