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Ruse #22

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: Scott Beatty
Artists: Butch Guice (p), Michael Perkins (i)

Publisher: CrossGen Comics

Plot:
The Aggrieved Manservents are finally making their move against their hatred rival Simon Archard, as three of them have entered Simon's home late at night with murderous intent in their hearts. However, the fact that Simon's home is currently playing host to a small army of house-guests, and the complete ineptitude of these villains results in a rather comedic affair. However, a more sinister plot against Simon does result in a murder.

Comments:
Now I recognize that this issue is supposed to be a bit of a lark and as such Scott Beatty is playing down the intelligence of the group that have invaded Simon Archard's home for comedic effect. However there's a fine line between comedy that stems from a lack of intelligence, and characters acting stupid because it results in a funny gag, and Scott Beatty is very much in the latter camp. I mean here we have a group who went to great effort to map out the labyrinth-like house, and yet when it comes to committing the murderous deed the duo came up with a method so utterly cumbersome, that it's usually only seen in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Even worse they don't even get the gag right, as whole point of hiding inside the armor is to provide an element of surprise, and as such making its weapon a heavy two-handed sword that would take considerable effort to get into a position to strike at Simon defeats the whole purpose of hiding inside the suit. Now I've spent far too much time going on about this utterly goofy murder plot, that I haven't left myself much room to discuss the rest of the issue. Essentially this issue is a running comedy of errors, in which some of them are mildly amusing, but for the most part Scott Beatty seems to be playing up gags that were old hat when Abbott and Costello were busy meeting Frankenstein.

As for the art, Butch Guice continues to be the main element that keeps me on this title, as while the writing currently ranges from middling to not half bad, Butch Guice's work remains in top form. I mean the level of detail on the page is truly impressive, especially when one considers that most of this issue is set within an unlit house. Now the double-page format is still a bit confusing at times in spite of my having 20+ issues to grow accustom to it, but overall the art is quite solid when it comes to detailing the more confusing elements of the issue (e.g. the invisible man side-plot).

Final Word:
This issue does seem to be a bit conflicted as on one hand it seems to be trying to deliver a madcap farce on the idea of a home invasion, as the bumbling criminals that are moving through the house looking for vengeance upon Simon are about as ineffectual as one could hope for. What more the issue seems to draw great delight in playing up the old chestnut comedy bits, like the villain who inadvertently knocks himself out his own chloroform rag, or the classic murderer hiding inside the empty suit of armor gag. On the other side of the equation though the book also seems to be trying for a sense of danger, as we have the scenes where people are waylaid in the dark, and there's also a decidedly downbeat ending as a character is flung off the stairs & has her neck broken. Now I realize that often times writers will toss a serious moment into a lighthearted issue, as the dramatic scene is given greater impact when it's in direct contrast to the overall tone that has been established, but this effect only works if it's done once, as bouncing back and forth between comedy & serious-minded suspense only serves to dampen them both.



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