In Simon Archard, writer Mark Waid creates the classic example of everything a Victorian-era detective should be. He’s intelligent, observant, quick with his thoughts and words and he has an ego to back it all up.
It’s easy to see the inspirations for Archard: Holmes and Poe’s Dupin, just to name a couple. And, as connoisseurs of detective fiction know, behind every great detective there’s a great sidekick. Someone to keep the reader grounded and to (sometimes) keep the sleuth’s ego in check. In Ruse, that’s Emma Bishop.
For fans of Waid’s original CrossGen series, which Marvel relaunched after the acquisition of the company, this probably seems old hat.
The first issue in the relaunch effortlessly straddles the line between old and new, strangely feeling like a fresh start without getting weighed down by lengthy reintroductions. Yet, new fans will still get to know Archard, Bishop and the city of Partington quickly and smoothly. It’s not an easy task for any writer, but Waid pulls it off.
Ruse #1 begins with the investigation of Archduke Ehrlich’s death, which Archard quickly rules a suicide that has been tampered with to look like a murder to keep the family’s name in good standing.
Through his acute sense of observation, Archard deducts the financial downfall of the House of Ehrlich was a result of the archduke’s excessive gambling, leading the sleuth and his trusty partner — or assistant — into the criminal underbelly of Partington.
Building the mystery, suspense and action is only part of the battle for Waid. The issue’s highlight is the banter between Archard and Bishop, something the series was known for at CrossGen. The dialogue is quick, sharp and highly amusing — one of the trade’s toughest challenges. For a relaunch like Ruse, it helps reestablish characters and relationships that might not be familiar to all readers.
It’s clear that artist Mirco Pierfederici is having fun creating both the lavish world of Victorian-era Partington as well as its filthy underground. Taking on the dark, cobblestone streets of Partington must be an artist’s dream come true.
Overall, reading the introduction to the relaunch feels a bit like watching Michael Jordan return wearing No. 45. It’s a great first issue for the series to return with, and it’s clear that Waid is going to fall right back into the rhythm. More than anything, though, I’m excited to see what the writer has in store for Ruse‘s future under Marvel. If Ruse #1 is any indication, we can expect great things.