Ruse #2: The Silent Partner
by Mark Waid, Butch Guice
(CrossGen, 2003)

The untimely demise of CrossGen Comics cost me Ruse, and I'm not happy about it.

The book is set in Partington, an offworld equivalent to Victorian England, and it stars the brilliant but arrogant detective Simon Archard and his partner, the charming and enigmatic Emma Bishop, in a series of Holmesian mysteries. This volume, the second (after Enter the Detective), adds a Moriarty-like character in the person of Malcolm Lightbourne, Archard's former mentor and partner.

Although the series is largely realistic, there are some magical elements, such as the live gargoyles populating the upper reaches of Partington. In this case, the fantastic manifests primarily in a small town populated by villains who are invisible by day, as well as a mystical gem that intensifies evil. The story is also painted with a broader, more exotic brush than its predecessor, with gypsies, bearded ladies, druids and a city-destroying plot worthy of a James Bond villain.

The humor of this series is subtle but fun, surfacing mostly in the banter between Archard and Bishop. Mark Waid's writing is delightful, with strong plotting and the ever-present sense of mystery matched by his finely tuned characterization. Coupled with gorgeous art by Butch Guice, this is a series that should have had a long, illustrious history; it's a shame it was cut short by circumstance.

by Tom Knapp
10 February 2007

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