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Comic Book / Ruse

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Ruse is a CrossGen comic book series by Mark Waid featuring the adventures of a Sherlock Holmes-esque detective in a Fantasy Counterpart Culture version of Victorian Britain.

Simon Archard is the great detective, an unbeatable thinking machine with no emotions (that he'll admit to) and no people skills (he's described at one point as possessing "all the crimeside manner of a cactus"). One of his quirks is that, being a devotee of rationality and scientific method, he refuses to believe in magic even as it goes on around him. It's not that he denies the phenomena (after all, what detective would get far denying his own observations?), but after studying the problem and producing a clever solution, he will also produce a complicated explanation of how it was really just a side-effect of quantum mechanics, or an interaction between drugs and the planet's magnetic field, or whatever.

Archard's Watson is his assistant Emma Bishop, who possesses all the humanity he lacks and is often called on to smooth ruffled feathers. It's revealed to the reader early on that she has an additional ulterior motive for associating with Archard, and secret magic powers that she's forbidden from using overtly. (In the scene where this is revealed, and again later, she is almost driven to using them, but chooses to trust that Archard will be able to save the day in some unexpected but awesome fashion; which he indeed does.)

As the series opens, Archard is suffering badly from boredom: his life has fallen into a rut of Police Baffled, Archard Solves Case In Moments, Yet Another Thrilling Rooftop Chase, etc. Things perk up with the arrival in town of the mysterious foreign baroness Miranda Cross, and unrelatedly (or is it?) a baffling murder that he can't solve in moments...

Like most of CrossGen's titles, Ruse was set in a small corner of a massive Shared Universe. Unlike most, it didn't make any explicit references to the Myth Arc during its run, although readers familiar with the mythos could make educated guesses about, for instance, the source of Emma's powers and the background of the recurring villain Miranda Cross.

The series debuted in 2001, and ran for 26 issues before CrossGen collapsed in 2004. Two collections, Enter the Detective and The Silent Partner, were published before the collapse.

In 2011, Ruse was revived by Marvel Comics under a new "Crossgen" imprint, once again written by Waid. Now set in Victorian England, and without the supernatural elements of the original, the four-issue mini-series nevertheless assumes that the broad strokes of the original's story are still canon, and serves as a loose sequel to it.

Not to be confused with the Video Game by Ubisoft.

The original CrossGen series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: Everybody knows the great Simon Archard and his assistant... Ella? Irma?
  • Aborted Arc: The main internal arc involving Emma's secret mission managed to get resolved before CrossGen collapsed, but a lot of questions about the series's links with the wider 'verse were left hanging. Among other things, leaked info suggests that Miranda Cross was a Lawbringer of the Negation, and that Simon's Sigil came from Danik, not Solusandra.
  • Actually Not a Vampire: In the Uberwaldean story arc.
  • Arc Symbol: The emblem on Archard's tie-pin and the head of his cane is the Sigil, which appears in all CrossGen's Myth Arc books and usually has a mystic significance. Its precise significance in Archard's case is one of the things left hanging.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Miranda Cross, Baroness of Kharibast.
  • Artifact of Attraction: The Enigmatic Prism, which is reputed to drive its possessors mad with jealous desire. Archard maintains that it's really just people succumbing to their own emotional weaknesses.
  • Baby Talk: The precocious Adeline thpeakth Little Profethor Dialog with a definite lithp.
  • The Big Guy: Pete Grimes, one of Archard's associates, an ex-boxer.
  • Blatant Lies: "The deductive mind has no use for anger. Therefore, I am not angry."
  • Broken Pedestal: Archard's mentor, Malcolm Lightbourne fell victim to the Enigmatic Prism and became a Moriarty-like evil genius. Archard took it especially badly, since he can't excuse Lightbourne's actions by blaming the curse he doesn't believe in, and it's one of the reasons he keeps his own emotions so tightly buttoned.
  • Classy Cane: Archard has one. It isn't a Sword Cane, perhaps because there wasn't room for in there for a sword after he'd built in the Grappling-Hook Pistol, the lock-breaking kit, and the flash powder device for blinding pursuers.
  • Cultured Badass: Archard.
  • Cunning Linguist: Emma speaks multiple languages, which is one of the other ways she supplies Archard's deficiencies.
    Emma, narrating: Even for all the knowledge in Simon's head, he simply won't bother to learn foreign languages. He argues that the art of communication is one best mastered on a subtle, non-verbal level. I disagree. It's a quarrel difficult to win seeing as how, in general, people don't really enjoy talking to him.
  • Curse Cut Short: The first time Emma gets the better of Miranda Cross.
  • Days of Future Past: It never comes up within the series itself, but in the context of the wider CrossGen 'verse Archard's world is another planet in the distant future.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Archard is rather good at deadpan sarcasm, for somebody who despises extraneous emotion.
      Archard: Thank you for your assistance on the Humbert murder.
      Emma: Simon! I didn't hear you— Wait. I wasn't helping with that. I was here.
      Archard: You don't say.
    • Emma has her moments.
  • Death Trap: A recurring obsession of Lightbourne, who was reportedly a master escape artist himself before he went bad. An interesting touch is that they're all designed to bait Archard into stepping into them of his own free will knowing that they're traps.
  • Did You Die?:
    David Kingsley: ...with my final burst of strength, I swing her up onto the bridge to safety!
    Emma: And what about you?
    David: I fell to my death.
    Emma: You did not.
    David: No, but it makes a much better story.
  • Dirty Harriet: One of the lengths Emma is obliged to go to to catch the Dollymop Murderer.
  • Eloquent in My Native Tongue: Miranda Cross is quite eloquent in English too, but she has trouble with grammar or vocabulary just often enough to remind us that she's a mysterious foreigner.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: Comes up in the context of Archard's character development. The series promotes a balanced view: calm intellect is valuable, but the heart should be for more than just keeping the brain alive.
  • Expecting Someone Taller: In issue 8, someone who meets Archard for the first time after having to put up with one of his enemies ranting about him for weeks on end.
  • Exposition Victim: Subverted — she knows exactly what she's doing, and there's backup lurking just out of sight.
  • False Reassurance: "The poor man simply went to pieces," said the axe-murderer.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The city in which Archard lives and works is closely modeled on Victorian London. One issue has him and Emma traveling to a fantasy counterpart of Romania and fighting a menace that is Actually Not a Vampire.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Archard refuses to accept that magic is a thing, no matter how many times he encounters it, insisting that there's always a rational scientific explanation.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: "Adeline Bethesma DeWinter! What have you gotten into now?"
  • Grappling-Hook Pistol: Archard has one built into his cane.
  • Great Detective: Simon Archard.
  • Inadvertent Entrance Cue: Miranda Cross's first appearance is immediately preceded by a character, pondering a recent crime wave, asking rhetorically "Whatever new evil will visit us next?"
  • Inevitable Waterfall: Emma gets out of the river in time to avoid going over it, but it comes in handy later on.
  • Insistent Terminology: Emma is Archard's secretary assistant partner.
  • Kiss of Life: Archard to Emma. She rebukes him for skipping the chest compressions.
  • Lady of Adventure: Emma Bishop is described as "A fetching beauty whose spirit craves adventure." Her day job is as assistant to a danger-prone Insufferable Genius Victorian detective (sound familiar?), compensating for his lack of social and linguistics skills. Not mentioned: mysterious time-stopping powers, which she's not supposed to reveal under any circumstances...
  • Last-Second Word Swap:
    Emma: Simon, in case we don't make it, there's — there's something I want you to know! I —
    Archard: Well?
    Emma: *sigh* Your handwriting is atrocious.
  • Ley Line: There's a particularly powerful one running through the city, apparently, which Miranda Cross makes use of in one of her schemes.
  • Little Professor Dialog: The precocious Adeline
  • Lost Will and Testament: The murder of Lionel Oxford-Collins and subsequent disappearance of his will.
  • Master of Disguise: Archard.
  • Membership Token: In one issue, Archard identifies a murder victim as a private detective from the ring he's wearing, which is the membership token of a particular detective agency.
  • Not Himself: The police commissioner when he falls under Miranda Cross's control.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: There's one in Archard's office, in case he ever needs to see what people do in there when they think he's not around.
  • Sadistic Choice: "Partington... or your partner?"
  • Screaming Woman: The hostage in issue 1.
  • Serial Killer: The Dollymop Murderer.
  • Serial Killer Baiting: Emma attempts to draw out the Dollymop Murderer by posing as a streetwalker, with Pete Grimes standing by to intervene when the murderer shows up. The plan doesn't work out because Pete keeps jumping the gun and immobilizes every man who comes near Emma before she can assess the suspects' intentions.
  • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Emma is occasionally having to assert, to people who doubt it, the purely professional nature of her relationship with Archard.
  • Sherlock Homage: It is hard not to see Archard as an interdimensional counterpart of Sherlock Holmes.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Streetwalker: Several feature, living or dead, in the Dollymop Murders story.
  • Summation Gathering: The first issue opens with one; Archard's so bored that he skips The Summation entirely and goes straight to pointing and saying "Him." We get a proper one later on, during the Oxford-Collins murder case.
  • Sure, Let's Go with That: Emma is covering for Archard, who has disappeared:
    Emma: Simon is on... special assignment.
    Sekowsky: From the gummint?
    Emma: (sotto voce) All right.
    Sekowsky: Pardon?
    Emma: I mean... Yes. From the government.
  • Tempting Fate:
    Emma: I said, "I'm alive" — and, I might add, perfectly composed and on my feet — unlike a certain detective I could — aaaah!
  • They Call Me MISTER Tibbs!: "'Mr. Kingsley' was a thug who raised a boy fond of Cops and Robbers. Call me David."
  • Tragic Keepsake: Archard's cane is revealed in a flashback to have previously belonged to his mentor.
  • Translation Punctuation: < Translated speech is in italics and marked with angle brackets. >
  • The Vamp: Miranda Cross.
  • Ɯberwald: Complete with sinister gypsies and possibly-vampires.
  • The Watson: Emma.
  • You're Insane!: Emma accuses the Big Bad of one story arc of this after he explains his plan for vanquishing Archard.
    "You— you're insane!"
    "No. But I am petty."

The relaunched series provides examples of:

  • Beastly Bloodsports: In #1 of the Marvel mini-series, Simon pursues a suspect into a rat-baiting contest, where terriers compete to see which can kill the greatest number of rats.
  • Retcon: The relaunched series is set in the actual Victorian Britain, not a fantasy counterpart.
  • Shoot the Rope: Lightbourne shoots himself of Simon's snare in The Victorian Guide to Murder.
  • Suicide, Not Murder: The opening scene has Simon Archard declare a nobleman's death suicide, not murder, despite the fact that he was stabbed several times in the stomach and his head was cut off. He cited evidence such as a lack of defensive wounds, the discoloration of the man's skin and blood, a faint but distinctive odor, and ink stains on his hands — which indicate that he hastily wrote a suicide note and did the deed with cyanide, after which the first person to discover the body staged it as a murder to avoid scandal.