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Comics Today's Date:

Two universes returned to comics this month, one from each of the Big Two. Both have been whispered about in reverent tones since their untimely demises, and it's nice to be able to say they haven't missed a step in their respective absences.

Ruse #1
writer: Mark Waid
artist: Mirco Pierfederici

For those unfamiliar with the CrossGen Universe, know that it was one full of planets with different civilizations similar to those found in Earth history and literature. A convenient conceit, it allowed creators to tell stories in whatever genre they wanted, still tied to the larger loose narrative of the "sigil."

If someone wanted to write a pirate story, here is El Cazador. A world with clipper ships sailing through the clouds? Welcome to Meridian. Need straight up space opera? That was there, too, with Sigil.

Of these, one of the best hid its connection to the rest very well. Set on a world modeling itself after Victorian England, Ruse allowed its more fantastic elements to only occasionally intrude into the story. Only fitting, since deductive investigator Simon Archard, more popularly known in the press as "The Maestro", rarely accepted the fantastic as the reason for murder.

Bearing a passing resemblance to Sherlock Holmes, Archard's adventures with his partner Emma Bishop were witty, fun and intelligent. At least, until original series writer Mark Waid left the CrossGen compound. The company folded soon after anyway, and the original run stands as a high point in the studded with high points careers of Waid and artist Jackson Guice.

Though it's only a four-issue mini-series for now, Marvel has given Ruse back to Waid, teaming him with Mirco Pierfederici, though Guice has done the cover for the first issue. Archard has returned just as frustrating in personality, and Bishop is as lovely, capable and frustrated as before.

Waid plunks us down near the end of one mystery, proving his chops as a mystery writer. But that mystery leads to another, one that takes the first issue from the height of society to the dregs of its criminal element. On the fringe, there's a touch of steampunk, but that's just window dressing on solid plotting and art.

Pierfederici delivers solid work, though at times his faces are a bit inconsistent. Still, some pages fall in line with Guice's original look for the series without being slavish copies, and he definitely has the right feel for the series.

It's a welcome return, to be followed by a revival of the Sigil concept in another mini-series. If I read my comics rumors right this weekend, Marvel will also be revisiting my other favorite CrossGen series, Route 666. I'm already setting aside the $2.99.

The only thing that would make this better is if Marvel would put together a reprint of the original series.

Review of Xombi #1....

Derek McCaw

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