Sigil #1 by Mike Carey and Leonard Kirk

Ruse #1 by Mark Waid and Mirco Pierfederici

 

Sigil #1 is a brand new title with a long history.  The good news is that you don’t have to know that history in order to enjoy Sigil.  Mike Carey and Leonard Kirk craft an immediately accessible story for all ages. 

 

That’s what CrossGen was always about.  It’s right there in the name.  The former company set out to produce comics that appealed across generations.  They specialized in genres that others ignored at the time: science-fiction and fantasy, mystery and horror, martial arts and pirates.  They introduced atypical protagonists: pre-teen girls and female archers, Asian monks and black soldiers.  Along the way, they were caught up in inter-company catfights, controversies and eventually bankruptcy.  Now, they’re back as an imprint from the Disney-owned Marvel Comics.  Hopefully, this time, the focus will remain where it belongs: on the comics themselves. 

 

The best part of Sigil #1 is the art.  Leonard Kirk is the perfect fit for a CrossGen book.  He’s an established veteran, having previously contributed art to titles like JSA, Supergirl and Captain Britain and MI:13.  He strikes the perfect tone for this book.  His art isn’t cartoony or photorealistic.  It’s just natural enough to feel true.  He depicts a variety of body types.  He does a great job conveying facial expressions and body language, including anxious lip-biting, frustrated eye-rolling and incredulous eyebrow-creasing.  The pirate scene at the end could have been a little more spectacular, but that’s not something I noticed enough to worry about on a first reading.

 

The story is above average, but not excellent.  Mike Carey delivers a fairly standard tale about a beleaguered youth suddenly exposed to a secret world.  Samantha Rey is picked on by bullies at school and in trouble with her teachers for daydreaming during tests.  Her life is further complicated by some very vivid dreams involving a symbol known as the sigil.  To her amazement, Sam’s dreams turn out to be real and she is transported to a pirate ship in the middle of a naval battle.   

 

It’s a common fantasy trope, found in movies like the Never-Ending Story and popular novels like Percy Jackson and the New Olympians.  Yet there’s a reason why it is so common.  The reader identifies with the beleaguered protagonist, empathizing with their trials and reveling in the wonder that accompanies their new experiences.  It may be familiar but Mike Carey writes it well, slowly setting up the tension at school and the other worlds. 

 

Ruse is practically the opposite experience.  The best part of Ruse #1 is the story.  Series co-creator Mark Waid is back at the helm.  He does a great job with the characters and the plot.  He knows how to give each of the leads their own voice.  Simon Archard is the brusque detective, bordering on ill-mannered.  Emma Bishop is his partner, assistant and foil, smoothing over the social pleasantries on his behalf.  Their repartee remains a highlight of this series. 

 

The story is energetic, bordering on frenetic.  There’s an opening mystery, quickly solved, establishing Simon’s qualifications as the world’s greatest detective.  There’s a chase scene, furiously followed, satisfying the reader’s desire for adventure.  There’s a second mystery, naturally connected to the first, giving the reader a reason to come back for more.  And there’s a greater mystery, slyly hinted at before being exposed to the light, giving the series the impetus for a longer story.    

 

Unfortunately, the art doesn’t quite measure up.  Mirco Pierfederici is a newcomer to American comics and this isn’t a great first foray.  His art is alright as long as characters are facing the reader but their features become misshapen when he switches to side or three-quarter views.  He also obscures the runaway horse in every panel so that the creature is never fully depicted.  

 

I would love to be able to give unreserved recommendations for these two titles.  However, one has an excellent story but only adequate art and the other excellent art yet only an above-average story.  For now, I would grade Sigil with a B and Ruse with a B+.  Yet I see greater potential in Sigil as the series moves forward and Sam becomes fully immersed in the adventures of the sigil.  

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Comment by ClarkKent_DC on March 25, 2011 at 10:53am
I have most of Ruse from its original run and was looking forward to its return. And I agree, the artist still needs some lessons on anatomy; they seemed to try to cover it up with the color.
Comment by Dagwan on March 25, 2011 at 11:59am

I loved both of these issues, and thanks to a generous overship on Marvel's part, I was able to sell them in mid-to-upper Marvel/DC numbers.

 

The one thing that puzzles me (aside from the in-story elements that are designed to puzzle us) is where the current Ruse takes place. It was originally on another world, one with the trappings of Victorian England with some obvious differences, but this one seems to take place in actual Victorian England.



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Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on March 25, 2011 at 1:38pm
I hope it is in our England.  That was the only thing I really disliked about the CrossGen titles like Ruse and Route 666...the fake place names and government agencies. 
Comment by ClarkKent_DC on March 25, 2011 at 11:37pm

Not being a reader of the entire line of CrossGen works -- the only title I ever read was Ruse -- I gathered that this world was not necessarily our Earth. Thus, Simon Archard and Emma Bishop ran around in Partington, a place where the gargolyes atop the cathedrals aren't stone, but real, live beasties. 

 

That doesn't bother me at all; I find it quite cool.

Comment by Chris Fluit on March 26, 2011 at 8:54am

The town is still named Partington though we haven't seen any live gargoyles yet.

And I agree with CK.  I always thought that was part of the appeal.  I liked that there were actual gargoyles and mystical artifacts.  I liked that it was possible Simon was investigating an actual vampire case in one story.  He wasn't, but it added to the drama.

I didn't need Ruse to have a connection to the larger CrossGen universe or Emma Bishop to have time-stopping powers (both of which thankfully appear to be gone for the new series) but I liked that it wasn't quite our world.

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on March 26, 2011 at 5:04pm

Wait a minute; you're fine with actual gargoyles and mystical artifacts, but don't like Emma Bishop's time-stopping powers? 

 

I liked it all; the mystical hoo-hah about Emma Bishop and her true mission -- which, I gather, was in some way to save Simon Archard from himself and his arrogance -- all worked for me. 

Comment by Chris Fluit on March 28, 2011 at 12:29pm

Wait a minute; you're fine with actual gargoyles and mystical artifacts, but don't like Emma Bishop's time-stopping powers?

Yes, exactly.  I liked the weirdness that orbited around the main characters.  It made the world more interesting and it increased the possibilities for what might have occurred within the story.  But I didn't need the weirdness to include the main characters.  They were interesting enough without it.

 

It's like the X-Files.  The X-Files was interesting as long as the weirdness evolved around the main characters.  Part of the fun was in choosing, as the audience, whether or not to believe.  But the show didn't work as well when Scully was abducted.  The weirdness was now part of the character and neither she nor we could look at it with a cynical eye. 

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on March 28, 2011 at 12:44pm
So you say; I never watched The X-Files. Give me a straight crime procedural any day.
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on March 30, 2011 at 9:57am

I read Sigil only because my LCS gave me a copy of the first issue, and I liked it better than I thought I would. If I remember I'll pick up the rest of the series.

 

Now I did like, Ruse better. probably because of my previous experience with it. I didn't have as big a problem with the art as Chris, and CK seemed to have. I was annoyed with the part of the runaway horse, and the entire chase scene really. It was like the camera was always off-center and not following the action real well.

 

I would prefer the Emma didn't have the time-stopping powers as well, and it kind of eliminated some of the suspense of the stories.

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