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.