REVIEW: The Private Eye – Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin, Muntsa Vicente

privateeyeIt’s hardly surprising that Brian K Vaughan should be partly responsible for changing the face of digital comics. He created Y: The Last Man, the seminal Nineties comic, and  he is the writer and co-creator of Saga, a multi-award winning sci-fi fantasy comic which has set a new benchmark for quality in monthly comic books.

When Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin announced Panel Syndicate, a new platform for digital comics, together with the launch title of The Private Eye – which would be written by Vaughan, drawn by Martin, and coloured by Muntsa Vicente – comic book fans were breathless at the prospect. The most note-worthy aspect of the news was that the comic would be available DRM-free and readers would be able to pay whatever they wanted for it. The Private Eye was to be one of the first comics offered on this type of digital platform from such a mainstream creative team. This was undoubtedly a bold move by the creative team, but it is one that has paid off; they received enough revenue from people who chose to pay for each installment of the comic to enable them to complete the ten issues originally planned.

The Private Eye is set in the fairly near-future of 2076, shortly after “the Cloud” has burst, a cataclysmic event which laid the entire world’s secrets bare for everyone to see. This has led to a world in which privacy is a much-sought after commodity, and people only venture out into public wearing masks and disguises of various kinds, mainly based on their defunct online avatars. The main character is Patrick Immelman, or PI, a private detective of the classic variety, though in Vaughan’s imagined future he is cast as much as a renegade journalist as he is a detective. PI is relatively young to be a private detective but he still has the jaded outlook which is a required trait of the fictional gumshoe. Hired by one of his previous clients he inadvertently becomes embroiled in a sinister terrorist plot which puts him in several increasingly dangerous situations and leads him down a violent, potentially deadly road.

Vaughan is clearly having fun with this story and his mastery of plotting, location, and character development is very much evident. Coupled with Martin’s superb illustrations and Vicente’s stunning colours, The Private Eye is a real joy to behold. Set in a landscape format, the digital platform really allows Martin and Vicente to produce some beautiful, expansive pages. They have taken the potential of the digital comics format and used it to masterful effect.

The Private Eye touches on a lot of very real fears and issues which we face in today’s world. The scariest thing about PI’s world is how plausible it is. With hackers becoming increasingly more ambitious and brazen, and internet security seemingly struggling to keep up, it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to envisage a world which reverts to a pre-internet state. With recent news-worthy attacks on the Ashley Madison website in the US, and more recently the Talk Talk website in the UK it could be argued that Vaughan and Martin’s story is more like a prediction than a fairy-tale.

During the on-line life of The Private Eye, Vaughan continually stressed that it would never be made available in a print format. Eventually he bowed to pressure and allowed Image Comics the print rights to the title. The oversized hardcover has just been released, handily in time for Christmas. I’m glad it is available in print format as it is truly a stunning book and would be a welcome addition to any discerning reader’s bookshelf.

I think I’ll pop down to my local bookshop for my copy though. I’m wary of ordering anything on the internet these days.

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Stephen Hardman is a trainee Legal Executive Lawyer who currently resides in Bath, in the UK with his wife and their cat.  Among other things he writes in his spare time. He is currently working on a novel which he hopes to finish soon, and he has written a few short stories as well, though has not had anything published. Yet. Stephen loves reading and is a huge crime fiction fan; George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, and Ken Bruen being particular favourites. He is an editor and contributor at the geek culture website Geeks Unleashed.

His obsession with comic books knows no bounds and he loves sharing news and reviews of all the great comic books and graphic novels being published right now. He also loves listening to music and seeing bands live, and is always seeking out new bands and musicians to obsess about.

You can catch him on Twitter @HardDaysWrite.

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