Thursday, 27 March 2014

The Private Eye Volume 1 Review (Brian K Vaughan, Marcos Martin)

A man with a camera lurks in the shadows of a building looking across at a building opposite where a beautiful woman is undressing. She takes off her coat; she takes off her jewellery; she takes off her dress; and then she takes off her skin to reveal another person underneath!!! The world of the future is a pretty weird place to say the least!

In 2075 the internet is no more. Everyone stored information in The Cloud until The Cloud “burst” and ruined everyone’s lives. Search histories, recorded conversations, private emails, texts and tweets – all of it came out and inverted the world. Now privacy is a premium with everyone – EVERYONE – wearing masks and disguises in their day to day lives and if anyone wants to find out about anyone else, they hire a paparazzo like Patrick Immelmann aka PI to get information. 

Ayoung woman called Taj McGill hires PI to investigate her. PI reluctantly agrees but things become more complicated when Taj is murdered and PI realises he’s stumbled into a massive terrorist plot. Hunted by international assassins, global conglomerates, and a maniac with a modified space shuttle, PI, Raveena (Taj’s sister) and his faithful chauffeur, the teenage Mel (aka Lady Nunchuk), must survive it all and stop the madman. 

Brian Vaughan and Marcos Martin’s The Private Eye is the most entertaining neo-noir story you’re likely to read. It follows the conventions of the classic sleuth story – the jaded investigator, the femme fatale, the underdog against the powerful, a mystery that leads to a greater mystery, even the sassy accomplice – but does so with a freshness and lightness that’s enormously invigorating. It also helps that this is an incredibly good looking comic thanks to Martin’s stunning art and Muntsa Vicente’s bright and beautiful colours. 

While it’s set 60 years in the future and is clearly futuristic, it’s not implausibly so. The vehicle designs are different (especially Mel’s car which rocks) but they’re not a million miles away from what’s on the road now, and there are still high street shops (including, depressingly, McDonald’s). The changes are there but subtle – nobody has smart phones anymore since the internet no longer exists, but computer games are still played on wall-sized screens, just not online. Bizarrely the press have replaced the police as the guardians of law and order and libraries have become fortresses since information is the new currency. 

The new world order, where disguises are de rigueur as people have become their former internet avatars, means Martin can let his imagination loose leading to some eye-popping pages where crowds of superheroes, monsters, cartoon characters, and animals populate the streets and the ones not wearing costumes are the “weird” ones - it’s a world filled with cosplayers! 

Vaughan’s on top form with this series. His characters are sharply realised, his plot clicks along at a perfect pace with the mystery unfolding in satisfactory pieces, and his future world and it’s society is convincing and fascinating. Even the small details are brilliant like the Schwartzenegger Medical Center, PI’s office in the Chateau Marmont, and the hint that Rand Paul (or Ron) was once President! I really like PI’s Gramps too. You know everyone these days who has tattoo sleeves? Gramps was one of those people when he was younger; as an old guy with those tats? Ergh – doesn’t look right! 

You might be looking for the book on Amazon or on your library catalogue and you won’t find it because here’s the thing about The Private Eye: it’s available only digitally and only on the website,, owned and operated by Vaughan, Martin and Vicente. It’s also designed to be read on tablets/laptop screens because the pages are rectangular. Here’s the other thing about The Private Eye: it’s completely free! Well, you can download it for free as a DRM-free PDF OR you could be cool and chip in a few bucks to show your appreciation. Even if you don’t want to pay full graphic novel price for it, give them something rather than take it for nothing: quality work deserves to be rewarded. 

The Private Eye is an utterly brilliant and highly original neo-noir story that crime and comics fans will absolutely adore. First class storytelling, writing and art, The Private Eye is the full comics package – don’t miss it!

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