Careful With My Christian, Handsome...
Ah, dystopia. Over the years, especially since the 2000s, we've been treated to so many flavors of broken futures, that it's really a buyer's market when it comes to this particular brand of fiction. But The Private Eye really knocks it out of the park in the most pleasingly unexpected ways.
In case you're not already up to speed, the world of The Private Eye is set in a future where everyone maintains a secret identity after the crash of a world-wide cloud network spilled everyone's dirty secrets out into the open. We all good? No? Then go download the first issue; it's a pay-as-you-please system that allows you to pay a penny or many more pennies depending on what you, the reader, deem fit. Issue #1 introduced us to this cloak-and-dagger steeped world and our neo-noir protagonist Patrick Immelman. Issue #2 does a great job fleshing out his role in this world. Since the cloud crash, the organization responsible for investigating crimes is the Fourth Estate, the not so beloved Journos. Picking up the slack in the digging-up-dirt department are this world's modern private investigators, the Paparazzi.
I absolutely love the subtle world building going on each issue. Vaughan deftly whisks us away to a world that should be totally alien to us, and yet we feel as at home as the grime in the gutters of the city. It doesn't hurt that Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vincente deliver a world so visually consistent and identifiable that we never bother to question the "when" of these events. The art is almost completely atypical of your usual noir-yarn. Clean, vibrant colors and outlandish alter-ego character design break the mold of the usual stodgy, entrenched noir standards. At the same time, the art direction from clothing to cars to architecture all hearken back to a very 50s sensibility. And Vaughan's dialogue absolutely nails the noir tone.
Also, if pacing were a drug, I'd be a junkie, because I get high off of great pacing in a comic book. Vaughan doesn't disappoint a single iota in this regard. The story never drags and the scene transitions are so well arranged, it's damn near cinematic. Like any good film-noir, the plot really takes off with a good, old fashioned murder (cue dramatic music) that promises more intrigue than meets the eye. I'd gab on an on about it, but you really just need to pick up the issue.
I'm pleased to report that I have very little to weigh in on here. It's pretty clear that the creators have a decidedly concrete vision of how they want this book to play out and where they want it to go. However, my one major complaint with the book so far, is that I find myself kind of predicting a lot of what characters are going to say or do next, at least in the broadstrokes. Don't get me wrong, this doesn't hamper my enjoyment of the book one bit, and if you've never gotten your hands dirty with the noir genre, then you'll enjoy riding through the twists this issue offers up.
Still, if you're even marginally aware of the conventions of the genre, don't expect to tread virgin ground. I realize that part of the virtue of writing in a specific genre is building your story with familiar set pieces. But a more cynical man than myself might take one look at The Private Eye and get the impression that this the tagline to the book reads, "Film Noir...now with 10% more sci-fi!!!"
Again, it's not really a problem, but there are some brilliantly drawn panels synching up to big character moments this issue. I just couldn't help thinking as I read it that I'd be more blown away if what I was seeing was wholly new territory.
Despite what might be considered bending a little too much to noir tropes, this book should easily make it's way onto your must-read list. Aside from it being the most affordable comic on the market, it's telling a time-honored, hard-boiled PI tale with a bent I can confidently say we've never seen before. Page for page, I dare you to question the quality of this book. I can't tell yet if this book was simply turned down by editors at different publishers or the creators were aspiring for breaking new ground in the digital medium. Either way, the DRM free approach has got to lend to the well-deserved waves The Private Eye is making. If you like the creators' body of work--hell, if you just like comics--you owe it to yourself to download this book. A great read, a crime shrouded in mystery, playing in a brand-new sandbox that draws you in as much with the writing as the art...come on. Why are you even still reading this review? Go get the book and devour it already.
And if you already have...? Belly up to the bar and gorge yourself on The Private Eye again.