Pick of the Week
What did the
Art by Marcos Martin
Colors by Muntsa Vicente
Size: 32 pages
Price: UP TO YOU
I didn’t want this to be the Pick of the Week. I really didn’t. My reasoning had nothing to do with the quality of the book—I hadn’t even read it yet when I decided this—it was because The Private Eye #1 was the It Comic of the last 36-ish hours. It was the comic that had the whole internet comic book community talking and I didn’t want to make it the Pick of the Week because then there would be a good number of people who would think that it was chosen solely because of all the hoopla. So I kept putting off reading it and in fact I saved it for very last. And in a great week of comics I had another book all ready to go as the Pick; I had even started writing the review for that book in my head. Then I read The Private Eye #1.
And fuck me if it wasn’t the clear Pick of the Week.
Let’s just get the preliminaries out of the way. The Private Eye is a comic book put together by writer Brian K. Vaughan, artist Marcos Martin, and colorist Munsta Vicente and released exclusively through their website. Customers could pay whatever price they deemed fair (I paid $2.99) to download a DRM-free digital copy of the comic in the format of your choosing (I went with a PDF). This was the first issue. If the interest and sales are there, they plan to release nine more monthly issues of this series. That’s just the business behind The Private Eye #1; none of that matters in terms of the Pick of the Week.
The only thing that matters is that The Private Eye #1 was fucking fantastic.
There’s been a lot of talk about Brian K. Vaughan’s world building ability and oh mama, is that on full display here. One of the best things about this issue is that while there is so much going on in world of The Private Eye, so many rules to learn and customs and norms to suss out, very little of it is actually explained. Save for one brief scene—where the main character provides a bit of exposition explaining that some time in his past/our future, the internet broke open and spilled out everyone’s deepest darkest secrets to everyone else which is why there is no more internet and why privacy is at a super premium—everything else about this world we have to glean from the context of the story and the characters. Why does the press now act like the police? Why does everyone walk around in a superhero-esque disguise? Why is there what appears to be a robust system of commuter trains in Los Angeles? While we don’t know all the answers yet, there are context clues for everything (except the trains; we may never know the answer to that) and I think that’s wonderful. Clearly this world that has been created is deep and interesting and I love that Vaughan and company give the reader enough credit to not hand everything to us on a silver platter.
The story, so far, is a simple one and with a title like The Private Eye it will probably be fairly familiar. A cunning private investigator, who we meet in the beginning as he’s being chased by The Fourth Estate for taking pictures of someone without their permission (that is illegal), has a beautiful woman walk into his office in the Chateau Marmont (which apparently now houses offices instead of strung out actors) and drop a case in his lap. The case seems simple enough at first, but one brutal murder later and everything is about it get a lot more complicated. There’s nothing mold breaking here. It’s a private eye story, for pete’s sake. What’s so great about it is the world that has been built and the characters that populate it.
And speaking of characters, can we talk for a bit about the private eye’s grandfather who is possibly my new favorite character in all of comics?
The stand-up comedian Nick Swardson used to do a bit where he wondered what people his age would be like when they got older because when you get older you tend to still like the things that you did when you were younger. He envisioned a world of elderly people covered in sagging tattoos listening to Dr. Dre. That’s basically what we have here. The private eye’s grandfather calls him “dude,” is covered in tattoos, is pissed that he can’t get any bars on his cracked and completely non-functional iPhone, and complains that no one shares anything about themselves anymore unlike his generation which shared everything with everybody (presumably on Facebook and Twitter). He’s the best. I hope he pops up all he time like Jim Rockford’s dad.
But enough about the fantastic story. How about that art? Marcos Martin was, for my money, already one of the best in the business but here’s he’s elevated his game. I talked a lot about the impressive world building and a lot of that has to do with Martin and colorist Munsta Vicente’s sweeping pages (presented in all widescreen format that is perfect for your wide screen monitors and tablet devices) that are dense with detail. I marveled over the background details of a few of these pages more than I did in any other comic this week. There was so much to see in this world and I wanted to soak it all in. But beautifully rendered backgrounds wasn’t the only thing that was great about the art. In his superhero work, Martin was known for his ability to capture wonderfully choreographed action sequences full of kinetic energy. That’s no different here as the story opens with the thrilling sequence that finds the private eye being chased by the press across the top of a moving train. The digital format really benefits the story here as the action is presented in a widescreen format that breaks free from the vertical conventions of a traditional page and really allows the action to breathe as it moves from left to right. Aided by the luminosity afforded by the screen, Vicente’s bright color palette is stunning—this is a world of bright primary colors that really pop. What a gorgeously presented story.
Between Saga and The Private Eye this was not only a banner week for Brian K. Vaughan (and his collaborators) but it was a banner week for people who love great stories from super talented creators who are allowed to tell their tales completely unfettered.
Do you have any bars?