Pick of the Week

Pick of the Week – 03.20.2013 – The Private Eye #1

What did the
community think?

Avg Rating: 4.8
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 36.7%
Users who pulled this comic:
Story by Brian K. Vaughan
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, wears 1 day oasys lens, and 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.

Conor Kilpatrick
Do you have any bars?


  1. I haven’t read all my books yet, but I’m pretty sure this is going to be my POTW, too. And that’s only judging by the content. I’d like to give it the nod just based on the self publishing aspect, ease of purchase, and DRM free format.

  2. Interesting.

    Is this the first ever digital only POTW? It certainly sounds like it is…..And it’s a shame I didn’t get this because I am not a digital type of guy. Again, as we discussed in the article for it, this thing is going to get a physical release eventually. It kinda makes no sense why Image didn’t snatch this up considering they already have BKV for one book already. I know this is a gorgeous looking and intriguing read but I guess I’ll have to wait for it eventually.

    My POTW was another BKV book with SAGA. Great pacing to deliver a fantastic, action packed book from start to finish.

    • Image didn’t publish it because they weren’t offered it. As BKV explains in the afterward, this was meant to be a digital-only book from the very beginning. It sounds like they are very interested in exploring the idea of publishing books straight to the audience.

    • Image didn’t ‘snach it up’ because BKV and Martin didn’t offer it to them. Its their’s, they’re releasing it the way they want to.

      I frankly find it fascinating how certain folks treat digital only as less valid then print when it comes to artistic intent. Like its automatically less worthy of critical acclaim or attention. That is absurd.

    • I’m glad you guys clarified the digital only right away and mention the afterword cause I just assumed too many people were gonna ask about it in print. I loved it and the afterword made me love it more, explaining the whole reason it’s digital only and giving the book a niche irony.

      Also, it may be choose what you want to pay and even free but I liked that they gave you a choice to voice any thoughts we might have but $’s appreciated and shows we appreciate what they’re doing, which I used to briefly explain why I paid $1.99….cause I think standard issue print comics should be $2.99 (unless they’re above the 32page format), digital standards at $1.99 cause you don’t tangibly own them and digital back issues should be .99 but that’s open for interpretation with me due to factors like date issued, limited, and a few others as they offer plenty at .99 as is and even free back issues of key issues and #1’s to see if you like a series such as Chew.

      Private Eye is the only book I’ve read yet this week and glad it’s POTW regardless of how much I like anything else and hope BKV & Martin keep em coming.

    • @TheAdventurer

      I don’t see anyone treating them like that here, but that doesn’t mean those people don’t exist. It’s okay to have a format preference but still recognize the validity of both forms of delivery. I can see where people get that mindset too, not that I agree with it. It’s like in video games, right now. Think about IPhone games versus PC or Console games. Many iOS and Android based games, or say, Facebook games, are treated like they are less valid than console or PC because they’re new and are unproven to the people who have considered themselves gamers for decades. Shit like this happens all the time, and I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just understandable. Until more creators break through using digital or more big names like Martin, BKV and Waid come over and start playing in the digital space, you’ll have people equating these comics with web comics like Penny Arcade, when they’re two different things, like Mass Effect and Angry Birds. The gap is closing though on both fronts. Just today Firaxis, the guys behind Civilization and XCom, announced an iOS game and just this week we had The Private Eye drop out of nowhere. Those that question the validity of digital comics will soon have their minds changed if things keep going the way they’re going.

      Positive thinking, dawgs.

    • @JSAKid: Using your logic, I think an argument could be made for $2.99 for two reasons. First, it was 32 pages without ads. I do not know what the equivalent page count would be at DC or Marvel, but it certainly would more than 32 pages. Second, because the comic was DRM free, you technically own the file. You can read it however you want, wherever you want, for as long as you want. It is totally platform independent. Unlike, say, Comixology.

      Just my $0.02. BTW, I paid $2.99. Well worth it. Can’t wait for the next issue. Wish it was longer than a 10 issue mini-series.

  3. After reading this review, I realized I did the same thing as you Conor, I tried to pick any other book as my Pick because this is the current It Comic. There were easily five different books I juggled in my mind as the Pick, that were all terrific, but none of them felt right, because this was clearly the best this week.

    You’re also right about the world building, I said in the thread on this book that every new world BKV builds is so clear but feels so lived in right away in just one issue. He thinks out these worlds so clearly, that it feels like there should already exist a Wiki dedicated to the mythology behind them, even though there’s only been one issue.

  4. Excited for this. Just bought mine. I really hope most people aren’t being jerks and not paying for it. There’s always going to be some jerks, but hopefully they’re in the minority.

  5. I’m so glad that the “IT” comic, the one everyone is talking about because of how they are releasing it turned out as good as it is. My clear POTW. Amazing review about an amazing book. And one I hope is one of the first steps in changing the industry. I paid $1.99. But when the next issue is out im gonna pay more.

  6. Glad this got the pick.

  7. I paid $.99 and, after reading it, felt terrible that I hadn’t paid more. The great thing is that I can make up for it next month (and I told Marcos and Brian I would in my personal message – If I liked the book). On that note, the book is about something that can be very important, our privacy. For a large portion of us on the Internet, we do care about our anonymity. For others, we think we do but we share far too much.

    What I loved is that the Internet is gone but the future still REALLY cares about anonymity. That being said, in order to have your personal message to Marcos and Brian be posted for everyone on the Internet to see, you have to tell them that it’s OK to print and give up your anonymity!

    This book was crazy good in the story, art, colouring, execution and the theme.

  8. Conor you helped me understand this comic much more than if I had read it without your review. This was a fascinating commentary on our modern world and how much we use the internet to keep our secrets. Can’t wait for more!

  9. I think the most fascinating thing about this is that people are bothering to pay $0.99/1.99/2.99… Why bother with the 99 cents? Just pay $1/2/3. Weird.

    • filippod (@filippodee) says:

      I was just about to write the same 🙂



    • I agree…the ’99’ after each price is a marketing trick to make the customer think it’s cheaper than it really is. There is no reason to play the corporate mind game when it’s ‘Pay What You Want’.

      I paid $1 for this first issue, but have no qualms upping that for an issue #2.

    • I was thinking of tossing them $1.01, to make up for all the other .99 cheapskates.

    • I do not know about other people’s reasons, but the reason I chose a “_.99” price was to communicate to the creators what I felt the book was worth in a shorthand that I thought they will understand. “This thing that you are doing — it’s just as meaningful/important/worthy/valid/etc. as the mainstream stuff.” That’s what I was trying to communicate.

  10. This is the first title I’ve ever downloaded, mainly because I don’t really have a proper device to read it on. But with this creative team, I decided to give it a whirl, suck it up, and read it on my computer. It was great read. I’m definitely on board for anything else they put out, and I will definitely be picking up the other issues they’re planning on releasing.

  11. I’m not entirely familiar with the economics of the comics industry but this has been getting a lot of buzz and from what I see and hear, readers are being quite honest and donating realistic sums of money. Is it possible that BKV and Martin could make a healthier profit from this then what they would get from an issue Saga for example

    By completely eliminating the middle man, they’re getting 100% of the money, what do you think?

    • Yup for sure.

    • Yeah although in terms of middlemen, Image is a good option. I am fond of Image comics for how they support creativity over the big two which seem to just stifle creativity.

    • I think the issue of whether they will make more money will come down to volume. LCS are a fairly installed base of consumers and BKV was a known entity. Most retailers under ordered Saga #1, but they did order it. Who knows how many people even know about this? If I had to guess, Saga #1 sold 10-to-1 to TPE #1.

  12. This was very cool, picked it up after seeing the price was up to me.
    I hope this will be reprinted in a nice hardcover one day.

    • On the website it says it is not planned to be released on paper, only as a digital comic. :/ Which is both tragic and idealistically fantastic.

  13. When I got to the page where all the people were walking up and down the street I said to myself “Moebius!” (RIP) and then when I got to the end and it said “Dedicated to Alejandro” it all made sense. Marcos Martin’s Spider-Man stuff was brilliant and this exceeded that. I can’t wait to double dip on the printed edition.

  14. If this had just been your typical new comic release on Comixology, this still would be a strong contender for PotW. There was a lot of good stuff this week, too. Saga was great as usual. All New X-Men was fantastic…this was so close to being my PotW, I kind of wish I could declare a tie, but oh well.

    But…when you throw in self-published, pay as you like scenario with The Private Eye, and the reaction so far, this is clearly the deciding factor for me. It takes a certain amount of balls to go that route. And yeah, in a way, this pick is a bit of a “political” statement for me. DRM sucks. As much as I like Comixology, and like the fact that it saves me and my basement from hordes of long boxes, DRM sucks and the JManga disaster this week underscores that.

    So if this way of distributing comics becomes “a thing”, and if the Private Eye is any way a success, this is potentially a big deal. And well worth a PotW.

  15. @Conor – is this the first time a ‘digital-only’ comic has been a POTW?

    Great write up, Conor! The work here by Vaughan, Martin and Vicente is top-notch and they have pulled off what Kickstarter participants could only dream of (not to diminish Kickstarter).
    From creator to reader, with no middleman and a ‘Pay What You Like’ (even free) strategy. Private Eye is not only great piece of work in the comics medium, but, from a business sense, it also does a fantastic job of perfecting a model for maintaining creator rights and ownership.

    Also, I can’t say enough on how enamored I am of Vicente’s colors! It takes what is already great and pushes it to perfection!

  16. It would be nice if heading into the future more titles not distributed by Diamond are added to the pull list (print or digital), making them eligible for reviews, ratings, and POW. Leave it to BKV to break the mold.

  17. And no sales tax.

  18. I paid 0.99. That’s all I ever pay for digital media.

    Hope it’s good – haven’t read it yet.

  19. I paid $3.00 because it’s definitely worth that and more. What a gorgeous book and, as usual, it seems BKV is ahead of the curve.

  20. I am going to pay a totally random amount each time, just to keep them on their toes.

  21. I loved this so much. Having seen some of the art around the Web before buying it, I actually plunked down $5. I’ll probably amortize that over future issues, but felt like giving a high amount on the first one as a sign of faith in the product. I’ll probably do $1 or $2.

    But sweet Odin was this amazing.

  22. Great choice!
    Martin’s art is always worth something, and BKV is one of my favorites of all time.
    I was not really into digital a year ago. Two things changed.
    1) I bought a tablet
    2) Marvel has free dowload codes
    I probably wouldn’t have read comics digitally with a tablet. I am still stuck in my backwards mindset that I like to have a paper copy (Although 30+ Longboxes is changing my mind).
    Marvel’s free (for 3.99) offer made me decide to redeem the code, and now I read anything with the code on my tablet while I commute. I love it now.
    So a year ago, when I would have ignored or waited for the paper release of the issue, now I had no problem plopping down $2 and reading it. Between this and Saga, I am in heaven.

  23. I sense a new trend starting: Private Eye Pricebragging.

  24. Best comic I read this week. Nice one Conor.

    I am curious though, what was the other book that you were going to pick?

  25. How is Ron going to bag and board this?

  26. I liked the comic. It was engaging and I liked the concept of it taking place when the the current ipod generation is old.

    Personally I wish this was distributed on paper. I do read comics on my ipad, but I prefer to have them on paper as well. I guess given that this is DRM free, perhaps this is the wave of the future.

  27. I absolutely loved this book. Vaughan is on top form and Marcos’s art just sends this into the stratosphere.

    I am, however, surprised that there were so many widescreen/double page shots in a digital release. I found myself reading the whole issue in landscape mode on my Ipad which made things a little smaller than I’d like (i don’t like all those fancy zoom in options when reading, i like the traditional experience mixed with the ease of using once piece of hardware to read a bunch of books in one sitting).

    Nevermind that though, I’ll be hooking this up to my TV tonight and rereading it in some blown up glory.

    Flawless first issue. Gonna be a long month!

    • I don’t know if you are being sarcastic, but there was not one double page spread. Each page was went to be viewed in landscape on a tablet or widescreen monitor.
      I thought it worked great.

  28. Jones (@batwomanbeyond) says:

    Love the concept of this one!

    Also, terrified by the concept.

    Great first issue.

  29. Great review Conor!!

    I had a look at the .pdf but read as .cbz.
    The PDF looked brilliant as has been previously stated. But did anyone get slightly annoyed or bewildered as to the scanner shadow on the .cbz (the shadow where the fold in the centre of the book, usually from where the pages aren’t completely flat on the scanner screen). It’s a digital book and was intended as so from its inception (I still love using that word) so this ‘scanner shadow’ must of been added retrospectiy.
    It had to of been a slight dig at all the pirates out there. Hilarious. With BKV the details are endless.