By Mark Avo
The penultimate issue of Panel Syndicate's The Private Eye has arrived and all it'll cost you is whatever you'd like. The digital only comic book by Brian K. Vaughan, Marcos Martin, and Munsta Vicente is the best book you haven't read yet. I make that assumption because everyone I talk to about the book seems to be hearing about it for the first time. The only reason I can figure that has happened is that Vaughan (Saga, Y The Last Man) and Martin (The Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil) decided early in the development of their The Private Eye that they wanted it to be a digital only comic.
The Eisner award winning creators and founders of Panel Syndicate decided on a wide format for the comic where each page is displayed in the landscape mode of your tablet or the widescreen of the modern computer monitor. The panel count does not diminish with this method, and what's more is that the storytelling works better than a traditional comic put into the digital format. The art is large and up front without the necessity of a guided tour through panels to see a story. The same guiding done in digital comic apps that tend to skip some of the page art as a whole, which can diminish the artist's original storytelling.
The only thing that seems to be missing in the format that Martin and Vicente's art is displayed in is the traditional double-page spread. The good news for those that love story though, is that a single page now has the same appearance and storytelling power as a double-page spread. For Brian K. Vaughan that means he can tell a punchy and exciting story without having to sacrifice page count to do so.
The Private Eye has flown under the awards radar as well as the regular reader radar but that doesn't mean it isn't deserving of praise. The story that the creators have weaved is just as good as any of their individual works and better than Doctor Strange: The Oath that Vaughan and Martin previously teamed up on back in 2006.
The story in The Private Eye revolves around a near future set in a time when millennials are now grandparents and the Internet that their lives currently revolve around was the victim of a cyber attack. The information that everyone thought was private in the cloud rained out for the world to see. Lives were changed, lives were ruined, and public trust in the Internet was lost. In this near future the technology is better but the interconnectivity that we are currently moving toward with "The Internet of Things" is gone.
Payphones return and the television is again the number one used household appliance. In this time period of the future people still long for connection with fellow human beings but they hide themselves in public and in private behind masks and elaborate costumes. The scare from the cloud era we now live in moved the bizarre internet identities we hide behind now into the real world. Enter a mysterious private detective named P.I. who is considered a paparazzi. PI digs up photos and information on lost loves for clients who no longer have Facebook to stalk their high school sweethearts.
PI is quickly chased off by "the press", who has now merged with the police force, because he is caught by them performing illegal photography. The reason behind illegal photography is tied to the fact that it is the press's mission to protect privacy and investigate all crime. That's how PI gets involved with the dame in need as BKV turns the story from a Sci-fi commentary on Internet Privacy into a genre bent noir full of pulp, mystery and action.
The issues have been coming out every 60 days or so and I've been on board since the very beginning. The comic is distributed from their digital imprint PanelSyndicate.com and they're sold under the Amanda Palmer method of ask. You can pay them nothing and give it a try or you can, like me, pay them as much as you believe a work from two Eisner winners and an award winning illustrator would be worth on ComiXology or Amazon. Either way you win and if you're new to the book you get the benefit of not having to wait for the last 7 issues like I have. Be warned though, this book is so good you'll fly through the digital pages, run your mobile device dead, and then have to wait for another 60 or so days like me to finish what has been one hell of a ride.
Mark Avo can usually be found behind a keyboard coding for databases or reviewing comic books. He can also be found writing and inking The Salt City Strangers comic book or pretending he's an expert on their Indie Publishing podcast The Undead Soup. You can delight or even heckle him with your tweets @MarkAvo and he'll be totally thrilled.