The Panel Syndicate return with another great glimpse into the future of comic book publishing, and thirty pages worth of reasons to continue investing in tomorrow.
It seemed like a very long wait between the third and fourth issues, broken up by a wonderful 85-page The Making of The Private Eye last month, but as Brian K. Vaughan has taught us on Y: The Last Man and more recently on Saga, good things are worth waiting for. A truly creator-owned comic, the trio of Vaughan, Marcos Martin and Muntsa Vicente have taken crowd-funding to the next level by selling each issue directly to a ready consumer market, a model that allows an undiluted vision free of editorial control or arbitrary deadlines.
The Private Eye is set in a near future where privacy is a sacred federally protected right, with even browser searches locked and sealed, and everybody wears masks of various levels of sophistication. So it’s no surprise that in a series where information is the most powerful commodity, P.I. and Raveena are taken to the library in the search for clues on the latter’s recently murdered sister.
Vaughan skilfully plonks the reader right in the middle of a lived-in world, not too distant from our own but alien enough to seem like a place of fantasy and high science-fiction. Yet rather than explain every detail to us, the character of Raveena is used as our window to a secret world within this world, as P.I. takes her (and by extension us) deeper down the rabbit hole. Every new hint leads to another one, playing with expectations as a kick-ass librarian gets in a few good hits as our little gang attempts to pilfer some precious intel.
Marcos Martin has a cinematic eye for layouts, populating his landscape pages with a menagerie of characters and unique Los Angeles of the not-too-distant-future locales. There is a danger when comics try to replicate the camera lens that it dilutes the intrinsic qualities the comic book format has to offer. This isn’t the case with The Private Eye, where the eye of the camera is as important to the story as the written word, with art that is wholly geared towards the ‘widescreen’ nature of tablets and monitors. A perfect piece of panelling comes in a driving sequence, transitions tight interior panels to a surprise multi-angle splash of a spectacular crash. It also maximises Muntsa Vicente’s vivid colour palette, especially when viewed on high resolution screens, although these are far more subdued in this mostly darker issue.
While actually a little longer than an average monthly title, The Private Eye rips along at the pace of a book half its length. Just at the point any other book would end with a little cliffhanger, Vaughan drops in those last few tantalising details to add a line and sinker to his already hooky book. The best comic book series currently not available in shops, make sure you do the right thing and head to the Panel Syndicate website and pay whatever you think is right. Whatever your cost, it’s worth every penny.
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