The Private Eye is an experiment.
From a creative standpoint, the setting is daring, a strange new future in which all technologies have advanced except for communication and images.
From a distribution standpoint, it’s unprecedented. Writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin placed the 32-page Issue 1 of The Private Eye up at their site, Panel Syndicate, where it can be downloaded on a “name your price” payment system. The 27-page Issue 2 was released May 7, 2013. The plan is for a 10-issue “old-school maxiseries.”
Vaughan and Martin are well known among regular comic readers and their names brought a great deal of attention to their innovative publicity technique. It’s self-publishing with considerably more investment than a self-published prose book, simply because of the addition of an artist to the story.
So how much should you pay for the story?
At its heart, The Private Eye is an old fashioned tale of a slightly seedy investigator (think Mike Hammer, or Jack Nicholson as J.J. Gittes in Chinatown) accepting jobs from clients that are a little less than legal with motives that aren’t always pure.
The twist is the setting and the private eye’s profession. In this futuristic Los Angeles, he’s an illegal photographer, a paparazzo. He takes photos of people as their real selves, without their outer disguises, commonly called “skins.” The skins in this future include holographic tigers, full-body supermodel skins, fish heads, and many others.
Set against our private eye is the Fourth Estate, the press, now a taxpayer-funded organization designed to police the flow of information and photos. In this world, the press is the police.
It’s an intriguing premise and the art is outstanding, with images sometimes focusing on bits and pieces of the world in panels arranged to draw attention to how different it really is. The set piece at the beginning, in which the private eye is chased by a member of the press on top of a train, is great, as are all the visuals of the strange new “skins” worn by everyone, especially in crowd photos. I can only imagine the time it took to draw all of them.
My only niggle is that I wasn’t drawn to the main character. I liked the press guy who jumped after him onto the train better. Of course, I’m a sucker for a member of the press wearing a fedora, so there’s that. But at this point, I don’t care that much for the private eye and it could be a problem in future issues. But I’m hooked, especially as he now has a murder to solve.
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Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, though not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.