Review: The Private Eye #1 (Panel Syndicate)

The Private EyeNot content with just creating one of the best comics in recent memory with Saga, writer Brian K Vaughan is set to shake up the world of self publishing too with his new creator owned website Panel Syndicate and it’s debut title, The Private Eye #1.

The Private EyePublisher: Panel Syndicate

Writer: Brian K Vaughan

Artist: Marcos Martin

Price: Variable

Featuring artwork from long time collaborator Marcos Martin, The Private Eye #1 is available as a DRM free PDF, CBZ or CBR file and it’s landscape format is optimised for a tablet savvy audience. But unlike other self publishing ventures like Thrillbent or Madefire, Panel Syndicate are borrowing the ‘pay what you like‘ model that bands like Radiohead have begun to use in the music business. This means that instead of the “begging letter approach of Kickstarter” (as Vaughan himself describes it) fans can reward creators for completed work and avoid the kind of unsavoury issues that can occur when Kickstarters go wrong. It also bypasses the issue of pricing which is still a contentious subject in the world if digital comics and guarantees 100% of your money goes to the creators.

Of course the downside to this model is that you need a ready made fan base willing to pay for your product for this to succeed. Fortunately for Vaughan, who has carefully managed his output in recent years and is still riding high on the wave of critical adulation that has greeted Saga since its arrival last summer, has a ready made audience, clamouring for content. But can that be sustained over monthly releases? The music model has only accounted for single purchases, will it still work issue after issue. Sure the only it can be sustained is by a continuing high quality of product or else there is a risk that readers will begin to not pay at all, so that brings us to the ultimate question is – is the book itself actually any good?

Fortunately the answer is yes! Set in the near future in a world without Internet where privacy has become a scared right, private eyes and parazzis have become the same thing and the police and press have united. Vaughan has created another delightfully surreal yet engaging world, where people assume ‘nyms’ or aliases by wearing masks to preotect themselves from prying eyes. This world of secrecy is brought on as a direct reaction to the collapse of the open Internet society and from the Cloud dispersing and flooding the world with everyone’s most intimate online details. Vaughan revels in the ideas of a post-Wikileaks world where everything has become so open as to encourage complete secrecy and anonymity and with that comes the opportunity for shady characters to excel.

Lead character is Patrick a paparazzi/ private eye charged with investigating the shady past of a client, Taj, who, rather than wanting to find dirt on a loved one, wants to make sure her own skeletons are suitably closeted. As well as Vaughan’s tour de force writing which filters Philip K Dick and George Orwell through Wikileaks and 4Chan with a generous dose of Chandleresque noir, Marcus Martin’s stunning artwork brings the story to life. Just as Fiona Staples work makes Saga such a delight, Martin’s work echoes Moebius and Darrow in the cityscspes but with a strong sense of action and excitement too. He is revelling in turning some of Vaughan’s more surreal notions – most notably Taj’s tiger head mask – and in Patrick’s smiley hoodie may have created a symbol as iconic as the V for Vendetta mask or Watchmen smiley.

pd_review5Whatever you chose to pay for this book then you will get your money’s worth as it is an absolute must-read and could well eclipse Saga in terms of quality given time. If you object to paying for such an outstanding creative effort then there really is no helping you, as this is another modern classic from Vaughan and the first definitive candidate for Digital Comic of the Year for 2013!

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.