Clicking Amazon’s “one-click” button to make a purchase with a credit card. The latest celebrity harassed with leaked photos. These are examples of how much faith we put in the technology that connects us; technology that has come to dictate our day-to-day way of life. But what happens when that technology fails all of us, unleashing our personal information and our dirty little secrets to the world. This is the concept behind The Private Eye, a comic that my thoughts spin back to every time I upload something to the cloud.
The irony is that, when writer Brian K. Vaughan and artist Marcos Martin came up with the idea, they decided to make The Private Eye only available online. Better yet, the DRM-free, creator-owned comic, is available for whatever the hell you want to pay for it at www.panelsyndicate.com, where Vaughan and Martin, along with colourist Muntsa Vincente intend to offer more stories in the future, in as many languages as they can.
The year is 2076, and after the “cloud burst,” anonymity has become an imperative. Not online — because there no longer is an online. “Internet” is a curious thing of the past. Now, the greatest celebrities are librarians, and the law? Journalists with integrity (*gasp*) who are licensed to get the truth, no matter what masks you try to hide behind. But there are still paparazzi who will try to skirt the law to get that information for a good price.
Paparazzi like “P.I.” who are paid by jilted spouses to find their cheating significant others, or to hunt down highschool crushes, or to find out just how many of your dirty little secrets a potential employer could find out about you if they dig too deeply.
Much like the futuristic Bladerunner, The Private Eye pays homage to the old noir detective stories, though it is, ironically, not as dark. Vincente uses vibrant colours to enhance Martin’s artwork, which initially seems a bit sparse in its lines and details. Until you look more closely and spot all the little references. Don’t be distracted by the outlandish costumes, no matter how elaborate they might be. In both Martin’s art and Vaughan’s writing are more than enough remnants of our current world in this strange future. The more I read The Private Eye, the more I wonder when its fantasy will become our reality.
Getting back to the story, the beautiful Taj walks through P.I.’s door, sending him on a seemingly wild goose change involving a lot of murder and mayhem. If you aren’t already following the mystery of The Private Eye, then grab a copy of volume one, which collects issues #1-5 and costs–whatever you want it to cost! Catch up on the series, then pop back here for my series review. Until then, be warned: the rest of this post contains spoilers up to issue #8.
The Private Eye #8
Writer: Brian K. Vaughan
Artist: Marcos Martin
Colourist: Muntsa Vincente
The story so far: Deputy Correspondent Strunk survived the shoot out with DeGuerre’s henchmen, but one of them got away with Melanie, P.I.’s young assistant, who had just come out of her coma following the crash in her getaway car. Strunk has discovered a clue from Melanie’s room that will lead the Fourth Estate right to P.I.’s door, but even if Strunk weren’t laid up in the hospital with a bullet to the chest, the case is out of his hands, because the feds have taken over. And by feds, I mean CNN. Yes, you heard me.
The Press has been heavily involved in the story from the beginning, but it wasn’t until issue seven, when Strunk pulled out his gun and killed a perp, that I came to truly understand how much power the media have. Nor did I truly appreciate how strongly the Fourth Estate believes in and is willing to protect privacy. Journalistic integrity based on proper investigative reporting is something I have watched practically disappear in today’s media, with the likes of CNN and Fox News becoming the butt of many jokes. Here, they are the power that be, and in these past two issues, I’ve come to understand how powerful they can be–without sinking into corruption. Vaughan has actually given us a story where the media are the good guys, and, even though his story isn’t based on our current reality, it actually makes me proud of my journalistic background once more.
Anyway, CNN ends up at P.I.’s grandfather’s front door, and by the looks of that cover, grandpa is none too happy to have them there. As cantankerous is and as crazy as he can seem to be, thanks to all the Ritalin and meds prescribed in his youth, he often has his lucid moments and is easily a favourite character. Mainly because he represents my children in this future, and I can see a lot of myself in him as well. I fully expect to be the killer grandma, still playing video games and blogging well into my senior years. I can’t even begin to imagine a world that didn’t have all of these modern conveniences and connections–until The Private Eye spelled it out for me. *shudders*
Here, grandpa’s ravings provide the necessary distraction P.I. and Taj’s sister Raveena need to get away–but not before retrieving a charger for the mysterious device they found at Nebular’s house. There, they came mask to mask in a shoot out with DeGuerre, whom they have figured out is Raveena’s murderer–as well as the mastermind behind a global scheme to bring back Internet. But P.I. is no longer concerned with the case. Melanie’s injuries, and now her kidnapping, are his fault for letting her get involved, and he’s determined to rescue her.
The unusual thing about the mystery here is that, as the reader, you are privy to far more information than the detective himself. Since Vaughan has been carefully parceling out DeGuerre’s nefarious actions and his plans by spending ample time with the character, and because we already know the technology referenced, we are several steps ahead of our heroes. Vaughan has delicately balanced this dramatic irony with the fast paced action of the chase as P.I and Raveena try to escape or catch up with DeGuerre, who, like the reader, remains several steps ahead. But Raveena and P.I. are finally closing in, leaving issue eight ending in yet another tantalizing cliffhanger.
DeGuerre reveals his “evil” manifesto in this issue, spilling the beans to a skeptical Melanie, who questions the truth DeGuerre wants to bring back to society through the return of Internet. DeGuerre believes the global reconnection will open society’s eyes to the reality of the world beyond the walled city, but Melanie scoffs at the idea of returning to a time of narcissistic bloggers and shut-ins, who believe whatever the Internet tells them to believe.
Vaughan writes with tongue firmly in cheek, and the irony-o-meter is ticking at maximum, but as I said at the beginning of this post, there is little that goes on in our globally connected world today that does not make me think back to The Private Eye. While there’s a lot of humour in the telling, it’s hard not to look into the mirror The Private Eye is holding up in front of us. DeGuerre’s methods are certainly on the inappropriately murderous side, but, every revolution needs a leader willing to spill blood for the greater good, right? Or is Melanie right about what bringing back Internet will do to society?
As much as I’m now into this story to find out what happens next, I am also into it to see just how much of it turns out to be a prophecy of our future…