Set in Los Angeles in the year 2076, Vaughan and Martin sketch out a vaguely familiar city of the future where society has evolved beyond the Internet. The main character, Patrick Immelman, works as a strange version of private detective mixed with paparazzi.
Warning: This review contains gratuitous spoilers since you can go directly to the online distributor Panel Syndicate and buy this comic right now by naming your price. This reviewer plunked down $2.99, which was well worth it, but you can also just take it for free. Please don’t do that.
Back to the review – The catalyst for this strange future comes in the form of an information crisis where “The Cloud” bursts, flooding society with a treasure trove of secrets that compromise every citizen’s personal security. Big or small, it was all put out there.
Vaughan has always had a keen eye focused on the issues of the day with an ability to see what the world might look like down the road. He’s proved this time and time again with his great stories in Y: The Last Man and Saga. The Private Eye hits much closer to home because this all feels extremely plausible. Readers can tell he spent a good deal of thought on what Los Angeles, and by extension the world, might be like.
Reading through this story, I saw the Los Angeles I know even though it’s been given that futuristic veneer similar to this old Los Angeles Times Magazine piece L.A. 2013. There’s even a Los Angeles Times reference on a maglev train ad. For readers not familiar with Los Angeles, there will be many visual references to the city they simply won’t get. But it’s a treat for the locals.
In terms of the nitty, gritty plot details, Patrick is almost caught in the act of getting pictures of a particular person of interest for one of his clients. People conceal their identities carefully as a result of the cloud bursting, so what Patrick does isn’t legal. Once the reader gets a taste of what he does for a living, the real premise of the story takes off.
Fitting of its name The Private Eye, this story fits some of the basic conventions of hard-boiled noir. A dame comes knocking on Patrick’s door with a job – she wants him to find out everything he can about her. This is where it gets strange. More often than not, the formula is recognizable. However, Vaughan has turned it on its head by changing the rules of society. Therefore, the traditional rules and expectations of a noir detective story become radically different.
Since it would be shame to tell the uninitiated any more than this, I’ll leave it be. What I will tell you is that Vaughan shows us a scary image of society by holding up a mirror. That image on the other side of the glass sits in a distant future beckoning to us like gravity to fall through it and become this strange world.
Like Vaughan’s collaborator on Saga, Fiona Staples, he has found another perfect match in Martin to help create the right look and feel to the art of this story. Martin helps tell the story in a way only the best of the medium can. This story wouldn’t feel so real if it weren’t for his perfectly complementary art.
Be smart and go give these two your money. The Private Eye is a story that deserves a long run.