Review: The Private Eye #5

We all love Brian K. Vaughan. It’s just a fact at this point, like we feel that Jack Kirby should be more widely recognized, or we feel that no one’s quite gotten Elektra right since Frank Miller went crazy. The Private Eye is no exception. Issue 5 of a planned 10(ish) issues dropped a couple of weeks ago, and it’s still just as much fun as the first four. BKV and Martin keep throwing in layer upon layer of jokes in one of the most serious comics they’ve ever written. I’m still tickled every time I remember the bad guy in this world of people with secret identities is named “DeGuerre”. But then, I’m an easy mark for a laugh.

This issue really feels like a halfway point. The small mystery is running down into loose ends, and luckily the P.I. and his femme fatale stumble across the one thread that leads to the Big Mystery. It’s classic noir storytelling that BKV, Martin and Vicente have draped in grandpa-versions of ourselves, bubblegum pop colors and a lovingly detailed rendering of Madonna’s tomb.

What I really dig about BKV’s writing is his sense of building a world. Having recently re-read Y: The Last Man all the way through (in a day and a half; I highly recommend it), I find myself not caring as much about Yorick as I should. I couldn’t place why until I discussed it with a friend: it’s BKV’s gradual building of the world-without-men that happens in the background, between issues, that’s where the real fun of the story is. We’re along for the wacky adventure ride with Yorick and his crew while the background stories are about new societal lines being drawn, the rebuilding of infrastructure. It’s the same way with Saga. Each issue has more fun Marko and Alana hijinks (or tragical Marko and Alana hijinks, depending), but we learn more about the Will and his bounty hunter caste, or about the war, or any number of things. In this book, it’s not as much about medivac helicopters marked for Schwarzenegger Medical Center as it is the grandpa who took too much Adderall as a child and can’t remember how to play Call of Duty in 2076.

The drag with the publishing model that BKV and Martin are going with is that I’m not sure there’s quite a rhyme or reason to it. I know I’ve been reading this comic since... September? So I don’t know that it’s monthly or every 6 weeks or what. I basically just have to lurk on Tumblr until one of the creators I follow reblogs something about the new issue being available. While that’s certainly one way to do business (especially when your product is top-notch and free, so who am I to question a free lunch?), it makes it tough to follow this series, tightly paced as it is. A noir doesn’t benefit from excesses of anything except world-building and violence. Air in the story, or time for the story to breathe makes it less taut; it pulls you along to the end with less urgency. Basically every time a new issue comes out, I have to read the ones before it to remind myself where the story is.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t be reading The Private Eye, because you absolutely should. It’s got an early David O. Russell feeling to it, as far as a heavy-handed metaphor that is heavy-handed because it wants you to live in it. The stakes in this book seem silly to us, but they feel real to the characters, and that’s the kind of book that is a joy to read every time a new issue drops.

Score: 5/5

Writer: Brian K. Vaughan Artist: Marcos Martin Colorist: Muntsa Vicente Publisher: Panel Syndicate Price: Pay What You Want Website