Comic – The Private Eye

Private Eye

Susan Omand dons her mask and trilby and heads for a neon-noir detective story in this graphic novel, released today from Image Comics...

Set in an inevitable future of where everyone has a secret identity, THE PRIVATE EYE is an eerily prescient sci-fi mystery about an unlicensed private investigator who stumbles onto the most important case of his life. The series is set in 2076, a time after "the cloud has burst", revealing everyone's secrets. As a result, there is no more Internet, and people are excessively guarded about their identity, to the point of appearing only masked in public.

I picked up this graphic novel purely on the basis of that synopsis above. I had never read anything from the author before but this concept really intrigued me, with the “cloud burst” and the paranoia about keeping your information and identity as private as possible as a background to a very entertaining whodunnit murder story. To put that feeling into context, just think of everything you currently have saved in “the cloud” just now, your text messages, emails, photos, private accounts, ANYTHING you have ever been part of that has ever been connected to the internet or on a mobile phone at any point in your life, all at once being made totally public for everyone to read and use. Lives could be ruined. Identities breached. Finances decimated. Jobs lost. Families shattered. The consequences are almost unthinkable. That’s what happened in the universe this story is set in, so you can imagine the level of mistrust before the murder is even committed. However there were even more clever twists to the setting. The Private Eye in question, only known as PI, is actually a Paparazzo photographer, because the city, a futuristic Los Angeles, is now “policed” by the press with news crews, both local and national, the Feds being the likes of CNN, being the main investigators and reporters of any crimes committed. The back story of what happened when the cloud burst is also very cleverly dealt with in the story because PI lives with his grandfather, now a touch senile, and keeps having to explain what happened to the old man, who lived in the city before the cloud burst and still tries to connect his ancient tech to the internet to play games or log into social networking etc.

As far as the detective story itself goes, it’s very much an updated version of a classic 1930’s style noir tale of the sister of a murdered girl hiring the PI to solve the case. Only it’s not as clear cut as all that as the motives for the murder become very complex, involving a charismatic high tech industrial megalomaniac baddie with a larger agenda, intent on world domination. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away though but the final big battle at the WonderWall is worthy of an “end of a Bond film” scene any day. In fact I can see this universe translating very well to a TV show or film, although you would have to dial the contrast way way up on the camera because the artwork in this graphic novel is BRIGHT and intentionally so, even in the night scenes. The clashing colours and the use of unusual, lurid masks for everyone over the age of 18, really adds to the disorienting feel of the city and gives it a buzz that a darker colour palette would miss. There are also some really nice touches, “easter eggs” that you might miss, like current bandnames on vintage posters, all of grandpa’s old tech with Apple logos on and big news for Madonna if that gravestone in the celebrity Cemetery, where the PI goes for a meeting, is anything to go by.

All in all, this is a very entertaining story, although be warned, it is highly violent, somewhat sexual and with extremely strong language as befits the character of PI. But these, to me, are all very good qualities and it wouldn’t have the same punch without it. The only thing lacking now is a second book. More please!

Image - Amazon