So I just gobbled up the six publicly available issues of Brian K. Vaughan’s “The Private Eye“. Vaughan can be a difficult man to savor. I read Y: The Last Man in about two weeks (and it only took that long because I was waiting for a couple of trades to arrive through the mails). All of Saga was devoured in a couple of sittings, and the only reason I haven’t read all of Ex Machina is I’m waiting for Kindle to put out more of the deluxe editions for $9.99 a piece (new one coming in May). Hell, even the first three volumes of Runaways are gems.
Vaughan speculates a world in which the Internet no longer exists. This is due to the “cloud burst” in which every piece of private data stored on the web became publicly available to everyone. Your deepest darkest secrets and more scary, your search history. To combat this people now wear masks in public, especially when they’re doing something that might be embarrassing. You can even switch genders or skin color, assuming any “nym” you desire.
The story follows a paparazzi, this world’s equivalent of the Private Investigator (so private eye has two meanings, eh? plus the guy’s symbol on the door is the number Pi, very deep no?) as he reluctantly tries to solve the murder of a client.
One of the joys of this comic (besides its DRM free, pay what you want, money goes directly to the creators model) is the comments pages at the end. They hearken back to the letters pages I remember reading in my old Star Trek comic books. Funnily enough, since I was buying lots and lots of back issues, these letters were never even remotely current, and often referred to issues I hadn’t found yet, but I enjoyed reading people’s perspectives on the series and more long form reflection.
The Private Eye features smaller compliments and messages though you can still get an idea for the people who are tuning in, including a not too surprising number who wish Brian K. Vaughan and company would have more social media outlets for their data to be mined and handed over.
I hadn’t really thought about it in a while, since I’ve been mostly reading trades, but the comics letter page is a great artifact of a mostly bygone era. Whenever we consume something we go immediately to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or whatever. Sometimes we blog, but our consumption of what other people think is largely based on our own personal preferences and perspectives. The comics letter page is slower, gives you perspectives you might otherwise not read, and helps you to get to know some of the other people who love the thing you love. I’m not saying that can’t happen in today’s society, though it happens a lot less as long as we continue to be able to wear our masks on-line.
I’m not sure that the Internet would crumble away if everyone’s private data became publicly available. Its too important for international trade and convenience. We value privacy, but we also over-share anyway. Still it’s an interesting notion to think about a post-Internet world, especially through a comic you can only get on-line.
My only complaint (and this is a small one) is that it doesn’t read perfectly on my 7″ screen. The lettering seems designed for iPads and the like, though most is readable and the rest can be zoomed. Since they give you the CBR and CBZ versions of the book as well, however, I have the original images that I can try to shrink down to a more optimized size so really this is no big worry.
Now just come out with issue #7 already!