REVIEW: The Private Eye by Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin

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Title page of episode 1 of “The Private Eye”. Used with permission.

With the plethora of social media outlets combined with the ease of content creation brought on by mobile devices, faster networks and better cameras, it grows more difficult to keep one’s information private. Some people that I know (my college-age son included) have started a backlash by deleting their Facebook and other accounts, citing their distraction, invasion of privacy and questionable content as reasons not to invest time. And once your data and information is out there in the great wide Intrawebs that Al Gore invented, it is near impossible to retract it, or delete it. Thanks to Google et. al., it gets easier and easier for anyone to find it. The viral nature of the Internet can make anyone a celebrity, and the lack of privacy can make many wish they were not.
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Words and Pictures: Saga

Before I even laid eyes on the first collected edition of Saga, by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples, I had it pegged as a certain nominee for and potential winner of the 2013 Best Graphic Story Hugo. The online comics commentariat had greeted the series rapturously. The internet was awash with folks calling it the best sf comic of 2012, and there were plenty calling it the best comic of any kind.

I already knew Brian K Vaughan has some remarkable technical gifts as a comics writer, and therefore pretty much believed the hype. I was prepared to be entirely blown away by Saga. When I did read it, though, I was not blown away. I liked it well enough, but was not struck dumb by its awesomeness.

Then I thought about it for a bit, I read it again, and – belatedly – I got it. Saga is very good, just not in quite the dramatic ways I was half-expecting. It’s not wildly innovative in technique or narrative; it’s not a revolutionary statement of new possibilities for comics.  Rather, its goodness – perhaps even greatness – is of the comparatively quiet, unshowy sort, making the difficult and sophisticated look simple and effortless (and thus, perhaps, invisible).  It’s all about the craft, this one.
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Alas, Poor Yorick…

Last week brought us Christian Cardona’s excellent fan film based on the opening chapter of the comic book Y: The Last Man.

Y: The Last Man was a 60 issue comic by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra beginning in 2002. It starts with every male mammal on Earth dying horribly, all at once, and without explanation. All except two.

Yorick Brown is an aspiring escape artist with a Capuchin monkey named Ampersand. He’s in the middle of proposing to his girlfriend Beth over the phone (she’s in Australia) when the event happens. Yorick’s mother is a congresswoman, who now has an even more urgent interest in the well-being of her son. So under the protection of the lethal Agent 355, Yorick sets out to find cloning expert Dr. Alison Mann, who may be the world’s only hope. But all Yorick wants to do is get back together with Beth.

The series had a rather wide scope as it explored the misadventures of Yorick and his impact on the world at large. Some social-political realities of a unisex world were explored, such as the fact that majority of the surviving US lawmakers are Democrats, or that the only country with a functioning military is Israel. There are also a ninja, Cosmonauts stranded in orbit, religious fanatics and (in one memorable storyline) a dominatrix. Conspiracies and hidden agendas abound. Every character has a back-story rife with secrets. There were plotlines about what happens to male-dominated religions when the females remain true to their faith, how the transgendered adapt to cope with the new world, and what art might look like in a female-only society. It was a truly compelling series, with a unique set of characters and a staggering spectrum of motivations. Not exactly post-apocalyptic, and not exactly dystopian (depending on your definition of both), it was in turns heartbreaking, hilarious, thought-provoking, and terrifying.

And, I say again, it has a monkey.
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