Sunday, March 24, 2013

Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews for 03/20/13

Welcome back to your Weekly Crisis Comic Book Reviews!  We're focusing in on Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's The Private Eye #1, but there's also time giving to Adventure Time #14 and Five Ghosts: The Haunting of Fabian Gray #1.  Join me behind the cut to check it all out!

THE PRIVATE EYE #1
Written by Brian K. Vaughan
Art by Marcos Martin
Colours by Muntsa Vicente

So it's entirely likely that you've already heard about Brian K. Vaughan and Marcos Martin's brand new online comic, The Private Eye.  Considering that the near 30 page comic is has been available for download all week from The Panel Syndicate for whatever price you're willing to pay, you may have also very well read it already.  If you fall within that group, then you already know the type of book these two talented creators have put together.  If, for whatever reason, you haven't, let me tell you that you are missing out.

Vaughan and Martin have come together to tell one mighty interesting tale.  Set in Los Angeles in the year 2076, the United States of America's tricentennial, The Private Eye is world that is at once very different and remarkable similar to our own.  It is a world where everyone has a secret identity.  Not because they're superheroes, but because the dirt digging that goes on in our world for politicians and celebrities eventually spread to everyone.  Everyone's deepest, darkest secrets suddenly became public knowledge, and the only way to maintain any sort of anonymity was for everyone to adopt new personas.

It's a conceit that sounds overly complex when you try to explain it, but Vaughan and Martin manage to build a world in the pages of The Private Eye where it makes complete sense.  The book itself opens with our seeming protagonist, the mysteriously named Patrick Immelmann snapping some pictures of someone outside of their Nym - their costume and identity protector.  Patrick is a member of the paparazzi, which puts him squarely in the outlaw category, as this world doesn't take kindly to that type of intrusion anymore (interestingly, it appears that the press now serve the function of policing society, something I imagine we'll see more of in future issues).

So we quickly move into a big ol' action sequence before even starting to answer any questions that may have come by in those opening moments.  The chase scene Martin gives us works incredibly well in the widescreen format that The Private Eye is told in, and offers plenty of stunning sights to grab your interest.  Vaughan and Martin have a laudable habit of using scenes for multiple purposes, and this opener is a great example of that, showing off Martin's brilliant art while also starting to give some answers to what's up with the world our characters live in.  They just aren't necessarily the ones you were asking about.

But once your right and hooked, Vaughan and Martin slow things down to elaborate a bit on the life that Patrick leads, showing a meeting in public between him and a client and another in the privacy of his own office.  It becomes clear that his paparazzi position is not unlike that of a private investigator.  We're also introduced to what looks to be the driving conflict of the series, as a strange woman by the name of Taj McGill comes in asking Patrick to dig up everything he can on herself.  It's a request as odd as it sounds, and it really sets things in motion, as the closing pages reveal.

There's a lot going on in these opening 29 pages, and a lot of it is really, really good.  Vaughan hits us at most every turn with the great dialogue and better characterization that he's become known for.  There's a brilliant moment where Patrick goes to visit his grandfather, who as an old timer in this world was probably a young 20-something in our present.  There interaction is quite amusing, shows a different side of Patrick's character, and goes a long way to explain what is up with this crazy world everyone is living in.  And I gotta say, it's a pretty intriguing explanation.

And Martin's art is, unsurprisingly, spectacular.  While he's been knocking out solid covers left and right, it's been a while since he's been on a comic book's interiors - since January of 2012 in Daredevil #6 if memory serves - but his work hasn't suffered a mite because of it.  If anything, it might have gotten better in the time in between.  That landscape format works incredibly well, and Martin delivers page after page of gorgeous comics.  This world of secret identities requires plenty of colourful characters, and Martin creates a panoply of peculiar persons that feels just right.  Bringing in Muntsa Vicente - the same colourist Martin worked on  Daredevil and Amazing Spider-Man - was a brilliant choice, as the two's familiarity makes for a book that really pops and shines.

Verdict - Must Read. The Private Eye, as the title suggests, is a classic PI story, but at the same time, almost all of the elements feel somewhat out of wack.  Nothing quite fits where it should, yet it all feels just right.  Vaughan, Martin, and Vicente have come together for an opening chapter that is equal parts mystery, adventure, and societal study, and it looks like their 10-part story is going to be a real humdinger.  And again, at pay whatever price you want, there's no reason not to give this one a look.

Quick Shots

ADVENTURE TIME #14
Written by Ryan North
Art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb
Backup Story by Chris Schweizer

Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Braden Lamb finish up the robots and viruses storyline that they've been telling for the past few issues, and like most every iteration of Adventure Time, it's all sorts of fun.  Ewlbo / Kewlboy looks to have our heroes on the ropes, but our intrepid gang manages to find a way to save the day and restore BMO to his usual self.

The story's resolution is perhaps a little obvious (as it so often is when it comes down to good guys versus bad guys), but North and company find lots of ways to make it interesting and, above all, funny.  As per the norm, Adventure Time is one hilarious comic book that packs in as many jokes as possible, oftentimes in the least likely of places.  This comic continues to be a great read for readers both young and old, and I cannot recommend it enough.

Chris Schweizer's backup story, The Princess of Rad Hats, is also completed in this issue, and it is possibly even funnier.  Scheweizer only has so many pages for his backup, but he packs it with a ridiculous number of panels.  We're talking double digits pretty much every single time.  That being said, it never feels overfull, which is obviously a good thing.  This story is another good laugh and has some mighty cute moments as well.

Verdict - Buy It. Adventure Time continues to be the fun and enjoyable comic that we've come to expect.  Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, and Barden Lamb deliver a delightful conclusion to their ongoing storyarc, and Chris Schweizer does the same for his excellent backup story.  This book is steady as she goes, and I'm happy to see it.

FIVE GHOSTS: THE HAUNTING OF FABIAN GRAY #1
Written by Frank J. Barbiere
Art by Chris Mooneyham

Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham have something special on their hands.  Five Ghosts stars Fabian Gray, a classic pulp adventurer who has an unorthodox leg up on his competition: he is haunted by the ghosts of five literary characters.  What this means thus far in the narrative is that he can access the abilities of characters such as Robin Hood, Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, and more while in the midst of his "treasure hunting" (as he likes to call it).  It's a pretty handy thing to have, but it's called a haunting for a reason, as Fabian is having more and more trouble controlling these powers, with them acting up at inopportune moments.  It's a neat idea that makes for some great action and excellent tension throughout this opening issue.

We also learn that Fabian and his partner are working to resuscitate Fabian's sister, who appears to be in a long-term coma.  There also appears to be a handful of malevolent characters who are out to get Fabian for reasons that are yet to be explained.  We don't know much beyond that, but we don't need to.  The creators give us all the conflict we need and then proceed to tell a really fun adventure story with it all.  Like any good pulp, there's already lots of travel, with scenes in Spain, England, and Africa.

The writing is quite terse, giving the reader what is needed and no more.  That works fine at this early juncture, but hopefully there will be a bit more in terms of plot and character development in the issues to come.  On the art side of things, I was really impressed with Mooneyham, who delivers some spectacular pages, especially when it comes to the book's many action sequences.  There's lots of movement to this book and it's a pleasure to see it all.

Verdict - Buy It. Five Ghosts is a book in the vein of Indiana Jones or Doc Savage.  There isn't a lot of comics like this coming out right now, which is more than enough reason to give it a gander.  The addition of the literary ghosts is yet another aspect that separates this book from the pack.  Definitely worth checking out.

What books were you reading this week?  Were you in on The Private Eye action or were your pupils glued to some of the other books that dropped?  Hit the comments to let us know!


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