By: Brian K. Vaughan (story), Marcos Martin (art), Muntsa Vicente (colors)
The Story: Patrick is deprived of his ability to tell people to f— themselves at the most inopportune moment.
The Review: It makes sense that when you have a story that exists in a world of secrecy, where hardly anyone knows anyone else’s real name (never mind the amorphous thing we call identity), that there’d be some initial distance between you and the characters. Inevitably, however, the needs of a story demand that we learn more about them and what makes them tick, even if they’re unreliable narrators whose every other word can’t be trusted.
Even Vaughan can’t get away for too long without giving us a little more insight into Patrick and why he does what he does. Considering the dangers posed by the life of a paparazzi, it can’t just be about the money. In a surprising development, Patrick’s backstory takes a kind of Batman route: a child, his mother, her imprudent choice, a late night, a chance encounter, a murder, and a life subsequently haunted with unanswered questions:
“What happened…? You’ll never ever know, will you? If only there were more cameras in the world. If only they still had one at that crosswalk.”
It’s not by chance that Vaughan uses the word “still” in that hypo, suggesting that although Patrick may hold himself out as an unbothered professional, there’s an underlying dissatisfaction he has with the world he lives in. His work is thus not just a thrill-seeking act of rebellion, but a cry for justice. He brushes off Raveena’s question as to why he changes his mind about investigating a homicide, saying, “Yeah, well. That was before these shitheads torched my record collection.” Yet you suspect that getting shot at himself only brings back all those painful questions from his boyhood.
But who are “these shitheads”? We don’t care so much about the French lackeys, hilariously inept as they are; it’s De Guerre who’ll drive the main conflict of this series. Given his chosen name, we know he’s after more than just petty crime. Vaughan doesn’t let us catch on to the exact nature of De Guerre’s movement, but he smartly lets us in as to its scope. “I don’t want to kill anyone,” De Guerre says lightly. “I just want to change a few minds.” Well, a gigantic-ass missile which completely dwarfs the average man ought to do the trick, then.
There’s quite a bit of plot work going on in this issue, but Vaughan has never been the type to neglect character as he spins his stories. Despite the graphic visuals and language, despite the sarcastic, cynical, insulting interactions of the characters, there’s a real warmth among them, particularly from our trio of Patrick, his gramps, and Raveena, that comes through. You know what I think? I think Vaughan engages in so much of what might be considered offensiveness by softer-hearted people so as to prevent himself from indulging in too much schmaltz. Given how his protagonists almost always become movingly attached to each other, Vaughan must be a pretty sappy guy at heart.
The script is obviously smart, moving, and lively, and Martin’s art not only highlights and helps balance all of those qualities, but keeps the mechanics of the story itself running smoothly at a brisk pace. I love how he cues the chronological switches in the issue, from the past to the present through a gaping maw, then from the present to the nearer past through bulging, horrified eyes. His technique is superb, but it’s his sense of detail that really brings life to the issue, filling it with the countless props and extras that make reading a comic fun: the LA Metro Rapid bus, young Patrick’s Encyclopedia Brown book, a “Free Assange” poster,* and the endlessly imaginative costumery, each with its own personal design touches.
Conclusion: The more original a story, the easier it is for it to stands on its own standard, and for this Vaughan and Martin’s story, the standard is very high indeed.
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * I do think it’s amusing that some people are so convinced of Assange’s heroism that the rape accusations must be a government conspiracy. All I’m saying is that if a person can be both an excellent doctor and a chronic sex offender, there’s nothing stopping a whistleblower from also being a potential rapist. We all have shameful secrets, not just governments.
– Dear Lord. Blockbuster Video is still around in the future. Why? Why? You guys have TeeVee!