Each month I am more and more impressed with Velvet by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting. In the title’s first arc they’ve taken the protagonist on an almost globe-hopping mission of investigation into the death of one of Britain’s finest intelligence agents, and they’ve done so by creating a protagonist who is nuanced, balanced, and one of the finest portrayals of female characters in comics, especially espionage comics. Velvet Templeton ranks as one of my favourite characters in comics since last year, when the title debuted, and the high of that has continued ever since.
As Velvet moves into a new phase, especially with respect to Velvet’s solo investigation, we see the action and the pure intensity of the story get really ramped up. We now know that the main reason Velvet gave up being a field operative for ARC-7 was because she had been ordered to kill her husband on their honeymoon, on suspicions of him being a mole. Issues #6 and #7 deal with the fallout of this realization and show that Velvet really means business when it comes to finding out about the truth. Truly, the art and the story have never been as good as they’ve been in these two issues.
The first arc, or rather, the previous five issues focused on Velvet Templeton learning things that had been kept from her, such as the fact that her husband Richard, aka Mockingbird, had never been a mole after all. That he had been true to both her and to ARC-7 and that someone within the agency had played both of them in a most cruel manner. Ed Brubaker’s writing in these issues was fairly amazing, and the issue that dealt with this particular revelation, plus the flashback that showed us exactly what had happened from Velvet’s perspective, was one of my favourites.
Now, after traveling all over Europe looking for clues as to the death of another top agent, Violet returns to London, wiser and cannier than before. Now she has a purpose and a mission, an objective that needs to be achieved and she isn’t going to stop at anything to get to that. She knows that there are only a small handful of people at ARC-7 who could have manipulated her like this all those years ago and so she sets about getting the truth. That’s the main thrust of issue #6 and Ed Brubaker plays it all like a pro. Violet approaching her assets and friends, making up the plans to root out the corruption in ARC-7, it is all fantastic. Even without much of physicality in the action, this is superb storytelling and character-building.
And then, Brubaker flips the story around and focuses on the men within ARC-7 who have been tasked with bringing Velvet in. One of them is Agent X-23 aka Colt who has been following her trail in Europe. He runs into some rather unforeseen complications and has to beat back a hasty retreat. In issue #7, through his eyes, we relive the initial moments of the series as Velvet was revealed to be far more than just a secretary. Colt is the reader’s surrogate now and he plays the part perfectly. And the other is Agent Roberts, another man tasked to bring her in and operating on a different angle than Colt. His path too is quite a wild one, but by the end one thing becomes clear: that everyone has severely underestimated Velvet and that’s what I love so much about this title!
At every turn Ed Brubaker throws a wrench in the story and really switches things around. That has what’s kept me going thus far and what is going to keep me with this story for many more issues, the sheer fun and unpredictability and Velvet herself.
As before, Steve is the penciller with Elizabeth Breitweiser on colours and Chris Eliopoulos on the letters. The art in both these issues is way above par, even for what we have seen in the series thus far. Velvet herself is the best thing about this series and when things are turned around in issue #7 and we get to see her male supporting cast, that’s when things get even better, by far. Epting’s line-work, Breitweiser noir-perfect colours, even Eliopoulos’ letters, every panel is pure awesome.
Two of the best issues in comics I’ve read this year, significantly above the rest!