(Image Comics, 2014)
Review by Shawn Warner
Written by Ed Brubaker
Artwork by Steve Epting
Color Artwork by Elizabeth Breitweiser
Lettering by Chris Eliopoulos
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting have not wasted a single panel thus far in establishing the character Velvet as a force to be reckoned with in the world of espionage. Brubaker includes all of the essential spy-thriller tropes circa 1960’s yet enhances them with a distinct modern tonal quality that sets Velvet apart from the usual offerings of the genre. Most significantly is the strong, independent female lead, Velvet makes her own rules above and beyond playing in a male dominated arena she uses her femininity to her advantage but in a way not typically seen. For instance in this issue she uses the lure of seduction and sexual congress as a utilitarian device designed to extract necessary files and information pertinent to Jefferson Keller’s murder. The sexuality of her actions is diminished in light of the proficient and calculated way she employs them. This falls in line with Brubaker’s very genuine characterization, Velvet is very much the consummate operative; she doesn’t wear a skimpy, impractical costume or fall into bed with every high value target she is pursuing. The realism of the narrative is fundamental as a foundation for all the fantastic elements to work in a believable way. That’s why Brubaker excels at these types of stories; under the spectacular is a very solid platform of plausibility.
In this issue we see that Velvet, as staunchly professional as she is, is not without empathy and that ends up coming back to haunt her in the end. This is an excellent piece of storytelling on both parts of this creative team; Brubaker’s writing is tense and suspenseful while Epting’s art perfectly reflects and captures the tone of the scene. We see an extremely human and vulnerable side of Velvet through these events and it effectively gives us a chance to see the rather solitary agent interact with at least one another character. The majority of this series so far as read like Velvet on solo missions, there have been glimpses of other team members, just enough to let us know they are there but by no means is this an ensemble piece. That’s fine and it seems to be working so far but I would like to see Velvet’s world expand to include a few other key players. That is my only concern with this series heading into the fourth issue; I want to know more about the supporting cast. Brubaker does a fine job of introducing these really charismatic minor characters but they come off more like narrative devices to move the plot along, little more than props never to be seen again. However being the master of character development that he is, Brubaker could come back to any of these bit part players and flesh them out in a single issue to be major players down the road. I would even love to see a flashback story of Marina and Mark Falcon. There’s a deeper story lying under the final scene of this issue that is screaming to be told and this creative team is definitely the one to tell it.
Steve Epting captures the tone of this narrative so perfectly; his cinematic angles and expressive facial renderings give every issue of Velvet a big spy thriller quality that rivals the best of the Bond films. His dark and brooding tone fits the main character like a well-worn black leather glove. The heavy shadows and bold use of shading enhance the suspenseful feel of the story. Epting strikes a meticulous balance between the subtle and the dynamic, delivering page after page of nuanced perfection. Elizabeth Breitweiser’s use of muted and somber tones works exceedingly well here casting an almost candlelit aura over the entire work.
It is no secret that Brubaker is a genius of the spy thriller, if you need further proof after reading Velvet pick up Fatale or any of his Captain American run and I think you will be convinced. In Velvet, Brubaker gives us more of the brilliant style set forth in his previous work and then some. Velvet is everything we wanted in a Black Widow series but haven’t (until very recently) had. She is all business without the pointless over sexualization that is so detrimental to our super heroines and female characters in general in modern comic books. Brubaker’s dialogue is spot on as well; each character’s voice rings true, their personalities come through in their interactions as does the tone of the scene. The humor in this book is smart and witty; Brubaker opts for clever jabs over the obvious one-liners and simple sight gags that can sometimes be a trope of the spy thriller.
Velvet #3 is top notch Brubaker, he captures the nuances of the moment while the big picture plot progresses at a nice even pace and the main character is brought into clearer focus. Epting and Breitweiser combine to create a dark and brooding tone perfectly suited for this narrative. Epting’s characters are authentic and believable while his page compositions are dynamic and energetic completely in step with the pace of the narrative. Overall this is sequential storytelling at the highest level, I recommend Velvet to anyone who likes to be entertained at all, it’s that good. (4.8/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.