Velvet #3 – Friday Flash Review

Velvet 03

Shadowhawk and Bane of Kings take a look at the third issue of Brubaker and Epting’s new series for Image Comics.

“Intensely fun and engaging.” ~Shadowhawk, The Founding Fields

“Amazing. Velvet is just superb – Brubaker and Epting are at the top of their game. Unmissable.” ~Bane of Kings, The Founding Fields

Shadowhawk:

As much as I love comics from the Big 2, particularly DC, recent months have seen a big uptick in my consumption of comics from the independents, i.e publishers like Image, Top Cow, Valiant, IDW, Dark Horse and others. With all of its newly launched series, Image has definitely led the charge, providing readers like me with some really great reading choices. At the forefront of these new titles are Velvet and Black Science. Of the two, the former is a James Bond-esque story but with a female protagonist, quite different from the latter which is a pulp-ish time-traveling/dimension-traveling science fiction story. I love them both, and this week’s issue of Velvet really rammed home why this series is so damn good.

Quite simply, Ed Brubaker is a master of characterisation with the protagonist Velvet Templeton, a former field agent of ARC-7 and now the secretary to the chief of the agency. But in the wake of an agent’s murder, Velvet is forced to get back into the game, not quite by her own choice, and she’s been kicking ass for two issues now. The third issue does a lot to further her character and really make her more well-rounded. We’ve seem a lot of different sides to her previously and this time we get to see a more emotional, more sympathetic side, something that intelligence agents normally do their best to avoid, because of the complications they bring. And complications are exactly what Velvet gets in this issue!

From start to finish, Brubaker’s dialogue is right on point, as is the internal monologue from Velvet, which is often quite humorous and always entertaining as well. This is one of the main reasons why I find this series to be so good, so fascinating. Velvet is a character unlike any other in all the espionage fiction I’ve read, and while Brubaker does a lot to make her our to be unique in that respect, he also gives her some tried and true tools to get ahead. The primary thing however is that the execution is never crass. It is always thoughtful and incidental and respectful.

Writing-wise, there are two problems with this issue. The first is that Velvet’s supporting cast is rather bland. We’ve had some really interesting and promising characters show up but Brubaker hasn’t really done much with either of them. We see cameos here and there at most and that’s it, nothing more unfortunately. That’s really the biggest criticism I have of the series as whole. There’s only so far that velvet can go on her and she needs a recurring cast to help advance the plot when she’s not available, narratively.

The second problem is that the story is a bit too fast-paced and it needs to slow down a little so that reader isn’t so lost. There are some great twists here that keep things moving, but the problems with the pacing prevent this issue from being a stand-out issue in its own right.

On the art side of things, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Brietweiser turn out another great looking issue of the series. Their characters are pretty much realistic and without any kind of exaggeration. Their panels flow together extremely well and their visual storytelling is every bit the match for Ed Brubaker’s script. The dark scenes throughout really emphasise the Cold War-era intelligence missions feel that has been so popularised by James Bond. And so on and on. I really wanted to see more by the time I was done with the issue.

Overall, I’d say that this is a pretty damn solid issue of the series.

Rating: 9.5/10

Bane of Kings:

Story: Ed Brubaker | Art: Steve Epting | Colours: Elizabeth Brietweiser

You all know the story: a beautiful woman seduced by a secret agent into revealing secrets and helping him on his mission…but what happens to them once the agent is gone? Find out in issue three, as Velvet tracks Agent X-14’s most recent asset down very dark paths.

Ed Brubaker’s masterful spy comic continues very strongly in its third issue as Velvet Templeton returns to kick more ass. The main star of the series, Velvet is already well developed, rootable and an incredibly strong female character.  The book is very much a spy thriller that fans of books like the recently cancelled Winter Soldier series and the new Black Widow will enjoy and if by some miracle you’re reading this review without knowledge of the previous two issues I strongly recommend that you download them from Comixology ASAP or hope that there are still some issues left in your local store. Because this series is just that good. Alternatively, there is the option to tradewait, because I have the feeling that this series will end up even more suited to a graphic novel format – but the thing is, I just cannot wait for each issue. Because Ed Brubaker’s Velvet series is just so damn brilliant.

It’s hard to believe that this is only three issues in because the vast amount of depth that’s gone into creating this comic. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting are at the top of their game here and each issue is just incredible. So far, this is certainly the best series by Brubaker that I’ve read and I could not have any higher praise for the this awesome title that keeps getting making a must-read status each time it hits shelves even if it lacks a regular release date. The comic is heavily rooted in a the spy genre and as I’ve mentioned already this will appeal to not just fans of other Marvel comics, but also stuff like James Bond. It seems that I don’t read enough stuff in the spy genre and Velvet is certainly making me want to read more spy comics in particular, much like Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is making me want to read more pirate adventures. However, part of me is worried that Velvet is just so good that the rest of the genre won’t live up to my expectations.

Following Velvet’s escape from London, Velvet follows the footsteps of Agent Jefferson Keller, the man killed by the mole in her company. Here there is one day in Keller’s mission that is unaccounted for, and this leads her to Marina Stepanov, the trophy wife of a Yugoslavian General who had an affair with Keller. As a result of this affair, Marina is thrown in jail – so it’s Velvet’s job to find which prison she’s held in. The plot that unfolds is pretty awesome and another example of Brubaker’s gifted storytelling abilities, as he weaves a compelling read that will get you rooted behind Velvet and cheering for her as the comic goes on.

Steve Epting’s artwork is incredible, each page a masterpiece. I was drawn in and couldn’t put this comic down – with a very atmospheric feel from Epting and there was nothing that felt out of place here. It’s my first encounter with Epting’s art on this series and he hasn’t disappointed, and I’m certainly looking forward to seeing what artwork he can come up with in the future. Epting’s covers each week are awesome as well, and we haven’t had a bad one yet. Elizabeth Brietweiser delivers some very strong colours on the book as well, really enhancing the overall awesomeness of Epting’s design, with both artistic talents working together incredibly well.

So, Velvet #3 is a great read. It’s one of the best new series of 2013 and with only three issues there’s very minimal catching up required from the reader. If you enjoyed the recently released Black Widow first issue from Marvel or loved the cancelled Winter Soldier series – then this is for you. Fantastic stuff. This book gets another five star for me.

Rating: 5/5

More Velvet: #1, #2.

Shadowhawk is a regular contributor to TFF. A resident of Dubai, Shadowhawk reads, reads and reads. His opinions are always clear and concise. His articles always worth reading.

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