“Before the Living End, part 3”
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Steve Epting
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Solicitation: 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 and Steve Epting established themselves as an amazing team of creators when they relaunched Captain America a number of years ago to great critical and commercial success. Their opening story arc is actually the primary source material for this year’s upcoming Captain America: Winter Soldier movie which looks pretty darned impressive so far. After ending their run on that title about a year back the two decided to work on an independent project together, and the result is Velvet. You could adequately describe this as a what if story where Moneypenny has to find out who murdered James Bond, but that really would not be doing it justice.
Brubaker has been writing riveting crime stories for years, and although this is a move squarely into spy territory you can tell that the time has been well spent. The two genres share more crossover than you might initially think, but it makes sense once you realize they are both centered around people doing things that they do not want other people to be able to link to them. In this case Velvet (our Moneypenny stand-in) is investigating the murder of Jefferson Keller (our Bond), which she also stands accused of. It is a fairly typical and straightforward espionage plot, but it is handled with skill by both Epting and Brubaker. The third issue here focuses largely on Velvet finding the last person who saw Keller before he mysteriously vanished for an hour not too long before his murder. This involves breaking into a prison and crashing an upper-crust party in short order.
Not everything clicks perfectly, though, and the ending of this chapter does require our hero to have a rather nasty attack of the stupids which results in some bad things happening. It is hard to really go into the why of this without spoiling some important parts of the story, but it boils down to Velvet allowing someone to go unguarded in an area where they really should not be, and the results are predictable (especially if you have any familiarity with standard tropes from the television series 24). It is a small thing, but it is a bit glaring when compared to the quality of the rest of the book.
The art in Velvet continues to be a cut above the standard for most comics, with Steve Epting crafting the perfect balance of moodiness and clear storytelling. His characters look distinct, the action is easy to follow and it is all complimented well by some distinctive coloring work by Elizabeth Breitweiser. This could easily have fallen into being too murky, but it thankfully avoids that trouble.
Velvet is a well put together comic that anyone of the spy genre should enjoy. The main character is engaging and likeable, while the story leaves you guessing in all the right spots. It may have its share of hiccups, but nothing that takes away from the overall enjoyment. This one is worth trying out.