Friday, August 15, 2014

Velvet, Volume 1: Before the Living End

As you might could tell from my reviews over the years, I really like Ed Brubaker's comics. His multiple collaborations with Sean Phillips, Sleeper, Criminal, Incognito, and Fatale, are among my favorite comics ever. I am also a big fan of his superhero work, particularly his runs on Catwoman, Iron Fist, and Captain America. On that latter title, he did the impossible (to me at least), and brought back the character Bucky in an interesting and provocative way.

Looking at his credits, Brubaker gravitates toward certain artists as collaborators, and in this series he pairs up again with his main Captain America/Winter Soldier partner, Steve Epting. Epting is a comics veteran who has consistently been working since the 1990s. His artwork in this volume is crisp, clean, and very cinematic, a blend of photo realism and technicolor. It reminds me of a contemporary version of Paul Gulacy, whose classic runs on Master of Kung Fu and Sabre are seminal. Also, Elizabeth Breitweiser's coloring is exceptional. There are many pages and images that I felt could have been HD movie cels, they are that vibrant and deep.
The concept of Velvet is somewhat simple, a recasting of a James Bond-like spy thriller. Only instead of Bond being the protagonist, it is Ms. Moneypenny who is revealed to be the ultimate spy. Hiding in plain sight as a secretary of the director of a secret intelligence agency, Velvet Templeton knows where all the bodies are buried and when all the covert operations went down. What is more, she is highly trained as an agent and a combatant. I don't want to reveal too much about the plot, but I will say that it involves a mole in the agency, a plot to frame our heroine, and her having to go on the lam to survive and also get to the bottom of things. There are lots of twists, turns, and revelations to keep the suspense and thrills coming.
Reviews of this book I have read have been glowing. Andy Wolverton wrote that it "is filled with such wonderful scenes in a story arc that makes us think that we’ve just scratched the surface of something that could very well be not just good, but great." Joe Gordon remarked on the excellent characterization of Velvet, "Like Emma Peel she’s confident and powerful and while attractive she’s no mere object for the Male Gaze – you’re likely to find Velvet staring right back at you (and more than likely calculating how she can use your attentions and desires to her own ends. She is in charge here.)." The reviewer at The Telltale Mind wrote that "this book grabs you and refuses to let go" and added that "the second volume of this book cannot come fast enough."

Velvet, Volume 1: Before the Living End was published by Image Comics, who provide lots of information and links here.

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