by Matt Reingold
Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s new Image title, Velvet, revolves around former secret agent Velvet Templeton. The series is reminiscent of Brubaker’s Marvel series Incognito, Daredevil, or Captain America, given the way that he makes use of suspense and plot twists while grounding the story in the real world.
Unlike some of Brubaker’s other works which feature women in positions of vulnerability (Criminal) or resorting to supernatural abilities in order to dominate men (Fatale), Velvet features a female character who succeeds in a world populated by men, both heroes and villains, without relying on superpowers. Instead, as the secretary to the head of the spy agency Allied Reconnaissance Commission-7, Templeton is well positioned to learn top-secret information and interact with powerful figures.
Templeton’s strength seems to be based on her ability to be highly perceptive of her surroundings and make use of the secrets she discovers. As the story unfolds and the reader is introduced to the thoughts of other characters, Templeton’s position as the secretary is revealed to be a mark of distinction and trust based on her exceptional service in the field.
Little time is wasted in the first issue on providing background and context, as the narrative arc of the first story of the series is introduced immediately. It centers on an agent who has been killed, and the evidence suggests that the perpetrator is a former agent gone rogue. Templeton doubts that the agent would have killed one of his former friends, and so she begins to investigate the case and travels to visit the agent at his apartment. Upon discovering that the suspect has himself been killed, a group of field agents enters the apartment and accuses Templeton of the murder, demanding that she surrender. Not surprisingly, Templeton flees from the scene using a super suit that will both protect her and expedite her departure.
This familiar story trope that Brubaker and Epting use was exciting to read, despite the somewhat predictable nature of the story. Since the reader was tipped off early in the work that Templeton has something special about her, the suspense element is removed. Eliminating this suspense works in Brubaker’s favor since what remains is an opportunity to explore characters’ motivations and inner thoughts, and at this, Brubaker does a very good job. While it is only the first issue, the pace that Brubaker sets and the layers and depth of the characters is successful as we learn much about Templeton and her colleagues, but it seems that we are only scratching the surface. Throughout, textual hints are dropped about moments in the past that will become clearer as the story progresses, and it left me eagerly anticipating reading the second issue.
Now that your appetite has been whetted for Velvet, check out some of Brubaker’s other dark and gritty noir comics: