Velvet, vol. 1

Summary: From the bestselling creators of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” comes this smash-hit spy thriller with a unique new twist! When the world’s greatest secret agent is killed, all evidence points to Velvet Templeton, the personal secretary to the Director of the Agency. But Velvet’s got a dark secret buried in her past…because she’s also the most dangerous woman alive.

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Velvet, vol. 1, by Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting and Elizabeth Breitweiser 8.0

I probably wouldn’t have picked up ‘Velvet’ if not for Ed Brubaker.

The comic book author, who has written some of the best original works that I’ve read in recent years, is firmly on my radar. It’s with him in mind that I overcame my aversion to a female action book named “Velvet” – an aversion that exists not because it’s female-centric (Hardly, being a feminist!), but because it seems too obvious to me.

I mean, seriously? Velvet is far too feminine a name for a bad @$$ chick; it’s soft, delicate, “like a woman”. Granted, maybe Brubaker made a point of creating that contrast. Maybe. But my real issue is that you’d never find a dude called that or a woman named Iron Fist. It’s the gender-specific aspect of the name that bothered me.

But Brubaker’s involvement motivated me to read this first volume.

Collecting issues 1-5 of a 15-part mini-series, it introduces us to Velvet Templeton, the secretary to the Director of ARC-7, the world’s leading spy agency. When X-14, their greatest agent, is murdered, Velvet begins to pore over the files that pertain to the case and lifts clues – thanks to her photographic memory and past history in the field.

Because once, a decade and a half ago, Velvet was one of the best. The first female agent to be trained for ARC-7, she had been personally groomed by one of the most reputed women in the field. Though it’s now 1973 and she’s past her prime, Velvet has a few very helpful secrets kept in reserve – and some that may be her undoing.

The book starts off with a bang, immersing us in Velvet’s world. What makes it a terrific read is that you not only get a briefing on ARC-7’s operations, but also its past history and her thoughts about the people and clues involved. You get a really great sense of what’s going on; you’re quite well situated by the time that Velvet is framed and escapes.

The rest of the book finds Velvet on the run, trying to piece together the clues that will lead to a potential mole in the agency – the person responsible for X-14’s betrayal, and her own. That part is far less exciting than the set-up, truth be told, though Brubaker always manages to weave a heck of a story; he finds a way to keep you on edge throughout.

He lost me at the end, however. I didn’t really understand why Velvet and Richard, her former spouse, had a sudden falling out. One moment all was peachy-keen. The next, they’re fighting. I re-read that part a few times and couldn’t figure it out. I also didn’t understand who she was calling when she checked in on her husband, while with Richard.

Still, ‘Velvet’ remains a terrific read. The art is also very good, drawn and coloured in a slick style that is uncommon for Brubaker’s work (he often works with Sean Phillips). It’s reminiscent of many of the more action-oriented French comics from the 80s-90s, such as ‘XIII’. It’s actually contextually appropriate given the setting and is pleasantly familiar.

I look forward to the next volume.

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