Maybe half the issue is really good background stuff with Velvet’s training after World War II and her mentor. Brubaker’s hostile to the new reader–and even to the regular reader with the bad memory–he doesn’t establish the story in context, he just starts out with his alternating flashbacks.
The training and the mentor is the better stuff because of Velvet’s narration. Brubaker gets in about ten percent history, ten percent character building, eighty percent story. The other stuff, with Velvet’s marriage to a fellow spy, is convoluted and done way too subtly. The comic opens with a Dr. No era James Bond homage, there’s no room for subtlety.
The front-heaviness ends up hurting. It’s just a bridging issue, which Brubaker tries to disguise. There’s some good Epting art and the finish is fine–maybe if Brubaker hadn’t revealed the flashback was all due to a single conversation.
Before the Living End, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.