Velvet

Velvet 15 (July 2016)

Velvet #15No more Velvet. At least not for now; this arc ends with the end of Velvet’s initial storyline. I really should have known if it was just intended for fifteen issues. I always want that Brubaker ongoing, he always goes twelve to twenty. Or in that range. Enough to make fans out of the book, but then not to fully deliver on its possibilities.

Except with Velvet. The comic has always been very upfront about what it’s doing–it’s a spy thriller, it’s got Epting art, it’s not too creative in terms of the narrative. It’s a “cool” book. Brubaker and Epting doing a mainstream, “cool” indie title. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt Velvet is prime for media development. It is 2016, after all.

And, Velvet, the character, has never been much more than cool. She’s a great protagonist, but Velvet isn’t about her being likable or even relatable. It’s about her being cool and doing cool things, usually involving guns, car chases, subterfuge, explosions and gliding. When Brubaker returns to her narration of the book for the last few pages, it had been so long since Velvet had that kind of internal self-examination, I forgot it was one of the book’s narrative devices. And it’s been fine without it. Less ambitious maybe, but not by much.

Brubaker, Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser deliver, because of course they do. Brubaker’s mastered comics pulp and always has the right artist for it.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 14 (April 2016)

Velvet #14Brubaker just did the Brubaker thing where his narrating protagonist finds something out but the reader can’t know about it so instead the protagonist just talks about how this piece of information is earth-shattering. It might not even be the first time Brubaker’s used this device in Velvet. It just sticks out because it involves the kidnapping of Richard Milhouse Nixon, who’s a vaguely likable dope here. Certainly far more likable than Ford, who also shows up for a second to get blackmailed.

The Nixon appearance, the Ford appearance, the guy at the end who is either the Sean Connery from The Rock stand-in or maybe he’s just supposed to be Sean Connery James Bond, it’s all a bunch of nonsense. I mean, it’s pretty nonsense to be sure. Even though Epting doesn’t have much to draw here, he draws it all very well. The kidnapping of the President is real boring. Brubaker sort of rushes through it. He hurries, let’s say he hurries. It doesn’t give Epting anything to do with it, except occasional (and awesome) Nixon reaction shots.

But the comic ends with the guy who’s after Velvet tracking down Velvet. Sure, she knows more than she did before, sure, James Bond might now be involved, but who cares. It’s a bridging issue. The red herrings are just there to distract from how little is going on.

Like I said, it’s Brubaker doing a Brubaker standard. I wasn’t surprised or even disappointed. Just a little tired. If only Epting had something great to visualize, the issue might’ve worked out a lot better.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 13 (February 2016)

Velvet #13Epting gets a little loose this issue, but it’s some great action art. The thing about Velvet is how well the creators understand what they’re doing. Brubaker occasionally pushes too far–The Rock Sean Connery thing–but Epting never does. His seventies action is perfect.

Brubaker does a talking heads book, mixed with some stylized action and dramatic–but uniquely underplayed–story beats. It’s a strange book–the situations aren’t spy movie, but spy novel. There’s no way, CG or no-CG, you can do some of Velvet’s stunts. So, instead, Brubaker and Epting have figured out how to perfect the spy comic. Same basic genre, only they get to take advantage of the comic book medium’s particularities to further the tale.

Velvet’s potential successes are limited–it’s pulp, there’s only so much anyone can do with just pulp–but Brubaker and Epting take it seriously. They’re pushing at the boundaries of the genre. Seeing them take it seriously is part of why Velvet is so much fun to read.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 12 (November 2015)

Velvet #12Steve Epting is an action artist. It’s what he does, it’s what makes him special. He’s able to do fantastic comic book action, where he makes the reasonable fantastical and the fantastical reasonable. It’s a perfect thing for Velvet, which is a glossy spy thriller set in the seventies after all. The comic’s setting isn’t just good for Velvet as a character, it’s good because it gives Epting so many possibilities.

So when this issue is literally nothing but a windup for a hard cliffhanger promising a big action sequence? Well, it’s not exactly the best use of time. I suppose Brubaker does get a few expository things done, but they aren’t pressing, and he does give Velvet some great narration, which is great and all, but come on….

Give us the Epting action. Brubaker doesn’t even put it on the menu. He sets the entire thing to simmer. The narrative this issue, its possibilities, it’s not going to boil over. He never even suggests it might. So when it does and he stops the comic? Bad form, man, bad form.

Velvet is an entertaining book. It’s not masterful and it’s got problems, but it’s entertaining and competent and visually glorious.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 11 (August 2015)

Velvet #11It’s my favorite issue of Velvet in a long time and I’m not entirely sure why. It might just be because Epting drawing an American secret agent with grey temples with a bouffant-ish hair cut reminds me of seventies Marvel black and white Gene Colan. It just feels right.

But the rest of the issue is good too. It’s got Brubaker doing a lot of quick summary sequences with Velvet catching the reader up to what she’s been doing since the previous issue. She’s been getting into trouble, but totally in control of it. It’s a new type of Velvet; she’s not just the protagonist, but she’s in charge of how the narrative affects her (and is aware of it).

Velvet usually reads like a light project for Brubaker, but this issue certainly suggests he’s at least got some ambition for how he tells the story. It’s a great comic.

CREDITS

The Man Who Stole the World, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Clayton Cowles; editors; Sebastian Girner and Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 10 (April 2015)

Velvet #10It’s a bridging issue. But, since it’s Brubaker, he feels the need to do it to bridge his arcs together. To give that trade paperback an extended cliffhanger, not just each issue in the trade.

It lacks texture, it lacks tone. Brubaker actually does have this significant new character (Sean Connery) running around Velvet, but he doesn’t make his presence felt, just talked about. It’s unfortunate, but it’s still, you know, generally okay. Brubaker’s narration is good, Epting’s art is good, it just doesn’t go anywhere.

And it’s not clear Velvet really does need to go anywhere. It’s a spy thriller; the gimmick of having a forty year-old female protagonist in a “James Bond was framed” story isn’t even giving it any mileage anymore. It’s an okay comic book, with its creators a little jaded and commercial but still having fun.

I enjoy reading Velvet, even if it’s shallow.

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 9 (February 2015)

Velvet #9It’s a decent, not great, issue of Velvet. Brubaker’s resolution to his rip-off of The Rock works out a whole lot better than I would have expected; he and Epting do a nice talking heads comic with the Sean Connery (sorry, Patrick Stewart more like) telling Velvet just enough of what she thinks she knows. And Brubaker writes the hell out of the exposition. He had me trying to anticipate the twists, which I don’t usually care about.

Epting doesn’t get much action to draw–there are some flashbacks, but they’re limited; the way he draws the conversations is fantastic. His art keeps the pace on those long sequences. Brubaker can be interesting, but without engaged art, talking heads don’t work.

The cliffhanger is a let down, of course, as is the way Brubaker foreshadows the cliffhanger in the cutaway scene just before it.

Still, it’s mostly good stuff.

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 8 (November 2014)

Velvet #8I guess Brubaker has seen The Rock. Maybe he’s hoping no one else remembers it….

It’s a bridging issue, which I suppose is to be expected–it is midway through an arc after all–but the places where one would expect Brubaker to excel, he fumbles. He wraps a flashback into the narrative and switches perspective to surprise the reader–the reader who hasn’t seen The Rock–but all those tricks don’t make up for him flubbing the one non-action scene in the book.

Velvet meets up with her former boss in a peculiar situation and every few panels it seems like Brubaker might do some character work or at least a good talking heads scene. But he never does. It’s just exposition about her status as a rogue agent. It’s really too bad.

Still, the Epting art on the action throughout is fantastic.

While derivative, Velvet works fine.

B 

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; Eric Stephenson; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 5 (May 2014)

Velvet #5Maybe 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.

B- 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 4 (March 2014)

297713 20140305160323 largeStrange thing about this issue… I think Brubaker’s started worrying about whether or not Velvet is likable. He makes her sympathetic right off with her recap of the aftermath of the previous issue’s soft cliffhanger. She recounts having sympathy herself for the abused Russian wife.

More than that detail, her narration is very explanatory. There’s exposition here and there, a lot of background hints, but Brubaker’s now letting the reader into her head. She’s in the middle of a huge, contrived conspiracy and she’s the good guy. Why shouldn’t the reader like her?

The big moments in this issue revolve around some kind of carnival in Monaco. Lots of good costumes from Epting, followed by a great action sequence. Even the way Velvet narrates her action sequence makes her more sympathetic.

It’s good enough, but with the overused first person narration, Brubaker’s not letting Velvet surprise the reader much anymore.

B 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

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