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In Velvet #9, the latest issue in the espionage thriller from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting, Velvet Templeton goes in search for the truth by freeing a convict. Is his story the real truth or not? The issue is another good installment of the series, revealing some back story, but it’s done through another character (other than Velvet), so there is the question of how much of the backstory is accurate and how much is deception.
In Velvet #9, Velvet arranges a breakout for ARC-7 prisoner Damian Lake. He is a former agent whom Velvet feels may have important information on the agency. The fact that he’s a prisoner isn’t ideal, but since she is being framed by someone, Velvet doesn’t have a lot of options. Lake isn’t just any former agent – he was at one time the head of the ARC-7 Intel Division. That is until something terrible happened and all of his agents ended up dead.
In this issue, we get two different versions of how those agents ended up dead. In the version Lake tells to Velvet, he was investigating a company called Titanic Holdings that was buying up land after government overthrows. At some point, Lake realizes he was looking into something he shouldn’t be, but it was too late. His entire team had been murdered and he was taken into custody. In the version that one investigating ARC-7 agent tells another, it’s Lake who killed his agents because he had a larger game to play.
When Lake double-crosses Velvet on a European train, fleeing after summoning the police to her, it’s tempting to think that the ARC-7 version of things might be the true one. However, I think that this might one of those situations where the truth is some combination of both stories (or perhaps a third, entirely different one). Regardless, Lake is a compelling character and it seems that he will have a major impact on the series and perhaps is a key piece of the puzzle as to why Velvet has been framed for murder.
The art in Velvet #9 is really lovely. The way Epting nails Velvet’s suspicious and sarcastic looks is spot on. His renditions of Lake are also precise in the way he looks creepy but also calculating. I’ve previously mentioned colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser’s work on this series, but it’s worth bringing up again. Each scene in Velvet #9 has a different hue, and it really makes the book feel sweeping. The coloring for each scene is beautiful as well.
The only negatives I can raise about the issue are that I feel that ARC-7 agents blend together a little. The series has previously given us a little background on each, but with months between issues, some further development of the two might be useful. Perhaps even narrative captions that distinguish who is who could work. At this point, though, those two are much less interesting than the people (Velvet, Lake) who they are pursuing. It might be good if readers cared as much for the chasers as the chased.
Overall, though, Velvet #9 is a solid issue that gives some further clues about the mysteries behind the series, but in a skillful way that also calls those clues into question.