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There is a lot of story and a lot of twists in Velvet #10, from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting. The previous issue left off with the cliffhanger where Velvet Templeton, on the run from an espionage agency where she used to work for a crime she did not commit, is seemingly betrayed by Damian Lake, another former ARC-7 agent who was imprisoned and then freed by Velvet. She’s been cornered on a train by the French police after Lake escaped. Will she get captured? The answer is not, but it’s more of the how that is interesting here.
Much of Velvet #10 is action-oriented, specifically chase sequences. This is something this series has done before (after all, how can you have a wo/man on the run story without the running?), but it’s very well handled in this issue. Velvet escapes the train by literally climbing to the roof of the moving train and jumping into a river. However, Lake looks to have planned for that because once Velvet gets to the land, she’s met by more police. She fights her way through until eventually ARC-7 catches up to her. It seems she’s going to finally face the music, but that’s where the major twist of Velvet #10 comes in.
It turns out that Damian Lake hasn’t betrayed Velvet – he is using her. Specifically, he’s using her as bait to lure out Jean Bellanger, a high-up in ARC-7, one whom Lake had been framed by. Once Velvet is captured by him, Lake springs his own trap. Velvet wakes up (after having been knocked unconscious) in the trunk of a car to find that her captors have been assassinated with a note from Lake saying “Welcome to the real game. See you soon.” It turns out Lake isn’t on her side, but he also hasn’t turned into an enemy. He is a crafty and dangerous man who will help Velvet if it is in his own interests. However, without many allies out there, Velvet needs to side with people like this.
The switch with Lake is very nicely handled by Brubaker and Epting because it’s essentially a twist of a twist. Initially, we think that Lake is someone like Velvet (i.e. someone who’s been set up), but then the first twist is that he’s totally out for himself and has sacrificed Velvet to make his escape. Though the second twists is that’s only partially true. He’s willing to help Velvet to a degree, though not selflessly. This makes Lake a really compelling character, even in addition to his backstory, because he is unpredictable and capable. The turns by Brubaker and Epting were not transparent, either. They set up the narrative and the shifts well and didn’t drag them out to the point where the twist lost its impact.
Epting is very strong when it comes to action sequences and character conversations, and he gets to do both of those things frequently in Velvet #10. The portion of the issue where Velvet is fleeing and fighting police are especially well illustrated and paced. There is relatively little text during these moments, and yet the issue is exciting and brisk. It’s a great example of how comic art can handle storytelling. On the flip side, when Velvet is being interrogated by Bellanger, Epting nicely relays the power dynamics and the way that Velvet, though the captive, is able to flip the power to her advantage through the use of intel she gathered from Lake. As always, Elizabeth Breitweiser colors the issue beautifully, mostly in dark hues since it’s a nighttime chase.
There is also a coda to Velvet #10 in which Lake kills a few other bigwigs in ARC-7, including Velvet’s former boss – whom she thinks is a good man. Lake clearly has a plan in place, and it’s one that might aid Velvet at times, but it might also do it in ways that she does not like. Having two sides (Velvet, ARC-7) with different agendas was already making this series a great read, but adding a third side (Lake) seems like it will make the upcoming arc of Velvet even more complex and entertaining.