The first three issues of Velvet, the new espionage series by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, were suspenseful, well-crafted and surprising. The new issue isn’t quite up to the standards of the first three, although it still has its moments. Main character Velvet Templeton is a strong protagonist, in all senses of the word, but there aren’t yet other great characters to support this series. When we last left Velvet Templeton, on the run for a murder she didn’t commit, she had gone to Belgrade to meet a general’s wife because she had spent a night with agent X-14 (who she is accused of murdering). However, Velvet’s mission went very badly, with both the general and his wife getting killed. While Velvet did get some valuable information, she’s also alerted her secret agent pursuers in ARC-7 to her trail. In issue #4, she is off to Monaco to meet a former KGB agent who might have useful Intel but others are on his trail as well.
This issue of Velvet is overall a pretty good issue compared to most comics out in the market, but it suffers in comparison to the previous issues in the series, especially in regards to pacing. The start of the series was outstanding, taut and action-packed while also being expertly plotted to allow for backstory and character development. By comparison, issue #4 is less thrilling. There is an intense battle sequence that is effective in both artistic and story senses, but not too much else happens otherwise.As I mentioned earlier, I also feel like Velvet needs some other interesting characters. Velvet’s ally Burke seemed like he was going to be that, but he didn’t really get that much to do and splits up from Velvet in this issue. Although there is a scene to start this issue set at ARC-7, none of these agents have been especially developed. As great of a character as Velvet is, I think she will eventually need some fascinating compatriots or foes for the series to keep up its quality.
The art of Steve Epting, however, continues to be incredible. The costume he draws for Velvet at the masquerade Carnival of Fools is beautiful and mysterious. He makes the up-close-and-personal fight sequence exciting and unsettling. An appealing part of any international spy tale is that it often takes place in exotic locations and Epting has excelled in those in Velvet. His Monaco looks inviting while potentially dangerous.
There is a surprise twist at the end of this issue that would seem to set up some further revelations of Velvet’s backstory for issue #5. While I thought the twist felt a little too “soap opera,” I am still curious to see where Brubaker and Epting go in that direction. I also hope that they ratchet up the pace and give Velvet some great characters to complement Velvet.
Great artwork, including fabulous panels of the carnival and Monaco