Velvet #1 Advanced Review
Pros:Everything you could want from an Issue 1
Cons:Gets a little bit too wordy in a couple of places
Ed Brubaker makes a welcome return to the spy-thriller genre with his regular collaborators Steve Epting and Bettie Breitweiser on a series many have been looking forward to, and with good reason, as it certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Ed Brubaker makes a welcome return to the spy-thriller genre with his regular collaborators Steve Epting and Bettie Breitweiser on a series many have been looking forward to, and with good reason, as it certainly doesn’t disappoint. In a clever move, rather than focusing on the titular character from the get-go, the first three pages are told from the perspective of a familiar espionage archetype, complete with tuxedo, silenced pistol, and fancy car. Showing us the world from the viewpoint of someone who is basically James Bond lends this book an air of familiarity, which is great for someone picking it up in a shop and flicking through the first pages, but it also provides something for Velvet to contrast against when the viewpoint switches to her a few pages later.
Velvet is a twist on the typical spy-thriller, she’s introduced as a typical Gal Friday, but we soon learn there’s more to her than meets the eye. We’re introduced to a modest supporting cast and given enough information about each one to understand how they fit into the story. Everyone feel’s necessary even though they’re used quite sparingly. This is Velvet’s story and she spends a lot of the first issue in her own company.
As this is a story about secrets and lies we aren’t told much off the bat, the important text we do get is mainly contained within narration boxes, this is where we learn more about Velvet’s characters and get a few hints at her history. The difficulty with any first issue is introducing readers to a new world without overdoing the text, and admittedly there are a couple of moments where the story slows down due to the word count, but for the most part Brubaker achieves the right balance and keeps things succinct.
Steve Epting’s expert storytelling and eye for detail do the rest of the heavy lifting, and his art has never looked better. He hasn’t altered his style in any major way for this story because there’s really no need to, Epting’s art is perfectly suited to this type of story. The character models and clothing fit the period perfectly without looking dated. Page layouts are kept relatively simple, but backgrounds are lost and bleeds are used to make some panels pop off the pages, and borders are abandoned to lend a feeling of space to a dense story that has little room for splash pages. Bettie Breitweiser does a great job on colours as usual. Many panels are draped in shadow, but she uses light to great effect and the colour palette for each scene is kept quite simple, so that every location feels different.
It all comes together in the last few pages as we’re given the first real glimpse of action. Epting makes you feel a blow like few artists can, and knows how to make character poses feel spectacular, dynamic, but still realistic. The first punch isn’t even shown to us, we’re just given a black panel then the aftermath. I’m not sure whose decision this was but it is a fantastic way of conveying the surprise the victim must have felt in that moment. He never saw it coming, and neither did we. By the end of the issue we understand the world, the characters motivations, and the crux of the opening story arc, but there’s still plenty to wonder about. As usual with Brubaker’s Image work there’s some extra content to incentivise people to pick up the singles in physical form. As well as the Spy Fiction essay by Jess Nevins it also looks like we’ll be getting a letters column, which will be awesome if it’s anywhere near as good as Saga’s.
This really is a fantastic first issue all round, everyone involved has bought their A-game, now the only problem is waiting for issue 2.