Spycraft isn’t as glamorous as some would have you think. For Velvet Templeton, things are getting serious, but the price to pay may be too high… Your Major Spoilers review of Velvet #5 awaits!
Previously in Velvet: At the height of the Cold War, Velvet Templeton was the secretary to the director of Arc-7, the spy agency so secret that even the other spy agencies don’t know about it. Being the woman behind the man has allowed Velvet a level of knowledge that even James Bond would envy, and this has allowed her to transition into field work. The murder of an agent code-named X-14 has changed it all, and now Velvet is on the run, but what secrets are still untold?
A MAIN CHARACTER WITH HIDDEN DEPTHS
This issue opens in 1956, with a young Velvet and fellow agent Richard “Not James Bond” Donavan enjoying their honeymoon on the beach, trying not to constantly look over their shoulders and profile the people around them. The arrival of their drinks also signals the arrival of a coded message that shows her that the honeymoon is over, and for perhaps the first time in the history of clichés, that is the literal truth. Things get complicated quickly, jumping back and forth in time from Velvet’s earliest days training to be an agent of Arc-7 as a teenage girl. As a narrator, Velvet provides a sardonic and humorous voice, but less so than previous issues, as this issue tells two terrible stories from her past: Her mentor’s fall from grace, and the terrible ending of her Bahamas honeymoon in 1956. Ed Brubaker is excellent at crafting spy stories, but as with his run on Captain America, I find his writing much more enlightening in larger chunks, as individual issues can fall into a weird netherrealm where you feel like you’re only seeing two sides of a Rubik’s cube. Yes, I’m certain it’s intentional, but in this issue it becomes maddening, especially as the changes in timeframe clearly hit at stories that we, the readers don’t know yet.
EPTING IS INCREDIBLY UNDERRATED
The first thing that sticks out in my mind when you talk about the ‘Velvet’ comic book is the close-up of our protagonist from issue #1, a piece of art that made me want to know what this book was about as soon as I saw it. Throughout this issue, Epting is on his game, showing us Velvet at different ages, but clearly showing the same features at 17 that she does in her forties. The character looks a little bit like Dame Diana Rigg as Emma Peel (which I appreciate on multiple levels) but has her own facial features and charm, and the little touches (such as a nod to ‘From Here To Eternity’ and the BRUTAL fight sequence in the last third of the book) make this book really gorgeous to look at. The storytelling helps to smooth out some of the time-traveling confusion and intentional inveiglement of the story, but the most difficult part of things is knowing about the longer-than-normal wait for the next issue, as Velvet is on the ‘Saga’ model, where an arc is printed in individual form, then a break for the collected trade before renewing the monthly book’s publication.
THE BOTTOM LINE: COMPELLING STUFF
While this isn’t my favorite issue of Velvet so far, it’s still some pretty amazing storytelling overall, and I love the fact that the main character is a female secret agent, who is over 40, in a world best emblemized by the vague misogyny of James Bond. Epting is doing amazing work on the visuals, and Brubaker’s story has multiple facets, each of which seems to change everything you know while maintaining a feeling of cohesion throughout the decades and around the world. Velvet #5 is beautiful, as always, and has some very strong emotional content, all the while serving as an excellent spy tale, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall. If you’re willing to stretch beyond Big Two superhero books, the upcoming TPB should be an excellent place to step into the world of Velvet…