Velvet #3: Communist Hardlines


Ed Brubaker continues his dark, noir-drenched journey with Velvet #3. The intrepid former-spy, now forced back into her life to try to solve a murder and clear her name, has been reduced to breaking into a Communist prison. How did Brubaker get us from the streets of London to the underbelly of Belgrade? That’s an interesting story, one where we learn how good Velvet is at her job, and how her humanity can get her into trouble.

Burke has chosen a rather odd way to get Velvet out of London. Most of those who deal in helping others vanish would attempt something low key. Not Burke. He decides to steal a yacht from a drug lord. Not a popular decision, and one that carries two bodies with it. Slipping into Belgrade aboard their new boat, Velvet steps back into the shoes of Agent Jefferson Keller, the man killed by a mole in her company. There is one day in his last mission unaccounted for, and Velvet figures the missing day is the key to the mystery.

Enter Marina Stepanov, the trophy wife of a Yugoslavian General, one who was seduced by Keller. Velvet is looking for some one on one time with Marina. Slipping into a party for the upper crust of Belgrade, Velvet finds that Marina has been thrown into prison for her affair. To find which one, Velvet seduces a high-ranking member of the Yugoslavian government. This was a great bit from Brubaker. While violence and fighting might have been a more feminist way to go, Brubaker has painted Velvet to be the best. She uses sex to get what she wants, which gives the reader a peek into her psyche when it comes to missions.

All along, Brubaker builds up who Velvet is and how good she was. In the final pages, her humanity allows a simple mistake, one that could throw the entire mission into disarray. Brubaker’s genius for producing layered characters, and then unfolding them slowly, is in perfect swing with Velvet. As clichéd as spy stories can be, everything he crackles with new life.

Steve Epting also continues to impress with Velvet #3. Playing shadow is not easy, especially for the visuals in a comic book. Color helps action pop and gives definition to each panel. Epting manages all of that within the confines of mostly darkness. His lines are strong, the action fast paced, and even the characters faces draw individuality while cloaked in the shadows of the spy world. Epting is a superior artist, and each page of Velvet shows it off. Full credit must also be given to colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, who shades the story perfectly, never allowing the darker colors to get flat or obscure the action.

Velvet makes a strong case for Ed Brubaker to be the best writer in comics today. He and Epting are an unstoppable team.

(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)