Velvet, Vol. 1: Before the Living End by Ed Brubaker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Other reviewers have already pointed out that this story essentially asks what would happen if James Bond got killed, and it turned out that Miss Moneypenny was more of a bad-ass than he ever was? So in an effort to come up with a new way of describing this I’ll ask what if Sterling Archer got killed, and Cheryl/Carol was more of a bad-ass than he ever was?
In 1973 Velvet Templeton is the secretary to the director of super-secret spy agency ARC-7. After their best agent is ambushed and killed Velvet is implicated as the mole who set him up, but it turns out that she knows a lot more than just how to take shorthand. Velvet was actually a great field agent in the ‘50s before events forced her into accepting a desk job. To clear her name Velvet has to get back in the spy game to track down who actually betrayed their agent.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the lack of diversity in comics as well as the movies adapted from them, and it’s very refreshing to have the lead of this promising series be a forty-something female in an era where women were either the secretary to the good guys or the honey trap working for the bad guys. And Velvet is an intriguing character with all the skills of Marvel’s Black Widow with the looks of real life hard-boiled crime writer Christa Faust minus the tattoos.
Brubaker again delivers a version of yet another fantastic genre tale with a unique twist to it. Epting’s excellent art is realistic enough to be storyboards for a movie but still stylized to provide the atmosphere of a Bond movie from the Sean Connery era. Maybe its best trick is the way that the story blends the old school comic book style spy action with the darker John le Carre tone of exploring the toll that working in covert espionage takes on someone.
Overall it’s a terrific comic that I can’t wait to read more of.
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