Pick of the Week: Our Favorite Secret Agent is Off the Ropes in “Velvet” #8 [Review]

By | November 6th, 2014
Posted in Reviews | % Comments

After Velvet issue #7, where readers spent time in Velvet’s past sans Velvet, I’m glad to see Miss Templeton return to work.

Written by Ed Brubaker
Illustrated by Steve Epting & Elizabeth Breitweiser

Velvet is tired of being on the run from the very men who seek to frame her, for god knows what. Velvet has decided to infiltrate the heart of her organization and capture her boss. There may or may not include a bomb strapped to someone’s heart, metaphorically or literally.

In issue #8, Brubaker continues to write Velvet with as much wit and expertise as she’s started with, but this issue is starting to show Velvet’s age (in the best possible way). In the noir genre, the jaded, minimal detective voice is common. I love hearing them tell me the in’s and out’s of procedures, as it creates a character who is the master of their own world, who I trust to save the day, and to explain things further to me. I, for one, also recognize that this is traditionally a male-dominated voice and role. One of the strengths of this series, and illustrated in this issue in particular, is that it tells us a story of a female agent who is not only jaded due to work, but also because she is consistently underestimated by her coworkers, and is consistently more resourceful than they can imagine. In issue #8, more than ever, we get that jaded voice with a bit of whiskey under her tongue. I trust Velvet to get the job done right. In issue #8, she has to capture her boss to get his attention and, of course, is able to do it without anyone stopping her (though some tried and ended in a South London hospital).

Issue #8 opens with Velvet, once more, trying out her glide-function capability on her suit. This time (because she’s practiced for like a day), she masterfully glides into her workplace’s open window. Brubaker’s attention to noting this suit’s malfunctions from early is not only fun, but clever. We readers can sympathize with Velvet getting “back into” her work environment while also recognizing how little time that takes her, as Velvet doesn’t let many things stand in her way, especially when it comes to what kind of attire she wears while saving the day.

The pacing in this issue is quicker than past issues, but its quick movements are balanced out with Velvet’s thoughtful internal narration. Although the story is about Velvet infiltrating her organization to have a word or two with the Director (through any means necessary), the focus on the action to get there is minimal. We are running through the panels because Velvet is unstoppable. As she soars through open windows, and punches out gun-men too slow to face her, we are left focusing instead on her reflections. Upon entering her place of work, we hear how unimpressed she is with levels of security there, and feel too as if Velvet is the one resource the company should never lose. This continued reflection on actions happening – without actually going into too much detail as to what happened and how – continues throughout this issue. We are led by Velvet post-plan and post-beatdowns, as Velvet doesn’t have to show us her efforts. “You forget,” Velvet tells her Director who she may or may not have captured in her trunk at the start of this issue, “I used to be good at this, Director.” In saying this, Brubaker is also cluing us readers to know that we don’t always need an explanation or battle to see proof of how Velvet has handled herself. We should trust her capabilities.

Epting and Breitweiser continue their high-contrast, fleshy style, but this time the tone is starker. Although the panels still have the same matte-like, creamy faced finish, along with secret agents standing in full shadows with minimal colors, there is a level of sadness that permeates the panels this time around through a particular blue-hue that outlines Velvet character. Wherever she is, it seems to almost outline her like a halo. Most memorably, there is a scene where Velvet is driving her captured boss away and her face is almost entirely covered in indigo shadows as she speaks, “Bombs will make even an angry old man cooperative.” In a one-shot panel we are able to feel the depths of what we imagine utter betrayal must look like, and how that must follow her. While the streets and parking garages are still a ruddy brown, there is haunting and unmistakable blue shadow outlining Velvet whenever she walks around alone in panels.

At the end of the issue, we see the return of a certain agent wrapped in a straitjacket. He, too, is older, and we are left wondering if someone as experienced as Velvet could become a formidable foe, or another ally we’ve yet to meet, in her mission to revenge Jefferson’s death. One thing is for certain: now that Velvet has infiltrated her organization so easily, her credibility of an agent is even more questionable. The main question I have for Velvet is: If you burn every bridge down, where the hell do you go after you get out of dodge? If you’ve been everywhere, is anywhere still an option?

Final Verdict: 7.5 – a breathless issue that reads like case-notes on a top-secret OSS mission

Cassandra Clarke

Cassandra Clarke is currently an MFA student at Emerson College, studying Fiction. You can find her in the dusty corner of used book stores, running at daybreak, or breaking boards at her dojang.