Spy movies have always been a bit of a conundrum for me. On the one hand, it’s hard to go wrong with explosions, sex and violence. But, and I know what I’m about to say will be considered sacrilegious by many, I have never been a Bond fan. I know everyone loves him but I’ve never seen him as anything more than a sociopath and not even a particularly entertaining one. He’s selfish, careless with other people’s lives and a complete boor. I will never understand how that man is considered a heartthrob. Which has always left me with a problem: what do you do when you love spy stories but hate everyone’s favorite one? Luckily for me, Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Elizabeth Breitweiser have given the world Velvet Templeton. This is the spy I have been desperately wanting to see! In the new series Velvet, Brubaker’s writing, Epting’s artwork, and Breitweiser’s colors combine to create a spy thriller that rivals anything on the silver screen. For this review, I will be covering issues one through ten since the second volume has finally been released.
In this series, a middle aged woman named Velvet Templeton works as the secretary of the director of ARC-7, an intelligence agency in London. ARC-7 is even higher than MI6 and as such is the elite of the elite. Velvet is known throughout the agency for her capable handling of the director’s business, as well as her intelligence and wit. Unbeknownst to her coworkers however, that’s not all she is. When her past comes back to haunt her and she is framed for the murder of an agent, Velvet must rely on skills she hasn’t needed for decades in order to escape the trap and find the puppeteer responsible for it all.
As might be expected, Velvet herself is the greatest strength of this series. After I read Fatale, I was convinced that no one could write femme fatales like Ed Brubaker. Now that can be written in stone. Looking at Velvet Templeton is like looking at Black Widow from the Avengers in thirty years. Instead of the young, nubile female spy character, Velvet has the experience and intelligence to know that her glory days are behind her. She’s still got serious sex appeal but it’s of the mature variety and there are a number of times that the rustiness of her skills get Velvet in some precarious situations. But it honestly just makes her that much more appealing as a character. It makes perfect sense that she would struggle to get back in the elite agent mindset after having been retired for almost twenty years. And I loved that she cared about people. After so many years out of the field, she’s gotten out of the detached mindset that makes Bond so damned unsympathetic as a character and there were moments that made her so damn human that I immediately fell in love with her. Velvet is not only a bad-ass spy, she’s everything I’ve ever wanted to see in a heroine and I cannot praise Brubaker enough for this fantastic character.
The story itself is tightly woven, revealing just enough of Velvet’s past to keep the reader constantly intrigued and at the edge of their seats. The way that Velvet’s past is intertwined with the mystery that has drawn her back into the field makes for an absolutely frantic page-turner. If I have a complaint, it’s that one of the antagonists is made a bit too obvious. I almost never can guess the bad guy in a mystery and I had a pretty good idea of this one by issue five. But this story is far from over and even by issue ten it’s clear that Velvet is getting drawn into a spider’s web so it will be interesting to see who’s waiting on the other end of the line.
I started this review talking about spy movies, largely because this felt more like a movie than a book. Epting and Breitweiser really make Velvet feel like an epic spy blockbuster from issue one through ten. The panels are filled with brutal fights and dark, brilliantly drawn panels that had me blazing through the pages before I knew what had happened. I would say that someone desperately needs to make this a movie or TV show but I would be worried that they’d screw up the magic that’s been built here.
I have learned to always have high expectations when it comes to a story written by Brubaker but he really outdoes himself with Velvet. There’s just something so fascinating about a femme fatale who has grown used to being normal and has taken a background role rather than center stage. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older but it was so much more satisfying to see a woman with her experience balancing who she had been and what she now was and absolutely mystifying the men around her in the process. Given the devastating cliffhanger that Brubaker leaves the reader with at the end of issue ten, this series is only going to get more compelling in future issues. Velvet is the spy thriller that no one should miss!