Reading VELVET is like watching a Bond film, if Bond shook all of the tropes and put on a pair of wicked heels. It's a swiftly-paced spy thriller with all of the accoutrements of the classics -- double agents, danger, and Baccarat -- but it's different, in more ways than just the lady lead. The old-spy-back-in-the-game thing is really working here, and the narrative is smooth, fast, and sprinkled with bits of nostalgia so genuine that they feel like our own -- if we were super spies, that is.
Velvet Templeton is a powerhouse, and Steve Epting gives her plenty of bold, dynamic panels in which to show that off. It's a rare lady that can kick a man in the face while wearing a voluminous ball gown, and I love seeing this contrast to the sleek attire most action hero(ine)s have. She's glamorous and powerful, all at once.
The genre lends itself well to exotic locales and scenarios, and we're treated to those again this issue -- sweeping from Belgrade to Monaco, where the world's elite are masked, mingling, and primed for adventure. Escapism? The best. Epting's environments are given lush sweeps of color courtesy of Elizabeth Breitweiser, who also sets tone impeccably with just the right lighting and palette selections, and the Carnival of Fools looks deliciously inviting (unless someone's gunning for you).
The issue wraps with a well-timed hook; it's one that leans into the usual spy genre tropes, but in a fabulous way. Velvet is still so mysterious that these links to her past are both functional and fascinating. That next issue needs to arrive, stat.
There's a lettering cue that bugs me -- Russian accents are denoted by backwards capital "R"s (and a few other characters), and the Cyrillic character that most closely resembles a backwards "R" is pronounced way differently. The effect is consistent, so it won't bother everyone, but I can't un-see it.
It's no accident that Image gave Ed Brubaker a green-light contract; the man produces incredible work, and always partners with dynamo art teams to deliver comics worth reading twice -- once in single issues to get the next layer of story, and then again in trade because they're worthy of the shelf position. VELVET is the lady-led spy comic we didn't even know we wanted, and it's one to look forward to every month.