By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Steve Epting (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors) and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)

The Story: Velvet is on the run and needs to find allies.

Review (with SPOILERS): There is a wonderful sense of competence and confidence about Velvet (the comic).  Most new independent comic series spend a lot of time and effort trying to make sure you notice and pay attention.  It’s an important consideration if the creators are two unknowns because they have to do something to make the reader come back for the next issue.  But….when your creators are Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, they don’t need all that noise because they’re professionals.  They’ve been around the block and they know they have a great story and they have confidence in their ability to tell that great story.  That isn’t to say they’re just coasting on their names and reputations, it’s just that they know what is necessary and unnecessary to the story and aren’t going to waste pages on bombast and splash pages just to get attention.

In some ways, it reminds me a lot of Lazarus from Greg Rucka and Michael Lark. Lazarus is also very good and also comes from experienced creators who just tell a story rather than trying to wow us with plot twists and spectacular moments.  If a comic series is trying to court new readers the same way that a superspy might try to pick up women in the bar, Velvet is very much that self-assured confidence of Sean Connery’s James Bond.

That’s a long way of saying that Velvet is very good even if this issue isn’t trying to blow our minds.  It’s only issue #2 and we’re already settled into a rhythm of storytelling: Velvet is on the run from her own agency and trying to find allies.  She doesn’t know who is conspiring against her and neither do we….but WE know that they have bitten off more than they can chew.  Her enemies don’t know this yet, but they’re about to find out…

Much like the comic, Velvet the character just seems brutally efficient.  Maybe she is why this comic doesn’t have all these bad-ass moments?  Velvet is a woman in her 40’s and women that age are usually into efficiency over flamboyance.  To stereotype: They know how to do their jobs, are damn good at their jobs and take quiet glee at watching young, bombastic men fall short of their experience and expertise.  In fact, it would probably be grossly inappropriate to have a comic starring a character like Velvet have all these big, splash-page moments of showing off.

It’s a great comic.  If you love old James Bond movies or old crime movies, you’ll love this.  If you wondered what would happen to Sharon Carter or Black Widow when they got older, you’ll love this.  In fact, given that these creators worked on Captain America for so long, I’d bet this was part of a potential Sharon Carter of Black Widow story, or maybe a window into what Peggy Carter was doing in the 70s when the Winter Solider was on the loose.  I’m not saying that this is a story that Marvel rejected, but I’ll bet that Brubaker/Epting at least considered pitching it to Marvel.

The key to the issue is the art.  Epting does such a great job of capturing that 70s period vibe.  I guess its unfortunate that such period stories always have to be kinda dark and dirty since I don’t think it rained for the whole decade and I think light-bulbs had been invented, but that’s the visual shorthand that takes us back to that time and place.  I especially love all the old cars and motorcycles he draws and admire his restraint for NOT making the getaway car something over-the-top like an Aston Martin. Nnope, when Velvet has to get away, she just steals an everyday hatchback.  Velvet looks great.  I’ve actually been rereading the early Brubaker/Epting Captain America run and Epting has gone to another level since then.  His characters and scenes are crisper, the action is more lively.  It’s just great.  I LOVE seeing an artist work on a project that obviously excites them.

Conclusion: How glorious is it to have comics like this on the market?  It’s a competent and confident piece of work by creators who know what they’re doing.

Grade: A-

-Dean Stell