By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Steve Epting (art), Elizabeth Breitweiser (colors) and Chris Eliopoulos (letters)
This issue acts as a capstone to the first arc of the series. I’ve loved every issue of the series so far, so I wish I could say that this was a triumphant exclamation point to the first arc, but there’s something that just isn’t quite right about the issue.
The disconnect I felt with this issue actually made me slightly concerned for the future of the series.
The problem is the guys! I love Velvet and I feel like I know her, but the dudes in this series are seriously blurring together. I can’t keep track of which guys are main characters and which are background noise. For example, when Velvet is forced to kill her fellow agent/lover in this issue, I couldn’t remember whether this was a character we’ve seen before or not. Part of the problem is that none of these guys have been developed much and that’s probably intentional. It sounds like Velvet’s past is a blur of lovers who she had to hang out with for the job – some she was fond of, sometimes it was just work. Nevertheless, this issue asked me to feel an emotional impact from Velvet killing this guy and I just couldn’t because I didn’t know who he was.
And that is why I’m a little concerned. Suddenly the story seems interested in making me feel things that it hasn’t earned. The only character I’d be bummed about dying right now is Velvet herself. The others are just background noise. And all these guys look the same. How am I supposed to get wrapped up in how Dude A (a fellow agent/lover who Velvet really liked) was betrayed by Dude B (random agency guy) and how Dude C (possibly a long-time friend) is dead and how Dude D (another possible long-time friend) is helping in the present day? It’s too many easily forgettable dudes. Yet these guys seem important to the story. I was happy when the story was simpler and it was just “Velvet was betrayed and must run!” That was cool. The nuance and complexity is escaping me right now.
All that being said, I do really enjoy Velvet herself and feel very invested in HER story. It’s amazing how developed she is after only 5 issues. I was also very intrigued by the relationship with her female mentor. It was interesting how she was shown to us very briefly and then snatched away. I have to wonder if there is a bit of Chekov’s Gun going on here. Why bother to show the mentor and then kill her if she wasn’t going to be important somehow?
The art is still largely a tour de force. There were a few unsteady panels where Velvet had to kiss someone or have her arm grabbed. It’s amazing how difficult a thing it is to draw two people kissing! How can Velvet look so soft and feminine in most of the issue, but the second she kisses someone, she looks as stiff as a mannikin that has been posed? Of course, Epting isn’t the only exemplary comic artist to struggle with kissing, so let’s not damn him too much. The rest of the issue is just aces. Even though I’m picking on one mediocre panel of kissing, there are about 30 panels in this comic that I’d be proud to own and hang on the wall. And then the way Elizabeth Breitweiser colors them… Such moody atmosphere… There’s something about these rich, earthy tones that make the comic scream 1976.
Conclusion: Some really solid stuff, but some things to be concerned about too. If the comic is going to involve the men in the story, they need to be developed a little more.
– Dean Stell