Velvet, Vol. 2: The Secret Lives of Dead Men (2015) Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, Elizabeth Breitweiser (Image)
Trade paperback, 128 pages
People have noted that the best espionage novelists have actually worked in the intelligence field: Ian Fleming, Graham Greene, John le Carré, to name a few. I don’t know if Ed Brubaker has a background in espionage, but then again, that wouldn’t exactly appear on his resume, would it? If Velvet is any indication, Brubaker has at least read a lot of spy stories, watched a lot of espionage films, and done his homework. Of course it doesn’t hurt that he’s a damn good writer.
Last year, I listed Velvet, Volume 1: Before the Living End as one of the best graphic novels of 2014. (You can read my full review at The Comics Alternative.) I didn’t expect Velvet: The Secret Lives of Dead Men to suffer any dip in quality and it certainly doesn’t.
Without giving too much away from the first volume, Velvet Templeton is a secretary for the director of a British intelligence service called ARC-7. Although in her 40s when the story takes place (in 1973), she was previously an active field agent and can still kick your butt. All I’ll tell you about that volume you can read in my review, but if you like spy stories, espionage, or just great storytelling, you should read the first volume, then snatch up this one immediately.
Again, Brubaker’s storytelling is stellar, free from tired clichés and familiar scenes you’ll see coming a mile away. And Steve Epting’s superb art and panel layout perfectly match Brubaker’s pacing. (Elizabeth Breitweiser’s color work is also outstanding.) But stories – good stories, anyway – rely on interesting characters, people we care about.
Brubaker has wisely chosen to provide more details about Velvet’s past (and her work as an ARC-7 agent) in this volume rather than in the initial book. Those revelations of character are placed in a way that’s neither rushed nor awkwardly placed, but rather perfectly layered. Velvet’s thought processes are always several steps ahead, but we know she’s not perfect. She frequently gets herself into trouble – big trouble – and she’s forced into some tough decisions. Revelations come up, too, and those have a greater impact on her than the fights and chases. Again, like the best espionage storytellers, Brubaker makes Velvet look and feel authentic, believable and exciting. If you haven’t done so, pick up both volumes and enjoy the ride.
(Photos: Comic Books – Literature for the Masses)