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Thursday, October 24, 2013

DAMN Good Comics -- VELVET #1

The name is Templeton, Velvet Templeton.

For any comics fans living in a cave without wi-fi for the better part of the last decade, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting arguably crafted the definitive Captain America run from 2004 to 2012, breathing new life into the Marvel superhero with a healthy amount of espionage style twists and adventures.  And now, Brubaker and Epting have reunited for Velvet, a new espionage series from Image Comics that looks to be even better.

The first issue, "Before the Living End," opens in 1973 Paris with Jefferson Keller, a British secret agent for ARC-7, which according to the cover, stands for Allied Reconnaissance Commission 7.  Keller, codenamed X-14 (possibly because he's twice the agent OO7 is), resembles your typical dark-haired superspy in a tuxedo that looks and acts every bit of James Bond.  One problem, though -- He's assassinated within the first four pages.

Surprise, the series' central protagonist isn't Keller after all, but Velvet Templeton, the personal secretary to ARC-7's Lieutenant Director.  Velvet is no mere secretary along the lines of Miss Moneypenny, however, but a more than capable agent who was able to have affairs with a number of X-operatives without any of them being aware of the others.  And since Keller was one of those affairs, she takes it upon herself to investigate his death, starting us off on what promises to be an engaging tale of shadows and secrets.

Ever since the nineties on Marvel's The Avengers, Epting has steadily grown as an artist.  His work has evolved so much over the years, from DC's Aquaman to Crux and El Cazador for CrossGen, and eventually onto Captain America, Fantastic Four and New Avengers for Marvel.  Together with his Captain America colorist Elizabeth "Bettie" Breitweiser, Epting gives Velvet the perfect look and tone to complement Brubaker's vision.

And with the series' 1973 setting (think Live and Let Die, which was released in the same year), Velvet is able to avoid the traditional early Cold War stereotypes without getting sucked into modern technological intel storytelling.  As long as Brubaker and Epting maintain the level of intensity, and there's no reason why they shoudn't, this looks to become a spectacular series.  As of fan of comics and spy fiction, Velvet is the espionage series I've been wanting to read for years.

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