Velvet Vol.1 – Before The Living End

Ed Brubaker, writer; Steve Epting, artist; Elizabeth Breitweiser, colors

Image Comics

If you like a good spy story, you've come to the right place. Brubaker is rightly known for his crime comics (especially Criminal), but the recent series Fatale delved into the world of secret societies and the occult. This is a classic British secret agent tale, with the fictional Arc-7 taking the place of MI6: an agency so secret that most other secret agencies don't know about it. Every operation is a black op.

When one of their operatives is assassinated during an op all signs point to an inside job, so an internal investigation begins. Velvet Templeton, the personal secretary to the Director of the Agency, can't believe that the man they identify could be a traitor, so she begins to investigate on her own. We soon learn that she is actually a retired field agent, and the frame she uncovers quickly includes her as well.

From there it's almost nonstop action, with car chases, hand-to-hand combat, burglary...she even breaks someone out of an East European prison. Along the way we learn more and more about her past through a series of flashbacks. Her investigation even turns up the codename of her ex-husband, giving her a personal stake in her findings (in addition to clearing her own name!).

Epting contributes realistic visuals, similar to Sean Phillips' collaborations with Brubaker. The fight scenes and talking heads do get broken up by an occasion splash page, like the stunning Carnival shot in one issue. This collects the first five issues of the series, which sets up a rich story line for lots of issues to come.

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Velvet is an amazing series.  I second everything Mark has said about it.  Highly recommended.

Between this, Red-Handed and Super-Spy by Matt Kindt, I would say this is easily one of the most pulse-pounding spy series out there. This gave me the most nervous feeling since I read The Coldest City by Antony Johnston (who also wrote an arc of Queen and Country).

Amazingly written work here. I also highly recommend this book.

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