This week on Arc Reaction we’re taking a look at Velvet by writer Ed Brubaker, artist Steve Epting, and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser. Now that Velvet has finished its second story arc, “The Secret Lives of Dead Men,” it’s a good time to take a look. We know who Velvet is, but now we’re here to see where Brubaker and Epting are really going to take her. The problem is, at the end of this story arc I’m still a bit unsure.
“The Secret Lives of Dead Men” furthers the mystery. Who framed Velvet? We’re fed information slowly, a bit more insight, but no real answers. Brubaker isn’t ready to give those away yet. There’s some jumps in POV that helps keep things interesting, but admittedly I find myself getting frustrated the further Velvet carries on without a face to the villain. That would be fine, but the mystery of Velvet starts eating into other scenes. Characters aren’t getting fleshed out, the interactions are limited, and it can be tiring to follow a protagonist who seems to be getting nowhere.
Luckily issues 9 and 10 give us the character Damian Lake. He doesn’t seem to be the mastermind behind Velvet’s framing, but he’s definitely a potential antagonist. He’s smart, manipulative, and Epting gives him a subtly villainous look. Sadly it feels like Lake’s arrival is a bit too little, a bit too late. The story’s gritty and realistic, the art sets the mood perfectly, but it all risks being dull without the larger than life characters that spy fiction is known for. Velvet is still missing something, but Damian Lake might be all it needs; now we just need more sure.