One of the things I've always appreciated about Ed Brubaker's comics is that he knows how to take a situation, make it complicated and then make it even more complicated than you thought possible. That's what we get in "Velvet" #11, as Burbaker and Steve Epting's spy-on-the-run series kicks off its third volume. "Velvet" #11 shows us what Velvet Templeton's been up to since we last saw her, even as her path takes her deliberately into the path of her old compatriots. Max's orders to bring Velvet in are, to put it mildly, a bit of an impediment. But does either one of them really know what they're up against?
I've always liked the basic setup of "Velvet" -- imagine if Miss Moneypenny was, in fact, a more capable spy than James Bond and had been in semi-retirement, only to then get framed and go on the run -- but each new story arc has made things a little more dangerous and a little more complicated. Velvet and Max's rendezvous in "Velvet" #11 is a perfect example; even as Velvet simultaneously fends off her own agency and tries to find those who set her up, this encounter sets a whole new series of schemes and traps into motion.
I also like that Brubaker is able to take some familiar spy cliches -- sleeping with the enemy, in this case -- and turn them into something greater. Velvet and Max's meeting is rife with sexual tension but, more importantly, this is a moment where both of them clearly feel that they are in control. Watching the two of them battle for dominance, both physically and mentally, is part of what makes "Velvet" so good. Velvet Templeton is many things, but pushover is certainly not one of them; she's so ruthless at times that you almost gasp in delight as she kicks things off and often stays three steps ahead of both the other characters as well as the readers.
It doesn't hurt that Epting's art is gorgeous. Velvet herself comes across as sleek but deadly; she's attractive without being overly sexualized, and you never underestimate her. At the same time, I can't stop looking at her jet black hair with that one white streak running through it; it's a striking look no matter what she's doing. I also like how Max gets the same sort of treatment here; he's an older gentleman who's dashing but dangerous, physically adept but able to charm his targets. Max and Velvet together works so well in part because you can just see all of that tension sizzling off of the page when they look at one another, and that's thanks to Epting.
"Velvet" #11 is a fantastic issue, and I think it's a good jumping on point in many ways (although reading #1-10 or the first two collections will likely become necessary down the line). Forget about a new James Bond film; we have a new "Velvet" story arc, and Brubaker and Epting will take your breath away with each new installment. Highly recommended.