Technically, Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s “Velvet” #12 could be considered a lull in “The Man Who Stole The World” arc, since there are no major revelations and the plot doesn’t advance dramatically except for the cliffhanger in the last scene. Despite this, the story doesn’t feel slower or duller at all. It’s like the eye of the storm. The pause is welcome, if only as a place to review the status of all the major players. However, since the next wave of action is anticipated, the tension only relaxes slightly. Velvet’s mind is still running fast, calibrating each move, and so the reader is, too.
Brubaker has always been good at using voiceovers. Captions often slow down a story or interrupt the flow with information dumps, but Brubaker dials back and forth between dialogue and Velvet’s thoughts almost seamlessly. As usual, he creates an atmosphere of slight melancholy and nostalgia, and his prose has contemplative, poetic rhythms. The difference in “Velvet” is that the sharpness of wit is stronger than in the rest of Brubaker’s oeuvre. Velvet Templeton has the usual weariness and introspection of a Brubaker hero or heroine, but she has a sense of irony that many of them lack.
Velvet’s voice is distinctive and charming, and it only gets stronger each issue. Brubaker shows Velvet outsmarting ARC-7, but this wouldn’t be as believable if her cool, analytical mind and her wry humor weren’t obvious from the voiceovers. Two of the supporting characters, X-33 and Max, also receive significant panel time in the issue and their characterization deepens as well. The dialogue is particularly enjoyable because of the games and lies of various players. Without being too gleeful or over-the-top, Brubaker executes double crosses and strategic maneuvers that exploit the long-lasting appeal of spy fiction.
Epting’s facial expressions, especially for Velvet, carry a lot of the subtleties of the storytelling. The figures in the action scene are a little stiff, despite dynamic panel compositions, but the panel preceding the combat is perfect — which focuses on Velvet’s hand with the cigarette — and conveys a lot of attitude with only a minimalist and beautiful outline.
When Velvet and Max hold a conversation while naked, Epting keeps the characters’ bodies decorous through use of shadows and light, without making these fig leaves look too forced. Cleverly, the shading also visually reinforces the lies and evasions in the conversation, echoing Brubaker’s themes. Epting’s linework for this scene is especially lovely, too. The edges of the bed sheets and anatomical planes of the bodies look like smudged charcoal. Breitweiser’s colors are a thoughtful partner to Epting’s linework, particularly in the last scene, in which the coral red chairs boldly define the interior in diffuse nighttime lighting. Even in scenes full of shadows, she never makes Epting’s settings look dreary or muddy, and — as a result — the look of “Velvet” is elegant and sleek.
The title has suffered some delays between issues recently, but “Velvet” #12 is a satisfying issue, up to the usual high standards of the creative team and well worth the wait.