Brubaker once again creates a graphic novel that can be used to show people that comic books aren't just all about flying superheroes and aliens, and this is his best work that I've read so far! This time, the story is about Velvet Templeton, secretary for the head of the elite international spy agency ARC-7. After one of their top agents is killed and she finds herself framed for the murder, Velvet must use skills that no one expected she possessed to clear her name. You see, Velvet used to be one of ARC's most skilled field agents before retiring to a safe desk job in secret. But it turns out she's still got the juice!
What follows is a fully action-packed spy thriller in the same vein as the James Bond and Jason Bourne thrillers, balanced with a lot of the same espionage intrigue as John Le Carré's stories. So if you have even a passing interest in any of that stuff you'll love this. Even if you don't you'll probably still love this.
It took me a while to read it not because it was slow or boring but because I kept taking ridiculous amounts of time to gaze at every page. It has some of the most gorgeous artwork I've seen in a graphic novel yet. I'm not super knowledgeable with the ways comic book production works so I don't know who to credit for the lighting in comics. Is it the colorist? If so, kudos to the MVP, Elizabeth Breitweiser, and her stunning lighting and colors here, in conjunction with Steve Epting's detailed drawings. Every page is lovely and filled to the brim with texture.
I read the story in its three individually released volumes and each chapter becomes more exciting than the next, with exhilarating set-pieces, a plot that moves so fast, if you blink you'll miss it all, and characters with shady intentions. And it's all grounded by Velvet herself, a resourceful secretary who can kick anyone's ass and hold her own against fellow badasses like Bourne, Jack Bauer, and Chuck Norris. This is the best work I've read so far by Ed Brubaker, this time working outside of his partnership with artist Sean Phillips, collabing with Epting instead, the artist from his Captain America run, who provides slicker edges to the art than the down-and-dirty Phillips, and seems like a better fit for this world of international spy-work. You can read it now in its cheaper three part releases, or wait until this deluxe hardcover edition, which will undoubtedly have a bunch of cool extras!