Today, Drew and Ryan D. are discussing Velvet 13, originally released February 3rd, 2016.
Drew: I wince whenever someone asks me if I can play chess. I certainly understand the rules of the game, but I feel like that makes me a chess player in as much as understanding the mechanics of applying paint to canvas makes me a painter. That is, the actual playing of chess lies not in my rudimentary grasp of what moves are allowable, but in the nuance of applying those moves towards a goal. Real chess players have so internalized those rules, they can plan several moves ahead, and the strategy ultimately revolves around forcing their opponent into moves they can anticipate. This is exactly the kind of game Velvet has been playing with ARC-7 for most of this series, and she’s damn good at it. But what if the rules she had internalized weren’t the rules of the game at all? That’s the situation she finds herself in this month, as Damian Lake proves to be even more of a wild card than she ever imagined. Continue reading →
Today, Patrick and Spencer are discussing Velvet 10, originally released April 22nd, 2015.
Patrick: Aren’t spies just the coolest? They’re up there with ninjas as some of the most fascinating types of heroes. Part of what makes them both so damn irresistible is their impossible levels of competency. It’s the same reason we love Sherlock Holmes – we can’t fathom a scenario that he can’t clever his way out of. That makes their day-to-day lives the stuff of fascinating stories, even if we have every confidence going in that they’re going to come out victorious. But then, why’s it so satisfying to watch these infallible heroes scramble? There are few moments as narratively disarming as the odd beats when James Bond or Sherlock Holmes or Ethan Hunt are caught off guard. It’s like a violation, seeing the most capable people out-matched. Velvet 10 shows our already on-the-run hero set even further back, and the scope of the story broadens rapidly, mutating so quickly that we barely have time to understand one development before the next steamrolls everything that came before. It’s dizzying, disorienting, and leaves the breathless reader just as lost as our hero. Continue reading →
Today, Spencer and Drew are discussing Velvet 9, originally released February 4th, 2015.
Spencer: Who can you trust? This can be a hard question for anyone to answer — how many of us have trusted someone who didn’t end up being worthy of it? — but for a spy, whose entire life revolves around secrets and lies, it’s practically impossible. Velvet Templeton is a spy on the run, further minimizing the list of people she can trust — even those she knows aren’t against her can’t necessarily be trusted to keep secrets from her employers. So far Velvet’s wise choices when it comes to trust have kept her one step ahead of her pursuers, but Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet 9 may find her making her first mistake by trusting Damian Lake even just a little — and in doing so, Velvet may have just found herself an opponent who can finally keep up with her. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Greg are discussing Velvet 8, originally released November 5th, 2014.
Drew: Did you enjoy Skyfall? I enjoyed it well enough, but found myself staunchly defending it — specifically from attacks that suggest that the film ripped off the “villain gets captured as part of the plan” plot points from The Dark Knight and The Avengers. I can’t deny the similarities — it does indeed pose a classic example of what TV Tropes and Idioms identifies as the “Batman Gambit” — but what irked me is how myopic the argument is. The Batman Gambit is much, much older than either The Avengers or The Dark Knight (indeed, the name “Batman Gambit” is based on instances of the device from comics that long predate Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, and has been used in everything from Die Hard to Reindeer Games), so to suggest that Skyfall‘s use of the devise is derivative, it must also be true of The Avengers and The Dark Knight. My point is, I’m willing to forgive the use of a trope if it’s done well, and I’d argue that Skyfall does it better than those other two films.* All that is to say that I enjoyed Velvet 8‘s own Batman Gambit for precisely the same reason: it’s really well done. Continue reading →
Today, Greg and Drew are discussing Velvet 7, originally released September 10th, 2014.
Greg: When’s the last time you dorked out in public? For me, “dorking out” is a simultaneously freeing yet embarrassing experience. The feeling of visceral pleasure and physical high you get from an unbound joy something gives you, crashing into the realization that the folks you’re dorking out too don’t have much of a frame of context, and can’t join in. I once spent five minutes dorking out over a long-take fight scene in Skyfall to my parents, who in response, coughed awkwardly and said “That sounds nice.” They’re gonna have to look out, though, because Velvet is so staggeringly good and checks every box of stuff I love, that it’s 100% being added to my “dork-out” pile.
Today, Greg and Shelby are discussing Velvet 5, originally released May 21st, 2014.
Greg: When I come home from work — hell, when I come home from a light jog — I’m often dog-tired. I feel drained and emaciated, like the only thing I have energy to do is crash in front of the TV. I have, at time, uttered the phrase “This day beat me up” out loud. However, after reading this particularly haunting and emotionally draining issue of Velvet, I realize that my pity parties are a grain of sand compared to how massively exhausted Velvet — hell, even other fictional spies like Bond and Bourne — must feel after an average day. The day beat her up, alright. Physically, emotionally, and everything in between. Continue reading →
Today, Drew and Greg are discussing Velvet 3, originally released January 15th, 2014.
Drew: It’s amazing how easily gender-bending a trope can force us to confront ingrained assumptions about gender. No matter how progressive our views are, watching a female character rescue a male, or seeing a guy in the kind of revealing clothing women are expected to wear as a matter of course, continues to feel incredibly alien. Spy stories, with their own unique set of gendered tropes, are a particularly ripe subject for gender-bending, and Ed Brubaker struck upon a brilliant one with Velvet‘s premise: what if James Bond (or any other beloved british spy) was a woman? It has allowed him to subvert many of the stereotypes we often accept as part of the genre (and its period setting), but issue 3 reveals that it also allows him a fresh perspective on the collateral damage of all that spying fun. Continue reading →
Today, Shelby and Ethan are discussing Velvet 2, originally released December 4th, 2013.
Shelby: I do so enjoy a good spy thriller. There’s something about the James Bonds, the Jason Bournes, the Ethan Hunts that is just impossibly cool. They’ve got the neatest gadgets and the most impressive skills. The life of a spy is built on lies, no one can really be trusted. The story is intrigue layered on mysteries, usually layered on top of betrayal. That’s why I think the mole-hunt/double agent story is my favorite kind of spy thriller; it transforms the necessity of the secrets and lies into a liability. Who better to hide from spies than another spy? Who could take down a secret agency other than one of its own? How is an agency supposed to find a mole when all its own tricks are being used against it? Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting take on these questions in their spy thriller Velvet, and it is exactly as fun as you would think. Continue reading →