"Velvet" #1 is Ed Brubaker doing what he does best: dark, thrillers with a noir vibe. With the help of his "Captain America" and "Winter Soldier" artist Steve Epting, "Velvet" is poised to be a fantastic new book for Image Comics.
Brubaker leans a bit heavily on the exposition in this first issue, and while some of it is both necessary and works well for the spy/noir feel as well as Velvet's voice, some of the early stuff that details the history of the agency feels like clunky world building. While it may be necessary to know all of that information, some of it feels superfluous for a first issue. That said, there's 25 pages of story, so more story is not necessarily a bad thing.
The strength of the issue certainly lies in Brubaker's heroine, who he presents as an appropriately complex and layered woman that will be fascinating to explore. The turn in Brubaker's story at the end of this issue, though welcome, is not exactly a surprise -- but it's not really supposed to be. Not every issue's ending has to be a twist, and there's nothing wrong with that. What's more important is that in this first issue Brubaker has managed to set up an intriguing mystery to unravel, introduced and well invested us in our heroine, and by the final page seriously upped the stakes for her in a way that will change her whole world, and our perception of that world. It's not a flawless execution, but is indeed a fine strong start.
Epting's art is luscious and well considered throughout. He pays particular attention to Velvet herself, both in her character design and in the way she's portrayed as she ages. It's rare in comics to see artists rendering age well, especially in women, but Epting is unafraid to give Velvet the lines in her face that an exciting (and demanding) life would surely leave. Though Velvet is beautiful throughout, allowing her to age draws a nice contrast between who she is today and who she once was. Since Brubaker's story already deals with this fact and may delve even deeper into it, it's wonderful to see it considered in the art. Epting's pencils are made even stronger with Elizabeth Breitweizer's colors, which have stunning depth. Dark and rich, her palettes shift effortlessly, while still maintaining an appropriately subdued and noir-based tone.
On the whole, "Velvet" is yet another strong and interesting book, both for Brubaker and for Image. In fact, "Velvet" should move to the top of any reading pile immediately.