I have a bit of a problem with Velvet issue 15.
The issue came out a few weeks ago, and after reading it I was left with a distinct sour impression that bugged me. For weeks.
Not in an all-consuming way. Not obsessively. But every now and then, in the quiet times while on my tablet browsing for something to read and I flipped through my Comixology app, I’d be reminded of my grumbling disappointment in the issue and the way the latest Velvet storyline, The Man Who Stole the World, concluded.
Subsequently I decided to not bother reviewing the issue, since more than a week had passed and I figured who would care at that point. But then I kept turning over in my head what exactly it was that I disliked about the conclusion, and decided to put it down into words. For reasons. For science?
It wasn’t the artwork. Steve Epting’s illustrations have been a perfect fit for Velvet, and I’ve been a fan of writer Ed Brubaker and Epting collaborating since their run on Captain America several years ago. In fact, it was their gritty espionage and character-focused take on Captain America that made me pick up Velvet sight unseen. In issue 15, Epting’s artwork (with Elizabeth Breitweiser) is on point, perfectly reflecting the Cold War era aesthetics of mid-1970’s America. There is something stark and realistic about their artwork that speaks to me, and has throughout the series’ run.
Brubaker’s script is well-paced, if exposition heavy. There is equal balance of action and reveals in this issue, and the twist, while predictable, doesn’t feel terribly forced. Ok, it does. Because no one would really think Velvet died. Also, Brubaker’s dialogue has always been solid in this series, making it easy to submerge into the narrative.
It’s not a bad issue. It’s actually quite a good one. So what’s the problem?
Velvet debuted in October 2013, and has had a rocky bi-monthly schedule. Over the course of about 33 months, we received 15 issues. There were some late ones, particularly in the past several months. But the story got told.
The problem was, I realized, was that the inaugural volume of Velvet stretches the mystery out for far too long.
I think Velvet will read much better in a single sitting (or binge read in a couple of evenings), like a fine novel. The problem, having committed to Velvet monthly for almost three years, is that by the time we got to the full reveal (in issue 15, and after a bit of an information dump), I found myself wondering why I even cared about Velvet being on the run or trying to track down the people who… framed her? Manipulated her into killing her husband? The details are sketchy now. And the ultimate reveal about Watergate and blackmail on an international level? Anti-climactic. Velvet had a lot of excellent action bits, drama, and intrigue, but it was so decompressed that by the time we got to the end, I was questioning my commitment to it.
I was also slightly disappointed that this was the end of the series, and that we’d have to wait sometime to catch up with Velvet. Almost bittersweet. With this break, I don’t think I’ll be picking up the next series of Velvet monthy, but rather, wait for the collections. And maybe that’s what bugs me. I enjoy reading a monthly series. That’s how I grew up on comics. That’s why I’m going through withdrawl until Saga spins up again (which, unlike Velvet, puts out 6 issues in a row and then takes a couple of months break, like a season of a TV show. Saga is also ridiculously crafted and gorgeously illustrated, so there’s that).
I’m probably just a comics curmudgeon. Or hard to please. I think Velvet is good, the artwork delicious and the character fascinating. Hopefully, the next story will better serve her, as opposed to going out with a whimper.