Page 45 Review by Stephen
"I didn't believe that Frank Lancaster had killed X-14...
"So I looked into it... and my entire life fell apart."
In which the period-perfect espionage thriller concludes its first story arc, and it will finally be revealed exactly who has been using whom, and why. Just not here.
What I've never done is tell you how I sell this series on our shop floor, with aid of Epting and Breitweiser's exceptionally sleek and thrilling interior art. So let's do that thing.
1973. There is an international espionage agency called ARC-7 so secret that most other ops don't even know it exists. Its agents are so effective that the chances of any of them being taken out in the field are minimal. As VELVET opens, one of their very finest is taken out in the field.
Immediately an inside job is suspected and all fingers point to Frank Lancaster. But Velveteen Templeton, the Director's secretary, has doubts. A former field agent herself, she suspects it's a set-up.
It is. But what Templeton doesn't realise is that she's being set up to believe it's a set-up and so get set up herself.
On the run from her own agency, Templeton has been desperately retracing assassinated Agent X-14's steps and contacts across Eastern Europe while cross-referencing what she discovers with her own substantial and at times painful history in order to work out why X-14 was murdered from within. What had he stumbled upon in America that made him such a threat? Was it the same thing that her husband discovered? Because he too was set up and Templeton took the fall so far for it that she almost didn't recover.
With only one lead left alive to follow, Templeton believes she has no choice but to take the fight back to America, even though she knows that the second she sets foot on its shores alarm bells will start ringing. She's counting on it.
"Every move I make from now on has to be two moves."
Sometimes you won't see the second move coming; often you won't have seen the first move being made.
I can't take you any further with the story, so let's talk about the art.
Firstly, I love that Velvet shows her age. It's not just the thick, white streak of maturity in her sable hair, it's in the eyes that have seen too much and the suggestion of extra flesh around her mouth which put me in mind of Terry Moore's RACHEL RISING. There was an American TV company desperate to sign the series... if Brubaker would just agree to Templeton being in her mid-20s, thereby missing both the point and the plot.
In addition, her body language changes when undercover as a temp in Paris, her hair dyed grey to fade into the background. She holds a file modestly and meekly to her chest. When she brings a tray of tea to the investment manager's desk, she's slightly hunched in high heels.
As to "period perfect", it's not just in the fashion of fabrics, though the black bathing suit in VELVET VOL 1 during the flashback to 1950s Bermuda was a masterpiece, its white stripe anticipating the streak which will appear in Velveteen's hair. It's also evident in the hotel room furnishings, the bar tops, aircraft interiors, office spaces, shop windows, fly-posters and the cars with their polished chrome.
From the writer of THE FADE OUT, CRIMINAL, KILL OR BE KILLED and FATALE, this is just as smart and satisfying.