Ed Brubaker

velvet

Velvet 6 (July 2014)

Velvet #6

Brubaker starts Velvet’s second arc and it’s just as clear as with the first one, there’s something just a little off about it. Epting doesn’t get much opportunity for the period piece stuff this issue either, which is too bad.

There’s a whole bunch of exposition with Velvet explaining her thinking about her investigation–it brings up the perspective question too. Who’s Velvet telling her story? Or is her first person narrative just easy first person narration with no thought about it other than what mood it creates.

The issue is light on action, with Brubaker instead going for cheap visual thrills and innuendos at a London sex club. The short action scene at the end doesn’t make up for the lack of it throughout. Epting isn’t particularly creative on the composition either.

The extreme competency of the series continues to keep it afloat, but it’s still rather dull.

B- 

CREDITS

The Secret Lives of Dead Men, Part One; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

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Fatale

Fatale 23 (June 2014)

Fatale #23

What a frustrating penultimate issue. It’s intentional on Brubaker’s part, but it doesn’t really matter because even though there’s almost no content to the issue–he reveals one big, deep dark defining secret of Jo’s, but it’s handled so matter-of-factly it doesn’t have much weight–even though there’s nothing to it, there’s Phillips’s art.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Phillips get to go so big on a collaboration with Brubaker, much less on Fatale, where he’s usually just been the perfect artist for the story but never the driving force of the comic.

Phillips drives this issue with its cosmic lovemaking and its double page spreads. There’s nothing to the comic besides this wonderful art, the underdone reveal and then the cliffhanger. But those big pages of Phillips, where he gets to equalize the stars and people, those are wonderful and nothing else matters. Not even Brubaker slacking off big time.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 5 (May 2014)

Velvet #5

Maybe half the issue is really good background stuff with Velvet’s training after World War II and her mentor. Brubaker’s hostile to the new reader–and even to the regular reader with the bad memory–he doesn’t establish the story in context, he just starts out with his alternating flashbacks.

The training and the mentor is the better stuff because of Velvet’s narration. Brubaker gets in about ten percent history, ten percent character building, eighty percent story. The other stuff, with Velvet’s marriage to a fellow spy, is convoluted and done way too subtly. The comic opens with a Dr. No era James Bond homage, there’s no room for subtlety.

The front-heaviness ends up hurting. It’s just a bridging issue, which Brubaker tries to disguise. There’s some good Epting art and the finish is fine–maybe if Brubaker hadn’t revealed the flashback was all due to a single conversation.

B- 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Five; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 22 (May 2014)

Fatale #22

Until the last sequence, which tries too hard, this issue of Fatale is one of Brubaker’s strongest in a while. It starts with the big bad guy, the Bishop–who I can’t remember if Brubaker has named before–investigating what Jo’s been doing. Then it goes into a long flashback of the Bishop’s life since 1906.

It ties into a lot of big historical events, with the San Francisco earthquake being the result of the ceremony giving the Bishop his power. Brubaker and Phillips tie it all together, with pitch perfect narration and some great summary art from Phillips. World War I, World War II, it’s like getting a war comic and an Indiana Jones comic from Phillips all in one.

But the finish, where Brubaker ties it into the modern events, is problematic. It’s more setup for the finale and, worse, it’s contrived setup.

Still, it’s mostly masterful stuff.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 21 (March 2014)

Fatale #21

This issue, while obviously winding up to the big finish, is a bit of return to form. Brubaker takes the time to introduce a new character–one impervious to Jo's charms–and he's a nice addition. There's some levity amidst Jo's preparations.

Speaking of Jo's preparations, Brubaker does go too far with a reveal in the last page or two. He makes Jo do something incredibly dumb. After showing her to be plotting and careful, she goofs. It doesn't work.

But Jo's really back to being the mysterious femme fatale this issue. Nicolas is the protagonist, meeting Jo's sidekick, trying to figure out what's going on with her–he hasn't been the protagonist for a long, long time. And the series is only twenty-one issues in and the guy feels foreign to the captain's chair.

It's an outstanding issue; still, it also shows how reductive Brubaker's being with the series's many intermediary details.

B+ 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

velvet

Velvet 4 (March 2014)

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Strange thing about this issue… I think Brubaker’s started worrying about whether or not Velvet is likable. He makes her sympathetic right off with her recap of the aftermath of the previous issue’s soft cliffhanger. She recounts having sympathy herself for the abused Russian wife.

More than that detail, her narration is very explanatory. There’s exposition here and there, a lot of background hints, but Brubaker’s now letting the reader into her head. She’s in the middle of a huge, contrived conspiracy and she’s the good guy. Why shouldn’t the reader like her?

The big moments in this issue revolve around some kind of carnival in Monaco. Lots of good costumes from Epting, followed by a great action sequence. Even the way Velvet narrates her action sequence makes her more sympathetic.

It’s good enough, but with the overused first person narration, Brubaker’s not letting Velvet surprise the reader much anymore.

B 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Four; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 20 (February 2014)

f

Well, okay, yeah… Fatale is definitely in its last lap. Brubaker doesn’t hide it at all. He does, however, rush things. I thought it was going to be an awesome issue of Jo flashing back to her very interesting past.

Instead, she becomes John McClane and has to save Nicolas. And that wraps up real quick. Not so much action-packed as Cthulhu-packed. I’m also not sure if the Donnie Darko reference was supposed to seem original or not.

But it’s hard to get excited about the finish because halfway through this issue, it’s clear Fatale isn’t coming to a nature end. Why do a bunch of character work on utterly disposable characters? It feels like the series got canceled on Brubaker and Phillips so they have to rush an ending. Only no, they apparently just ran out of interest.

Or Brubaker always had a weak ending planned out.

B 

CREDITS

Curse the Demon; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 19 (January 2014)

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I’m not sure where I’m at with this issue. It finishes up the grunge band arc, but Brubaker uses it to kick off (presumably) the next arc set in the modern day.

He should really have some reminder of the modern day protagonist’s name. We’ve just gone through five or six new male characters; I’ll call him Streak from now on.

The plotting is a little too contrived, too convenient. Jo comes back at just the right time, the record company is owned by the Cthulhu worshippers. The issue’s a fine enough read, it’s just on reflection it’s such an easy out. Maybe it’s how Brubaker structured the story–Jo’s the protagonist, but the reader is supposed to care about the band and their problems. The two parts don’t move in conjunction.

There’s some gore and violence, but nothing visually distinctive. There’s nothing inventive or surprising, it’s all painfully predictable.

B- 

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 3 (January 2014)

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I wanted this issue to be better. It’s decent, but Brubaker is moving things along quickly. He’s changing the narrative structure up, which is a little confusing, and Epting doesn’t really have any indicators to make it a seventies setting. I forgot it didn’t take place in the present until a line about Soviet Russia.

Brubaker’s confident and enthusiastic, which is great for him–who’d want to read a comic the writer isn’t jazzed writing–but it’s iffy for the reader. The series isn’t episodic, it needs some cohesion and a couple flashbacks don’t cut it here.

The story itself is simpler than it all appears. Velvet has a sidekick now–Burke, I think–but he doesn’t make much impression. Brubaker writes from Velvet’s perspective; none of the men are interesting, including her allies.

The lack of cohesion will probably lead to good, but not great, issues. Like this one.

B 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Three; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; editor; David Brothers; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 2 (December 2013)

Velvet 2 image comics

I like this issue a lot more; I couldn’t figure out for a while, then I realized… it’s basically a lengthy Steve Epting action sequence. Velvet escapes, runs, escapes again. Brubaker juxtaposes her story against some guys at her agency talking about her. It’s great, fast but filling.

The only parts giving me pause are some of the stylistic choices for flashbacks and then the fictional super spy agency. Maybe for Epting to keep his schedule, the flashbacks, which took up at least two pages and showed single panels of Velvet’s illustrious career, are necessary. But they bring the issue to a screeching halt.

Second, the spy agency. It’s really made-up and leaves Brubaker open to do almost anything. He could hide aliens down the line in this thing. It gives the series a fake feel, while Epting does everything but convey that sense.

Still, it’s a good comic.

B+ 

CREDITS

Before the Living End, Part Two; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 18 (November 2013)

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The issue reads too fast. It becomes a showcase for Phillips’s abilities at creating a static montage sequence, which are considerable, but Brubaker is still passing it poorly.

The first half of the issue is the band at the house, trying to figure out what to do with a dead body. Brubaker plays the scene for effect, time and again, and not actual narrative progression. He doesn’t stick with the biggest reveal of the scene. Instead, he lets it pass almost without comment to set up his next dramatic moment.

The second half is the music video shoot, where Jo’s dancing sends everyone into a psychotic trance of sex and violence. Phillips does great work with all those little scenes–Brubaker moves through the whole cast (including the forgotten cop)–but it’s again all for effect.

Brubaker spent too much time setting up this arc’s concept instead of its plot.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Velvet 1 (October 2013)

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If I have to talk about Velvet in terms of good and bad, I don’t think I’ll enjoy the conversation very much. In this first issue, Ed Brubaker brings in one of his familiar tropes–the person with the secret, extraordinary past; one problem with writing a lot of comics, your standards become very, very obvious.

The title character, Velvet, seems to be a mild-mannered secretary at a super-secret spy agency who sleeps with all the agents before they go out on dangerous missions. The truth? Well, it’s not clear yet, but I’ll bet she was the greatest spy the agency ever had and now she’s fighting to save her colleagues, who all suspect her of a crime she hasn’t committed.

The period art–sixties and seventies–is quite good. Steve Epting obviously likes it a lot and his enthusiasm helps.

It’s a fine outing, just dangerously shallow.

CREDITS

Before the Living End; writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Steve Epting; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; letterer, Chris Eliopoulos; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 17 (September 2013)

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Very different approach this issue, at least to the flashback. Jo is the center and everything revolves around her. Brubaker uses it to move the story smoothly; even the scenes she’s not in are about her. Only the flashback stuff can’t compare to the interlude with Nick on the run.

Brubaker brings back the Lovecraft writer references towards the end of the interlude, with the mysterious book coming back into play. Fatale is only a year and a half or so in and Brubaker has definitely established a deep mythology to the series. But the stuff with Nick and the guy on the run is great. There’s some occasionally iffy narration from Nick, but it’s great.

The flashback, where Brubaker and Phillips go almost more for effect than story, can’t compare. It’s good, but Brubaker uses a lot of easy devices to get the results he wants.

Still, fine issue.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.

Fatale

Fatale 16 (August 2013)

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Definitely some Lowlife undertones. Brubaker’s shockingly frank about how Jo’s presence destroys the failed band members.

But all that destruction comes later. Brubaker opens with how Jo unknowingly created a serial killer out of some kid she once treated nicely. He’s never really looked at the long term effects of her presence, but here he’s loosing her not just in a closed environment (it’s almost like The Thing) while also examining her varied admirers.

Meanwhile, Jo herself has amnesia and has all of a sudden become a muse for this failed grunge band. He’s turned Singles into a horror movie while marrying it to a serial killer picture. There’s none of the Cthulhu stuff this issue, which might be why he has so much room for the rest of it.

There’s a lot of great art from Phillips–seeing a happy Jo is a strange thing.

Fatale’s an excellent comic.

CREDITS

Writer, Ed Brubaker; artist, Sean Phillips; colorist, Elizabeth Breitweiser; publisher, Image Comics.