After reading two excellent TPBs of Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting’s Velvet I picked up the third volume with some trepidation. The story had been great, but could the creators wrap it up in just five more issues?
Yes. Unfortunately it’s like the wrap-up you get when a TV series is canceled and the show-runner squeeze everything necessary for a finish into one final episode (case in point, S2 of Blind Spot).
At the end of V2, Secret Lives of Dead Men, former ARC-7 agent Velvet Templeton has learned the murder of one ARC agent and the murder frame she’s been placed in are all part of some huge conspiracy that’s infiltrated the agency. She thought the former agent she busted from prison, Damian Lake, would have been locked up before the rot crept in; wrong! In the course of The Man Who Stole the World Velvet travels to Washington and discovers the conspiracy involved exposing President Nixon’s high crimes and misdemeanors to blackmail him (I wasn’t clear whether he refused so they went public, or if they publicized Watergate, then offered to clear him or what).
This is all revealed very fast (though Velvet kidnapping Nixon from the White House bathroom was cool), with one supporting character buying it at Lake’s hands in the process. Velvet tracks Lake back to London where she discovers ARC-7’s director, Manning, is the man behind everything. The reason Lake didn’t kill her too is that Manning sees her as a potential recruit for his cause — take over the world and run it behind the scenes, saving it from the idiots and crooks the rich and powerful put into office to do their bidding.
If we’d worked up to this over a couple more volumes, I think it would have worked. Delivered as one big expository confession? It felt like a desperate rush to tie everything up (Brubaker said in a text page in the original comics that Hollywood’s keeping him too busy to keep up with comics — I’m guessing he thought a rushed finish was better than leaving the story hanging until he could return to it), and it didn’t even manage that. We don’t know Manning’s vision for a new world order. We don’t know why he had Velvet’s husband killed.
The ending has Velvet dispatch Manning. She then shows up in the tropics taking a break but telling someone her profession is making the world a better place. Maybe she’s going to hunt down the rest of Manning’s organization, but with Manning and Lake dead, it’s hard to care about a nebulous Someone. Nor does it grab me if she’s just going to run around fighting evil. So that part fell flat too.
As I’m unlikely to wind up writing comics or TV at this point, this analysis ain’t much use to my own writing, but it’s still instructive to see how a bad ending can undercut a great story.