tmp_velvet_1_cover_2013-1460258355When reading the first issue of Velvet, the new spy comic written by Ed Brubaker and drawn by Steve Epting, you can almost hear the creators saying, “You know what would be fucking awesome? If Miss Moneypenny was actually the baddest motherfucker who ever walked in or out of M’s office. Now pass that thing over here before it goes out, willya?”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Velvet is a spy comic set back in 1973, when the Cold War was running full blast, men were men, women were secretaries, and spies were dapper motherfuckers with laser wristwatches and cars that turned into submarines.

Which is, of course, utter bullshit. Everybody knows that there’s no such thing as James Bond – hell, even James Bond knows it, based on the relatively gadgetless Daniel Craig version we’ve had for the past few years. At this point, we can be pretty confident that real spies are either faceless geeks sucking up Internet traffic (Hi, NSA!) or large-jugged Russians with crappy Facebook cover identities. And besides: real spies work for real governments, which means hierarchy, bureaucracy and internal politics… and they know that you never fuck around with sharks with frikkin’ lasers when you can just blow your enemy’s head off with a shotgun.

So James Bond sure is fun, but he doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense in the real world if you stop to think about it longer that a minute or two. And Ed Brubaker clearly has stopped to think about it, because Velvet takes the world of James Bond, plugs it somewhat realistically into the real world of 1973, and turns things on their head by making Moneypenny the one that you really need to be concerned about.

And it gives us a meaty mystery: who killed X-14… and just who the hell is Velvet Templeton?

new_avengers_3_cover_2013It’s hard to believe that it’s only been a month since Jonathan Hickman debuted his Marvel Now reboot of New Avengers, to generally good reviews, and, well, this one:

Christ, he thinks he’s making movies. That’s why I wasn’t completely satisfied by Avengers #1, and was actually kinda pissed off by New Avengers #1: they’re not really stories.

Yeah, it didn’t do a hell of a lot for me. Hickman started New Avengers in a way that felt like a movie trailer: a tease of a terrible, world-shattering apocalypse to occur at some point in the future, with a final assembly of heroes to combat this purely theoretical threat in heroic establishing shots with explanatory and expository slogans, followed by a team shot… all without a hell of a lot actually, you know, happening. All it was missing was some deep baritone growling, “In a world…” and an immediately-following commercial for Doritos. It was such a blatant setup for story versus actual story that it actually made me kind of angry.

That, however, was a month ago. This week, we have New Avengers #3, and the Illuminati is actually in a position to face the terrible, world-shattering apocalypse. So now that it’s here, how was it? Well, the downside is that the actual confrontation is, on the scale of action sequences, less the last ten minutes of the Avengers movie and closer to the last time I was shitfaced and tried to get the TV remote to jump to my hand using telekenisis. The good news is that, despite the somewhat anticlimactic action sequence, it features a hell of a lot of damn fine character work. And while there isn’t a lot of action, there is plenty of conflict. Some damned entertaining conflict, as a matter of fact.

new_avengers_1_cover_2013Christ, he thinks he’s making movies. That’s why I wasn’t completely satisfied by Avengers #1, and was actually kinda pissed off by New Avengers #1: they’re not really stories. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.

So let me start with a personal note to Jonathan Hickman: Hi, Jon? There is a difference between an action movie and a comic book. An action flick costs ten bucks and usually lasts between 100 and 140 minutes. A comic book costs just about half as much as a movie, but is 20 to 24 pages, and lasts about 15 minutes, or maybe 20 if you’ve eaten a lot of cheese and let yourself become dehydrated.

A full-screen title card in a movie usually takes maybe 10 seconds, or fifteen if the director is a bombastic prick – about 0.002 percent of a movie, or about 2 cents worth of screen time in a best-case scenario. In a comic? it’s two pages out of 22 – about nine percent of a comic, or about 36 cents worth of the book. And yes: I sat down with a calculator and did the math.

My point is: the big, movie-style title cards you insist on chucking into the first issue of each Avengers book you’ve taken over? Save that shit for the movies. Reading comics is more expensive than going the movies. If you want to write a movie? Call Avi Arad. If you’re writing comics? We’re paying by the page, champ. Don’t waste those pages on your James Cameron fantasies.

Okay, now that my pet peeve is out of the way, we can talk about New Avengers #1.