elizabeth the brilliant

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liz x ressler 2x13 ‘the deer hunter’

“What is it? What?”
“Nothing.”
“Come on, Keen. What is it? I know you better than that.”

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This is brilliant

Secrets, Spies, and Leather: The Masterful Espionage of ‘Velvet’

When the world’s greatest spy is assassinated, it’s up to his secretary to avenge his death and bring his killers to justice. Except the world’s greatest spy is the “secretary” because, of course, the real World’s Greatest Spy isn’t the world famous secret agent, but the operative who has been hiding in plain sight for years while dismantling nefarious criminal syndicates or saving the planet from nuclear annihilation. This is Velvet Templeton, agent of ARC-7. 

Such is the premise for Ed Brubaker, Steve Epting, and Elizabeth Breitweiser’s brilliant, bloody, and beautiful Velvet, whose final story arc (for now) has recently been collected in a lovely trade paperback entitled The Man Who Stole the World. Velvet could almost be thought of as the last James Bond picture. As in, James Bond dies and Moneypenny, who turns out to be an even better spy than James, goes off on her own violent and sexy adventure to avenge him. Obviously, such a premise could never happen on screen (or in comics due to copyright laws… existing) but the world of spy fiction does not stop with the legendary screen icon that is Bond. From Cold War thrillers to pulp novels to classic films like The Third Man or The 39 Steps, well-told spy stories permeate fiction and imbue it with excitement and style. 

That style has never been more remarkable than in the pages of Velvet. Of course Bond has his own signature style that has been a joy to behold for decades. But the best design and artistic choices in Bond films have not just been the great outfits or cool cars (it’s hard to make a tuxedo-clad Sean Connery driving an Aston Martin look bad). Rather, it was the production design contributions by visionaries like Ken Adam who, with his art, turned drab offices or interrogation rooms into screen iconography. Incidentally, it was Ken Adam who designed the shadowy War Room in the classic Dr. Strangelove. In the early Bond films, Adam was a master of accomplishing a great deal with very little. So does The Third Man, turning the sewers of Vienna into a labyrinthine living metaphor for the shadowy world of spycraft and the black market, as well as gorgeous cinema in its own right. The visuals of Velvet work the same astonishing miracle, transforming Cold War office buildings, parking garages, and the beiges and browns of 1970s fashion into breathtakingly beautiful art.  

The partnership of artist Steve Epting and colorist Elizabeth Breitweiser, as seen in the above image, recreate 1970s Time Square (an unclean den of iniquity if there ever was one) into a glowing monument to car chases, nights in the city, and the unpredictable thrill of life as a spy. This sort of magic is summoned all throughout the series, as the events of the story (gracefully scripted by Ed Brubaker) are anything but magical or romantic. Trust is betrayed, hopes are dashed, and years-long friendships are destroyed amid broken bones and bullets, yet the art is so beautiful that the world is one the reader can’t help but want to spend time in. This sort of push-and-pull, the romance with both the aesthetic beauty and the ugliness of the action and setting, is one of the most singular aspects of Velvet. While Soviet Bloc architecture has never seemed more enchanting than when rendered by Epting and Breitweiser, the events that take place in those buildings are rife with piles of dead men and secrets. A wonderful setting for a story but not a pleasant place to physically spend time in.

The story itself is a suitably serpentine tale of backstabbing spycraft, with Brubaker’s plotting and second-to-none character development consistently engaging throughout. Many of the antagonists are current or former ARC-7 agents themselves, trying to do their job the best way they know how in the face of their superiors telling them Velvet, a much better agent than any of them, is a traitor (which she, of course, is not). Many of them are not any more or less virtuous than the KGB goons or ex-agents Velvet encounters. The most reprehensible actors are often Velvet’s superiors, people in charge of her safety and the security of her identity as a secret agent. This makes Velvet a woman apart from the world, unable to rely on her agency’s resources for help, and totally exposed to the perils of being a spy “out in the cold.” Even allies she enlists to help her are not really allies, more like people with the skill set she requires at that particular moment, people she happens to share common enemies with. These alliances are most interesting when they are particularly painful for Velvet, as sometimes she does have a shared history with these individuals, which comes with camaraderie and even affection. The world Brubaker builds is one in which spies can’t trust anyone, live a life devoid of roots, where they know by heart the time it takes to get from London’s Heathrow Airport to, say, a covert airfield in Prague via a land route that would eschew monitoring from any intelligence agencies. When such a person is presented with what, under any normal circumstances, would be a genuine relationship but could never be so because of the perpetual mistrust inherent in spycraft, the reader feels for the tragedy of that life. For Velvet to be so resourceful, to be cognizant of the world around her both in its grandest movements and in the most minute detail, yet unable to protect those she loves (or perhaps could love in the future), makes her a remarkably compelling character. Along the way she kicks bad guys in the face in leather catsuits and crashes cars and makes bureaucratic blowhards grit their teeth in blood-red rage, but these moments are all the more impactful because the reader roots for her to win so hard

But is it worth jumping in now that the series has come to a potential end point? Enthusiastically, yes. I am such a Brubaker/Epting/Breitweiser fan that I could not resist picking up Velvet issue by issue (frequently re-reading past issues to immerse myself back into the gorgeously cold Cold War story), but now readers have the opportunity to read the entire story at their leisure. With the final story arc, The Man Who Stole the World, the series comes to as satisfying and thrilling conclusion as readers could ever ask for. Even with all the blood, explosions, and existential angst Velvet contained in its 15-issue run, it ends on what might be the most optimistic note Ed Brubaker has ever written for a series conclusion. It’s exciting, fun, beautiful, and with believable characters who communicate in terse spy-speak so effortlessly cool, it’s impossible not to smile while reading. Any fans of spy fiction, Ed Brubaker, Cold War stories, or interesting comics in general owes it to themselves to read this comic. 

  • Elizabeth and Iain: *are brilliant; steal every scene they're in*
  • Fans: Give Elizabeth and Iain more scenes, they're brilliant!
  • Critics: Give Elizabeth and Iain more scenes time, they're brilliant!
  • Literally everyone: Give Elizabeth and Iain more scenes time, they're brilliant!
  • AoS writers: *do not give Elizabeth and Iain more scenes*
  • Elizabeth and Iain: *continue to be brilliant anyway*
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get to know me → favorite movies: [1/5] pride & prejudice, 2005.

You must know… surely, you must know it was all for you. You are too generous to trifle with me… If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes have not changed, but one word from you will silence me forever. If, however, your feelings have changed, I will have to tell you: you have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.

I just love how red is like this super mysterious, gun wielding, sassy, murderous criminal and yet has such a love for fine arts. He’s always admiring a painting, or playing chess in the park, even watching swan lake at the ballet theatre where his daughter used to dance. I just love the fact that he has that soft, classy side to him. It makes me think of what he said to sam about lizzy, about her being “soft and hard, and then soft again”. Because red is the opposite. He’s hard and soft, then hard again. And I think that aspect of red and lizzy is what makes their chemistry so magnetic. Because the do have common ground with eachother. They both have vulnerabilities, but at different times and that’s how they are able to depend so strongly on each other. It’s a brilliant dynamic, absolutely magical for the show.

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MCU Ladies Week

[Day 4-Actor Appreciation]-Ming-Na Wen, Chloe Bennet, Elizabeth Henstridge and Adrianne Palicki

Agents of SHIELD is my favourite show, and I genuinely want to thank these four amazing women for bringing their incredible characters to life for us. For me at least, one of the greatest aspects of this show are the great women. Melinda May, Daisy Johnson, Jemma Simmons and Bobbi Morse really make this show and it’s great to see so many complex female characters on the same show who also work together so well. I live for the scenes where they kick butt together, whether as a group, or even just in pairs or individually. The relationships between these women are so beautiful and I truly hope that the writers give us more scenes between them, especially group scenes with the four of them.

Ming-Na, Chloe, Elizabeth and Adrianne are brilliant actors and bring so much to their roles that allows these characters to be so loved by the audience. I really appreciate all of their efforts to create their characters who are really inspirational women. I can say from having met both Ming-Na and Elizabeth that they are very kind, intelligent and beautiful women and great to their fans, and I’m sure those who have met Chloe and Adrianne would say the same. Here’s to these amazing women for giving us four characters that we can relate to and love!

Jack Bender about Elizabeth Mitchell’s performance in “The Incident”: Actors have a really hard job, which they make look easy, which is recreating life, and making you believe it’s real, and that’s not easy.

And we were doing the scene where Elizabeth Mitchell, her character, towards the end of the show, where Sawyer is holding onto her, and the tower collapsed. And she got sucked down into an underground kind of hatch, and died. It was the death of her character. And I had shot everything towards Elizabeth, and she was brilliant.

Full interview