Undercover, or: Five covers from this week that we won't live without

Undercover, or: Five covers from this week that we won’t live without

By Stefania RuddBrandy DykhuizenArpad Okay, Brad Sun, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. Each week, we single out the most striking covers that grace comic book stands and gush all over them.

Undercover: 'Over the Garden Wall' #17

Over the Garden Wall #17, by Kyle Smart. (BOOM! Studios/kaboom!)

SR: Kyle Smart’s variant cover for Over the Garden Wall #17 summarizes the relationship between half-brothers Wirt (at the piano) and Greg (on top of the piano) to a T. Jovial and carefree, Greg stands in a tah-dah pose as leaves fall around him. (There’s bluebird Beatrice, looking at him thinking, “Oh boy, what next?”) Of course Greg’s sidekick frog, Jason Funderburker, is along for whatever adventure the boys will soon embark on. There’s Wirt, hunched over a piano, playing a tune with a seriousness that very much defines his personality. All are bathed in sunlight through the trees in this quiet, hidden spot. The perspective of the scene gives us viewers a feeling that we have just stumbled upon them in our own travels through these woods. Will we be seen as friend or foe?

Undercover: 'Hi-Fi Fight Club' #1

Hi-Fi Fight Club #1, by Nina Vakeuva. (BOOM! Studios/BOOM! Box)

BSun: As is so often the case, the artistry is in the details. We may know the four girls on the cover of Hi-Fi Fight Club #1 from the familiar archetypes established in sitcoms and teen movies, but artist Nina Vakeuva makes sure they’re individuals too. Beyond their physical characteristics and personal style, each reacts to the implied camera in a unique and telling way.

The image is a literal snapshot, and though the characters are meticulously staged, their expressive faces and gestural poses make it easy to imagine this as a singular instant in time, immediately preceded and followed by motion and life. And then there are those details — the quirky imperfections, the folds in their clothing and the movement of their hair, and all those intriguing band-aids and battle scars shared by all but one. Her dazed expression, effortful pose, and even the color of her clothes tell us she’s completely unprepared for what’s to come. In a single illustration, Vakeuva tells us a lot about these girls… and makes us eager to know more.

Undercover: 'Nightwing: The New Order' #1

Nightwing: The New Order #1, by Paul Pope and Lovern Kindzierski. (DC Comics)

JJ: Whoever put the cobra with the escrima sticks into a corner is soon going to regret it. Dick Grayson: Robin, Batman, Nightwing. Proficient in all forms of ass-kickery. A tuchus to die for. You know him. You love him. In general, he’s legend. In the hands of virtuoso Paul Pope, he’s art.

Pope takes Nightwing out of his natural habitat — that being the neon-illuminated skies of some murky metropolis –and puts him on the ground. Where Dick is generally engaged in some majestic aerial ballet, Pope balls him into a coil. Prepared, calculating, ready. The detritus that surrounds him is about to be worn by the person (or, more likely, persons) who put him in that alley. Come to think of it, he’s looking right at us. Maybe we ought to get out of his way.

Undercover: 'Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks' #4

Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks #4, by Lauren Ys. (Image Comics)

AOK:  Lauren Ys is pretty much the perfect person to do a variant cover for Grrl Scouts: Magic Socks. Half the fun of the series is Jim Mahfood’s eclectic and specific character design, and while Ys honors it, she also brings a distinct personal touch that is something to behold. Ys is a Juxtapoz contributor, a painter and muralist, a fine artist who specializes in otherworldly portraits. The ribcage shirt, the eyeballs, the impeccable fashion, it’s Ys doing Ys. Her style is mystical, Tank Girl in its heyday, but cooler.

Daphne smoking a joint could stand alone on this cover and it would still kill me. Her death’s head moth crown is inspired. Her spitfire colored hair. But all the girls shine with style and magic. Rita’s suspenders and spray paint can, tooth gap, third eye, the one fingerless glove. Gwen’s riding crop and magic girl uniform — Sailor Void. Mahfood’s comic is rich with detail, but Ys gives the Scouts focus that elevates. Frame this.

Undercover: 'Underwinter' #6

Underwinter #6, by Ray Fawkes. (Image Comics)

BD: Ray Fawkes’ outlined and scratchy watercolors bring to mind bows furiously grating across strings – a Bartók-esque cacophony, a dance of tonality and the dead space between sound waves. He brings out the synesthete in all of us, as his brush strokes somehow make us hear the danse macabre of Underwinter’s ill-fated quartet.

The cover of the series’ final installment is brilliant. A woman’s body twists and whirls, presumably in agony, as bows jab at her core. Arced over her head is a sweeping, bloody fermata, holding the pose indefinitely and signaling the symphony’s frenzied end.

And that’s it! Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below.

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