by Stefania Rudd, Clyde Hall, Rachel Acheampong and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Artgerm’s staggering variant to ‘Catwoman’ #4 to Rahzzah’s MCU-infused cover to ‘Exiles’ #9, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Catwoman #4 by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau. (DC)
RA: DC has been killing it with their variants of late. Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, especially, has executed stunning lifelike variants for Joëlle Jones’ Catwoman, and this month he’s showing the spirit of the season with a masquerade theme. The cover for Catwoman #4 is gorgeous and the frequently called-upon Artgerm brings Selina Kyle to life once again for the Halloween festivities.
Selina has been locked in battle with the Creel family and Villa Hermosa is not Gotham City. To understand Selina’s current plight it is important to understand where she has been. The mask covering her face is symbolic of her mysterious past and this cover holds evidence of what we know so far. Artgerm hides all of it in plain sight. Among the most prominent are the bat image in the mask and the cat pictured on her glove. The black top has a fur strap reminiscent of Penguin, as well. Other hints may be a bit harder to find. Around the eye of the mask are tears that lead us towards a broken heart. The necklace is a whip. A tail.
I am in love with how Artgerm was able to incorporate the engagement ring into the necklace. (I would not have expected her to return it.) Her fingers press against her chest, leaving behind twin scratch marks. This could be seen as the pain she inflicted on herself by leaving Bruce, but I also see the constant pain she’s had to endure in her personal life. It’s a fitting cover for a character who’s experiencing a moment of reflection, both on her life and all the moments that have led her to this point. In time her mask may begin to slip, revealing more of the woman she is. But for now, it’s artistic bliss.
Exiles #9 by Rahzzah. (Marvel)
CH: The regular cover for Exiles #9 is an enchanting nod to the beginning of an Arabian Nights arc with a fantasy romp ethos. (Who can resist Li’l Wolvie setting claws for a barreling magic carpet ride?) But the variant from artist Rahzzah casts its own wooing brand of witchery.
It’s a personal encounter with Valkyrie and steed from the reader’s close-up POV, and surely the last site beheld by scores of vanquished foes. She exhibits a full Asgardian “I say thee nay!” air of self-assurance. And Aragorn is in no mood to be trifled with, either.
The background layer of composition uses the glaring sun above Valkyrie’s shoulder and the distant dunes with camel silhouettes to establish setting. Midground is in full focus, with the shield-maiden bearing down while selecting which pinion point of your anatomy Dragonfang is about to be sheathed in. With that expression, with the calm but impaling gaze, Rahzzah captures a warrior as comfortable as she is proficient in her havoc-slipping work. The foreground is the winged steed in full tilt and blurred by proximity to the viewer. The end result is a very fine suggestion of feathery upswept appendage, and lavish in equine lines of poll, forehead, and muzzle.
The merged imagery becomes a character study for this iteration of Valkyrie. Pluck her from her own dimension, carry her across cosmic battlegrounds, set her anywhere in the multiverse where fighting rages. Still, she is at home.
Superman #4 by Adam Hughes. (DC)
SR: In the opening sequence of the 1950s television show Adventures of Superman, announcer Bill Kennedy exclaims, “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!” and that is exactly where my mind went as soon as I laid eyes on Adam Hughes’ variant cover for Superman #4.
So often do we see images that capture Superman’s speed, strength, and flying ability… but the leaping? We don’t see the leaping so much. Superman in Hughes’ cover bounces high above the clouds, minimized in comparison to the city below. I love that Hughes emphasizes Metropolis as the focal point, specifically the Daily Planet building. It looks so beautiful as the morning sun rises, its beams shining. This variant gives the impression that Superman is starting off his day with some “me time” by checking out the city, using his agility to go from building to building as only he can… and maybe having some fun with it.
Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City #2 by Dave Palumbo. (Dark Horse Comics)
CH: The hardboiled, hapless, everyday mook who confronts the supernatural with humor and chutzpah holds a special place in the hearts of noir fans. For them, a sinister double-tap of The Dresden Files & The Kolchak Papers may have served as a gateway. Their rumpled heroes are too smart for their own good by half, not nearly as powerful as their eldritch opponents, given to wisecracking in the face of evisceration. What’s not to love?
Artist Dave Palumbo serves up a Halloween-worthy painted cover for issue #2 of Dark Horse Comics’ Joe Golem: Occult Detective – The Drowning City. His Joe Golem is a worthy addition to the ranks of those headstrong gumshoes and reporters who won’t fold their hand against demon overlords or ancient vampires just because the odds are long and the stakes high. Those heroes are more interested in doing the right thing. Doing it to death, if necessary.
Palumbo uses one of his most effective recurring motifs here, the ‘hands from shadows’ which are closing on hapless Joe from watery depths. In this pulpy alternate reality, denizens of the submerged portions of New York may be drowned but they aren’t out. The insistent tug of those pruned, dead fingers displays through the sharp creases and folds of the detective’s wrenched trench coat.
Even the murky background isn’t completely devoid of detail. Palumbo keeps his brushstrokes thick enough to retain hinted shapes and definition. That’s how he uses our own imaginations to fathom ominous Things burbling through the malodorous waters to converge on Joe. This artist knows that suspense comes from not seeing what’s coming to get us.
Wonder Woman #56 by Jenny Frison. (DC)
JJ: With eyes burning violet embers into our very beings comes Jenny Frison’s variant for Wonder Woman #56. What cruel black magic could be powerful enough to take Princess Diana, I’m sure I don’t want to know. The end result is unnerving enough to flick on an extra lamp, maybe two, just to make sure the corners of my home don’t obscure some baleful creature lying in wait before moving in for the kill.
Speaking of which, Frison slays once more. The warmth and vitality of her Wonder Woman has devolved into a pitiless, hateful thing. Her raven locks have become inky strings, the marbled porcelain of her face framed by onryō malevolence. Even her standard, the red star of Paradise Island, has been profaned by the triple moon. Diana’s spirit, her fight, now owned by something else, lock, stock, and barrel. Or perhaps Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below. Best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!