by Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, Rachel Acheampong and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Kyle Hotz’s Wrightsonesque cover to ‘The Scream & Misty Special’ to Vanesa Del Rey’s variant for ‘Ice Cream Man’ #8, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Scream & Misty Special by Kyle Hotz. (2000 AD, Rebellion)
CH: The Ghost of Bernie Wrightson drifts about us during the Hallowe’en season. We’re reminded of his legacy, of his mastery of comics medium macabre. The jack o’ lanterns burn a bit less brightly for his absence. While many continue the tradition of spooky seasonal stories and covers, they aren’t him. Nor should they be, instead brilliantly channeling their nightmarish visions in their own unique ways. I just miss my friend; we never met, but we shared many great scary seasons.
So I was primed to adore the Kyle Hotz cover for Rebellion’s Scream & Misty Special, which uncannily channels the Wrightson mystique. The book is an anthology follow-up to the first edition which premiered last year to much acclaim. Breathless entreaties like, “Make this an ongoing series, not just an annual!”. Mixing the nostalgic with a definite 2000 AD approach, the book’s soul seems ideal for wrapping in Hotz’s shroud.
Both hosts, Ghastly McNasty and Misty, bar the way of wayward innocents who’ve wandered into a grisly boneyard glen. Of course, we can’t actually see the cherubic Hansel and Gretel visages, so they could be part of the undead populace and the dread duo their afterlife Welcome Wagon. There’s a li’l croc in the clinch after all, scaly or plush, so all bets are off.
The skeletal fields dotted with death-capped mushrooms are an especially Wrightsonesque detail, as are the youngsters swept into unearthly peril. Hotz’s cover phantasm brought visions of House of Mystery #217 swirling like autumn leaves through my mind to bestow a carved pumpkin grin. Peerless preparation for facing the Eve of All Saints.
Hex Wives #1 by Jenny Frison. (DC Vertigo)
BFH: As the sun rises on this year’s Halloween, suburbia is once again alight with the possibility for tricks and treats in equal measure. The mayhem of Devil’s Night has passed, and now mothers and housewives prepare for All-Hallow’s Eve and the ghoulish delights that go with it. What better time for DC Vertigo to release Hex Wives, and what better costume for it than this stunning Jenny Frison cover?
Frison’s cover is a great summation of not just the series overall, but of Halloween, as well. The specifics of the suburban setting, specifically realized here in an idealized 1950s style, are very homey and familiar. But the demonic glint in the housewife’s eye, and the hellfire visible through the window, remind us both of the true witchy nature of this woman and the demonic potential of the season, even in this most-domesticated of settings.
Frison further highlights this contrast with the classic blue-and-orange (almost yellow in this case) color contrast, used much better here than on most Hollywood movie posters. Frison has gone with almost sickly-looking shades of both colors, which allows both to blend together enough to avoid looking garish while still being striking. It’s a careful and composed choice that drives home the excitingly-reckless demonology that lies at the heart of Hex Wives… and, of course, Halloween itself.
Ice Cream Man #8 by Vanesa Del Rey. (Image Comics)
JJ: Vanesa Del Rey has just the thing to fuel your nightmares: A creep-in-a-box, ready to delight with a delicious dairy treat just before that jaw of theirs unlocks and sinks its fangs into your skull, your eye socket, your nostrils. An Auguste face, maybe, but its intentions are strictly Pennywise. And all its heinous elements will unite in your dreams tonight, a sugary blend of REM nitroglycerin.
It gets worse–or better, depending on your tastes. The outfit of this hell-borne Clarabell only barely obscures its sickly reptilian hide. Look close. Don’t flinch. That’s not a glove gripping that waffle cone. And that pea-soup tunic has a rip at its shoulder, revealing a hideous pallor which Del Rey viciously hides in plain sight. Why is this person sitting in that crate? you may be asking. You have bigger problems at the moment.
Which brings us to the skull cap. *gulp*
The face of this… clown… hides underneath a red honker and a skull cap, though there likely isn’t a pompadour hiding underneath. The rubber flesh seems almost too authentic, doesn’t it? As though it were still warm with what little blood remains in the dermis, perhaps? It’s not such a leap in logic that it this cap was once the freshly-shaven dome of a now-very-much-deceased professional clown. And if that’s the case, it appears to have been removed from the presumably still-warm body with far more care than that tunic I just mentioned. If you were expecting a surprise, you have one, courtesy of Vanesa Del Rey and the villainous creators behind the finest horror anthology series we have today, Ice Cream Man.
Heroes in Crisis #2 by Clay Mann & Tomeu Morey. (DC)
RA: In Heroes in Crisis, a new threat rises to meet the heroes of the DC Universe, one some of us grapple with in our actual lives: PTSD. When we don’t feel like ourselves, we rush to correct the distress, so why should heroes be any different? Enter Sanctuary, a super-secret getaway in the middle of nowhere meant for those who have been affected by the traumas of crime-fighting and galactic wars. Something goes awry and leaves many of its patients dead — multiple suspects, no witnesses. With all the heroes (and villains) populating this new event series, for its latest cover, illustrators Clay Mann and Tomeu Morey center on two characters who appear to have nothing left in the aftermath but hurt feelings, which will assuredly lead to even more bruised bodies in the issues to come.
The black backdrop, acting as a widening crevasse in the universe, is a suitable battlefield for the two DC giants illustrated on this cover. Harley Quinn, decked out in her original red-and-black outfit (more Harley in this and never redesign the costume again, please, it’s perfect!), strikes a power stance with her boot placed firmly on the neck of a defiant Batman. His grimace is rough, fierce. We are meant to feel the pain in Batman’s struggle to get back on his feet. Only there’s one more element in this image to consider.
What’s the best way to get someone to talk, even a cagey motherfucker like the Dark Knight? That’s right: The Lasso of Truth. The lasso shines at the cover’s center in a way that accentuates Harley’s dominance in this piece. How did Harley Quinn manage to harness its power? How could Batman let somebody do this to him? By the glow of that mighty lasso, Harley wants answers and we do, too. In a hideout for heroes she’s not likely hanging out at Sanctuary for therapy, and her presence will only complicate things further. In the face (to the ground) of insurmountable odds, it doesn’t look like Batman’s investigation is off to a good start.
Doom Patrol #12 by Nick Derington. (DC’s Young Animal)
CH: Online moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look more closely once in a while, you could miss some great parody. How many times I clicked past the Nick Derington cover for Doom Patrol #12 while thinking, “Huh, someone’s packaging new gaming modules based on old D&D templates,” I’m unsure. Let that be a testament to how well he captured the appearance and spirit of those bygone adventures. And improved on the earlier ones; The Keep on the Borderlands‘ got nothing on him.
He doesn’t scrimp on the details, either. Note the folder stress mark along the lower left edge, bane of all DMs mauling the cover to get at vital game stats amid mad combat encounters. There are other common mars across the surface, from shuffling the softcover module between those hardback DM Guides and Players Handbooks. Small watermarks of impromptu soda nose geysers erupted by particularly pithy player comments.
As for the intrepid party of dungeon delvers, the Reynolds family is ready to repel any horrors of the Daemonscape. A Mage of the High Top Order backed by his Amazon and Ranger parents has nothing to fear from the possessed Sciuridae men call Agantha! Loose confederations of Chaotic Greedy, Lawful Silly, and Neutral As Switzerland characters cross dimensional planes and complete quests in RPG sessions across the globe. This offbeat nuclear family can certainly conquer their own Tomb of Horrors.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below. Best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!