by Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon and Rachel Acheampong. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Ramon Villalobos & Tamra Bonvillain’s ‘Border Town’ to Jenny Frison’s ‘X-Men Red’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Iceman #3 by W. Scott Forbes (Marvel)
CH: If Miz Lion makes an appearance inside this issue, the nostalgia magic will be complete. She is a Pet Avenger, after all. Unless you count their heart-breaking Spider-Verse nod in Spider-Man #7 (2014), it’s been close to a decade since Spider-Man reunited with his amazing friends Firestar and Iceman in a comic book appearance. It’s also near the 35th anniversary of the animated show’s demise, November 5, 1983.
For our inner fankid, there’s a lot to adore about the W. Scott Forbes cover for Iceman #3. Forbes lends a certain translucent quality to his paintings, an illusion as if the scene’s been shot through a slightly frosted camera lens. It’s present in other compositions, but it’s especially apt for the covers of this series. Even with that gentle riming, the colors in Spider-Man’s uniform and Firestar’s fiery silhouette still pop. The poses and expressions of each character are perfect for buddies with mutant and radioactive arachnid powers just hanging out together, on the trail of adventure and whatever fun comes their way. Or just sharing a churro.
Border Town #3 by Ramon Villalobos and Tamra Bonvillain. (DC Vertigo)
AOK: What is Border Town? Sassy teenagers at the heart of a supernatural war. You can see this.
Ripped Pre-Columbian warriors battle spike-tongued skeletons. Rendered in bubblegum and chalk on lavender, a textural backdrop for teen fashion attitude. Their body language, the jacket thrown off a shoulder, little details on a belt, of zipper, fingers that tousle hair, vague brush of color in knee and lip. A slice of rebellion perfection. Eyebrows arched as if to say, yes, war, and what are you going to do about it? Then a muted explosion of detail buried in the background. The complexity of a skeleton is easy to overlook, so zoom in.
This is Villalobos and Bonvillain working hand in glove. From a distance, Border Town pops. Up close, a world of finery is revealed. Even closer, things like the texture of leather jacket, the delicacy of bones, a million little pieces shine to prop up the whole. Color really makes it, sinking the background details without losing them. A border of color exists between youth and ancients as palatably as the border of the front line of combat between man and cryptid. The smoothness of skin and the wrinkles, dapples, imperfection of an outfit, is Bonvillain coloring on Goddess tier. She does big ideas, she does little realities, which coalesces and plays off of the exquisite linework of Villalobos.
It’s a mood. It’s a message. It’s a battlefield and I am here for it.
The Immortal Hulk #8 by Alex Ross. (Marvel)
BFH: When you consider the legend that is Alex Ross, one word that doesn’t often come to mind is “spooky.” His austere, classical style and big-picture framing, while incredibly well-suited to the grand spectacle of superheroes, isn’t what you think of when you’re trying to conjure images of horror and dread in your head. But lest you think that isn’t something that he is capable of, his cover contributions to The Immortal Hulk are here to disabuse you of that notion, and none more so than this week’s cover to issue #8.
In this context, Ross’ style suddenly evokes old-school horror movie posters; you could imagine a 1930s Hulk movie starring Lon Chaney being advertised with imagery such as this. The moody-but-not-too-dark shadows, the unnatural glow of the various jars, and the uncanny aesthetic that Ross usually brings to his characters all combine into one unsettling, creepy piece of art. What’s more, Ross is still able to evoke the classic tragedy of the Hulk here. The anguish clearly visible in Hulk’s snarling mouth and his almost zombie-like gaze is classic Bruce Banner, and bridges the gap between the tragedy of his past and the horror of his present.
The Wrong Earth #3 by Jamal Igle. (Ahoy Comics)
CH: A second fiddle gets the chance to lead her section on the Jamal Igle cover of Ahoy Comics’ The Wrong Earth #3. What? Ya say you havn’t been reading that title? Rectify that situation. ‘Cause the saga of transplanted heroes and villains from parallel, very different Earths is clocking the brilliance meter. How would a Silver Age hero fare in a dark and gritty modern urban comic setting? And vice versa, without mocking either? It’s a fine but fun (even funny) line that Tom Peyer’s writing chops have turned into one of my favorite monthly reads.
When egocentric villain Number One gets swapped for his multiverse doppelganger, it leaves his Earth-Alpha main minion Deuce heading up the gang. Might not be the best time, with the anti-hero Dragonfly now administering his brand of harsh justice in Fortune City, but we applaud her ambition. We also wonder if she’s taken the supervillain name upgrade to ‘Number Two’; no one on Alpha would perceive it as a messy moniker to be avoided.
The artwork from dual worlds that Igle brings to the interiors matches Peyer’s tone for the series. Here he’s struck Deuce a saucy, assured pose, intimating she’s now calling the shots. The henchmen behind her are armed and on board, too. Their satisfied but hardboiled expressions reflect harmony in not working for a rampaging narcissist. Maybe they have better vision and dental plans with Deuce. They might need the extra coverage when they encounter Dragonfly instead of the ethical Dragonflyman they’re used to. Or term life insurance.
X-Men Red #10 by Jenny Frison. (Marvel)
RA: Jenny Frison’s covers for the ongoing X-Men Red series feel as realistic as the danger this team of mutants often confronts. Following the aftermath of the showdown between Jean Grey and Cassandra Nova, the nefarious twin of Grey’s mentor, all bets are off and hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It’s all-mutants-on-deck as hate builds against them, but the First Lady of the X-Men is prepared for a showdown like no other.
Frison maintains clean tones in her colors with sharp pink, which wraps around Jean as an extension of her telekinetic aura. Currents of energy sway her bright red hair. It draws you in towards her presence, propelling you into her radiant eyes. The woman in front of you stares back with no intention of moving. This fierce founding member of the X-Men has already been through a vicious cycle of cosmic death and resurrection; she is no longer with the bullshit and has had enough of the games.
Even with the darkness closing in, Jean supplies the radiance, letting the world know that bigotry and hate will be met with a most forceful opposition. Don’t worry; she keeps total telekinetic control in the palm of her hands. Jean Grey is intent on creating a mutant nation and she won’t let anyone stand in her way. X-Men Red #10 will be a defining issue for Jean and the team, all of whom have already been tested by Nova. No more. With her confidence, empathy, and strength embodied on this one cover, Jean Grey is the X factor.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below. Best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!