by Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, Mickey Rivera, Rachel Acheampong and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Katie Skelly’s ‘Euthanauts’ variant to Karl Kerschl’s dizzying take on ‘The Flash’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Fantastic Four #3 by Esad Ribić. (Marvel)
BH: The Four have never just been The Four.
While Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben will always be the first and the most Fantastic, going back to their earliest days they have always welcomed others into their family. From Reed and Sue’s own children to their beloved friends and allies, Marvel’s First Family has always affirmed the idea that family is not just built with blood relations. This under-sung but essential component of the Fantastic Four is homaged to simple, gorgeous effect by the uber-talented Esad Ribić with this cover to Fantastic Four #3. The composition of the group, with the Four and their kids at the center of this galaxy of allies, drives this home quite nicely.
There is strength radiating from this collection of heroes, many of them looking directly at the reader. It isn’t a challenge in their collective gaze though, rather a determination to stand against whatever dangers the world might face. And yet the characters don’t feel too big in this moment, as they are scaled and framed in such a way that they still feel human (even the Hulk is seen in a moment of rare repose). It’s a cover that cues up stirring hero music in one’s subconscious, as Ribić summarizes the late Stan Lee’s particular brand of epic humanism in one clear image.
Friendo #2 by Martin Simmonds. (Vault Comics)
CH: Fiction or omen? Been a while since you dived into a read with a future fifteen minutes from now, so on point and real that its inevitability stunned you? Friendo’s first issue intimated it, but the second issue cements it, starting with the Martin Simmonds cover. His style, just like the narrative, has that half-step-past-real quality to it. And here Simmonds uses it to showcase the tempting, idealized world of the all-consumer, all-consuming app. This particular application examines your personal history, then composes a perfect viral wingman to suggest purchases and services to which you’re most susceptible.
Our protagonist Leo subscribed last issue, and the cover shows his e-buddy, Jerry, parading all the consumables, baubles, and chic-ery Leo never knew he needed. Smug and assuring, Jerry’s the icon of idolatry. The poster avatar for capitalism. A pixeled fetch of free enterprise. Even his shirt affirms the bridge he represents, uniting Utopia and the horn of plenty. More makes your life better, self-love is all you need. And if you recoil from rebranding the Lennon-McCartney lyrics, you can buy the original. (“All You Need Is Love”, the Beatles, new and used from $2.99 to $14.99, available online at Amazin’ Music, Bard None, or Digi-Shop. Enter account number now.)
It’s not easy talking a custom-made friend out of peddling everything on your want list. A list virtually at Jerry’s fingertips in this cover art. Gratification has never been so instant. Corporate greed has never been more insidious. Maximum profits are just one glitch away.
Euthanauts #4 by Katie Skelly. (Black Crown/IDW Publishing)
MR: As the cold weather approaches, scenes such as the one on the cover of Euthanauts #4 become more and more enticing. Cover Artist Katie Skelly has worked with Alex de Campi on Image Comics’ Twisted Romance, and besides that has been featured in indie anthologies Youth in Decline and Retrofit. She also has regular comic strips running on the sex-positive feminist blog Slutist, and other works that any self-respecting lover of adult cartooning should check out.
Skelly’s style typically incorporates the trademark youthful cartooning you see here with the narrative sensibilities of a blissfully stoned and thirsty queer teenage girl. On the surface this is a strange choice for Euthanauts, Tini Howard’s hyper-charged death magick tale. But this team of after-life explorers and breezy scientists of mortality have an understanding of life that can only be attained with a clearer-than-usual understanding of death. They chill hard because death is hard, and lonely, but also universal. The only way to approach their line of work is to live life fully in the moment, always aware that they stand, with the rest of humanity, temporarily perched between two eternities, destined to fall eventually.
The Uncanny X-Men #1 by Cliff Chiang. (Marvel)
RA: There have been no shortage of X-titles coming from Marvel in recent years, but one title in particular has gone missing for long enough. The flagship Uncanny X-Men is making its return after a two and a half year absence with a ten-part weekly storyline, and to celebrate Marvel has released several variant covers by as many phenomenal artists. Which brings us to the nigh-legendary Cliff Chiang, who skillfully provides a retro design that captures the timeless essence of the “Children of the Atom.”
Chiang focuses on the good old days. Katherine “Kitty” Pryde phases through the ruined shell of a Sentinel, emerging from her vanquished mechanical foe victorious. Her extra-terrestrial dragon Lockheed flits around overhead, waiting in the wings to strike. Colossus has decided to take it upon himself to detach the overrated laundry device from its shoulders, using his carbon steel arms to lift the fragmented head above him while Nightcrawler gleefully squats overhead.
In black leather top, vest and pants, “punk” Storm sleekly hovers high above, her white mohawk swirling. Ororo looks on with a slight smirk of approval. In her olive greens Rogue flies in for a piece, while Wolverine leaps on top of what remains and viciously slashes at the Sentinel’s sparking circuits inside. Now it’s a washing machine. And behind them, the New Mutants look on in wonder, taking notes. Much like myself, Chiang has a clear affection for this particular era of Uncanny X-Men. By showing off his love for this complex group of superheroes, he’s illustrated a cover that’s one for the ages.
The Flash #58 by Karl Kerschl. (DC)
JJ: Run, Barry, run. Karl Kerschl’s variant to The Flash #58 belongs in a museum. The Flash Museum, MoMA, wherever eyes go for fun, on this plane of reality or the next. Silver Age iconography that drifts towards Pop Art and back and beyond. If Joshua Williamson has an office at DC HQ, this is going to be plastered all over his door. If it isn’t already.
It runs circles. Around Crises, around Mirror Masters, around you, around me. From Central City to the Justice League watchtower, through the clutches of Gorilla Grodd and into the arms of Iris West. Without once leaving your gaze. How could so much movement be? The Flash knows. Karl Kerschl remembered. And now there’s this beautiful thing, setting our hearts to a rapid beat, keeping time with the Fastest Man Alive. Run.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below.