by Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Jorge Jimenez’s ‘Young Justice’ variant to Erica Henderson’s conquering ‘Red Sonja’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Martian Mahunter #2 by Joshua Middleton. (DC)
MR: Joshua Middleton’s been going for the Alex Ross approach to illustration, injecting a bit of the drama and detail of classical painting into his classic superhero subject. Amazing stuff in itself, though none of it has impressed me quite as much as this. It may just be personal proclivities. I just can’t pass up a intricately rendered portrait of excruciating physical pain, especially when it’s related to alien physiology.
With the deftness of a 1950’s sci-fi paperback cover, this portrait of Mr. Manhunter fills you in on the gross-out biological approach which Steve Orlando and Riley Rossmo are taking with this title. It truly is a perfect introduction, though you may feel bad for J’onn J’onzz. Don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll make it through somehow.
Young Justice #1 by Jorge Jimenez. (DC)
JJ: To many, he’s Conner Kent. To me, he’ll always be Superbo—wait, he’s still cool with being called that, right?
So where’s ol’ Conner been all these years? A place called none of your business. It’s enough to know he’s back, rocking the leather in the pages of Wonder Comics’ Young Justice, where presumably the details concerning his strange rebirth will be revealed before long. His debut variant cover, then, shouldn’t focus on the awe-inspiring, possibly Convergence-related resurrection, but instead on the energy, style and cool the character has always held in spades.
So Jorge Jimenez decides to have fun with his YJ variant. Smart move. Superboy swaggers in his newly designed duds, just enough 90s retro to send old boys like me swooning. Looks like the woman on the cover feels the same way; she’s going another way, with another fella, but she appreciates all the qualified braggadocio going in the opposite direction. Superboy repays the acknowledgement in kind, lowering his Lennon shades in a display of nigh-comical self-confidence rarely seen outside a Mentos commercial. And if this were that, odds are the protesting square with her is mere seconds away from walking right into that stoplight. This rules.
Red Sonja #25 by Erica Henderson. (Dynamite)
AOK: Can we fly straight past the obviously brilliant play on fantasy tropes here, having the Queen on her throne, sword in hand, Nick Lowe avec buffalo shot in tow, subverting classic imagery and paying homage to it at the same time? It’s perfect, it’s better than we deserve. Sonja’s come-hither-and-be-dismembered look of sultry disdain is one for the ages.
But so are the colors.
This piece is otherworldly spumone. One light source is lemonade, the other is azure skies projected nearly neon. See the surface of a sword as the dance between the two unlikeliest colors to escape a birthday cake and grace a pulp piece.
In the middle is coral strawberry. Red Sonja isn’t a person so much as what you’d find in the center of a rare geode, polished into something precious and priceless. Sonja is sunburn, sunshine, and tropical waters, sass and power and grace.
In a word, exalted. Everything I love about comics, from wit to bold yet delicate line art to a truly remarkable use of color is present here in full effect.
The Unexpected #8 by Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn (DC)
CH: If you must go, you could do worse than having a Bad Samaritan mashup of Keith Richards, Richard Petty, and the Eye of Sauron menacing Hawkman on your cover. The final issue of The Unexpected solidifies Alden Quench as the bad guy to beat. Renfield to a Bigger Bad cosmic vampire perhaps, but a worthy antagonist for our heroes on their multi-universal road trip all by his lonesome.
He’s just creepy. Maybe it’s those conflicting mashup components, but if you’ve followed the series you know Bad Samaritan’s sinister freak isn’t only skin deep. He’s bad to the bone. His skeleton’s probably also bad, laced with ossified concentrated evil from Time Bandits. Steve Orlando likened him to a DCU Randall Flagg, and artists Yanick Paquette and Nathan Fairbairn have created a lasting vision of Quench at his worst and most powerful for the finale cover. Every ornamentation of his ringed fingers gleams in stark detail while he sadistically delights at mining a trapped Hawkman for his Nth metal.
It’s difficult to say where or when members of the Unexpected will surface in future DC tales. But Quench’s portrayal in the series, including images like this one, suggests that like a bad penny, he’ll turn up sooner than later.
The Green Lantern #3 by Liam Sharp and Steve Oliff. (DC)
JJ: You got to love Grant Morrison. I don’t think another writer in DC’s payroll would quite get away with the “cop of the cosmos questions the Creator” angle. It’s just another reason why The Green Lantern is one of the more indelible ongoings you should be reading right now. It’s weird, it’s daring, it’s utterly goofy, and I love it.
Oh yeah, and here comes God. Well, there’s certainly a version of the deity on the cover of one of DC’s most high-profile books, now isn’t there. And it appears he’s found himself in a spot of trouble with the space coppers. Liam Sharp’s stunning, European sci-fi work makes TGL stand out from the character’s storied runs of years past with weirdo alien designs and stretched-to-credible-limits humanoid limbs and torsos. For his big-time crack at drawing the G-O-D, Sharp delves into his mythological roots and comes up with the ultimate shorthand for theological visual catch-all. And his version of the Big Guy Upstairs doesn’t look too happy to be here.
Check the (celestial) body language: the shepherd has set aside his crook to address the small, bleating member of his flock. Whatever brought Hal Jordan, Green Lantern, to the Pearly Gates must be a real whopper, because this act of defiance ain’t gonna score points with Saint Peter, no sir. You want the keys to the Kingdom, you daren’t demand of your Creator. Yet Hal Jordan dares. (He does that.) There’s no way I didn’t buy this issue just for the cover. I wonder what my dear, devout, departed grandma would have made of this.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below.