by Molly Jane Kremer, Stefania Rudd, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Jen Bartel’s downright startling ‘Venom’ cover to Joëlle Jones’ latest from ‘Catwoman’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Marvel Tales: Venom #1 by Jen Bartel. (Marvel)
MJ: Marvel has revived Marvel Tales, a series that repackages and reprints a few classic Marvel comics for new readers, with this week’s feature character being—wait, Venom?
Oh no, how did I end up I doing a write-up for a Venom cover…? Ah, ok, now I see: cover duties belong to variant queen Jen Bartel.
The first Marvel Tales issue in a decade or three dropped two weeks ago and featured the Fantastic Four. Bartel gave Reed Richards the jawline we want, and Johnny Storm the booty-bump we need. Now she turns her eye to everyone’s favorite symbiote, Venom, with one of the hottest covers this week.
One of the most striking aspects of Bartel’s art is her bold coloring, often compared to that of 90’s Trapper Keeper stalwart Lisa Frank. While Venom still exudes the typical amount of scary in this cover (with the requisite gaping maw of sharpened teeth) he’s backlit by a bright neon pink that bleeds into a bright blue-red—and it’s definitely the same neon pink I went gaga for when I was eleven (possibly/probably when I owned a Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper or two).
Bartel’s isn’t necessarily the first name you’d think of when listing the known artists on such a (how do I put this?) beloved character as Venom, but this cover once again proves her versatility and expertise, and… actually got me to do a write-up about Venom. Cheers, Jen.
Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #3 by Michael Allred and Laura Allred. (IDW Publishing)
CH: “Look at that. Yeah. Come get some, boy.” – Curly Bill Brocius (Powers Boothe), Tombstone, 1993.
For their cover for IDW’s Dick Tracy: Dead or Alive #3, Laura Allred and Michael Allred give Tracy his Wyatt Earp moment. A big yellow trench coat may seem like a perfect target for a chopper squad of torpedoes. That’s only true, though, if you can hit the figure sporting it.
In the film Tombstone, a shootout based on an actual incident illustrated the value of a bulky coat as defense. The confrontation at Mescal Springs (or Iron Spring, or Cottonwood Springs, historians differ) showed Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) breaking cover in a crossfire to cut Curly Bill in half with a shotgun. All the while, a band of outlaw Cowboys blaze away at the advancing lawman. In real life, Earp withstood the onslaught without a scratch. His hat was hit by five rounds, one boot heel was splintered, and both sides of his duster along with the coattail were riddled.
Our favorite flatfoot is having the same sort of day, especially his poor coattails, but with his own two-fisted, blazing .45 response. We’ll take it on faith that the perfect red circle behind the detective is lighting, not blood. Or not his. Part of the psychology at play in both scenarios might be the lawmen’s shared reputation for hitting what they shoot at. Their bullets are fewer, but they strike true. The bad men? Not so much.
Catwoman #7 by Joëlle Jones. (DC)
JJ: Nobody realizes skin-tight vinyl quite like Joëlle Jones. Luckily for vinyl lovers the world round, Jones is tasked with DC’s Catwoman ongoing series, and wouldn’t you know it—Joëlle’s a fan of Michelle Pfeiffer’s notorious vinyl catsuit, too. Here she’s provided us a Warhol-esque portrait with Birkin features, a still of a cat cleaning her claws.
You know how Joëlle Jones works by now. She commits ink to paper as though she was chiseling marble. Her lines are always slick, her angles reliably smooth. Now apply Joëlle Jones’ craft to Selina Kyle’s sensual edge. Factor in how Jones plays with the ink. She blots, she slices, and Catwoman’s catsuit moves, lives, as a result. Light dances around the inky black, ensuring that we never see the same suit twice. For most artists Catwoman’s costume is a matter of function. For others, it’s an opportunity for fashion. For Jones, it’s a living thing.
Then there’s expression. With Jones, it’s always cool. Half-lidded eyes, coolly observing, never betraying the tsunami of emotions scarcely contained within. In Lady Killer, Jones constructed the Stepford grin that comes with years of quiet, subservient domesticity. With Catwoman, there are no kitchens, or dinette sets, or formica. There’s the city by night, the malefactors who move through it, and above them their queen, who can be seen here considering her next prey.
Fantastic Four #6 by Alex Ross. (Marvel)
SR: For the 25th anniversary of Marvels, Alex Ross showcases his beautiful talent with his variant for Fantastic Four #6. My first assumption is this snapshot was taken from the perspective of news photographer, Phil Sheldon, who famously covered how our well-known superheroes interacted with the day-to-day public. The elongated arm of Reed Richards stretching towards us tells me otherwise—what we’re more likely looking at here is a swingin’ Sixties selfie.
Ross’ art will sometimes aim for Norman Rockwell-esque heights, and when he aims for less epic imagery he accomplishes a similar wholesome appeal. We see the Fantastic Four united as a group, but engaging with their adoring public in their own individual ways. Each of the children embrace their moment to connect with their heroes by showing off their loving imitations of the foursome.
It’s so cleverly done; the little details of each interaction make me feel all warm and fuzzy. If you have ever heard the phrase “never meet your heroes,” this cover will give you at least four good reasons why that sentiment should often be ignored.
Wonder Woman #62 by Matteo Scalera. (DC)
AOK: I think Matteo Scalera has captured something in this cover to Wonder Woman #62 that is mostly forgotten when dealing with this character. The Attic legends are terrifying. The heroes of antiquity were murderers. When we normally see Diana of Themyscira kicking ass—which is most of the time we see her—she is a living effigy of the superhero.
Here: a spear, a cloud of fire, a ribbon of blood, a cape of blood, actual blood oozing from a red-eyed monster dashed upon the rock. Her tiara is a Corinthian mask. Her breastplate and belt and gauntlets complete a panoply fit for Herodotus’ Histories. Cross her and be doomed.
Scalera paints Wonder Woman as ominous, dangerous, victorious. The most jarring and powerful detail is that the daughter of Hippolyta stands astride this corpse, body language unmixed hulking domination, her eyes locked on ours. Behind those eyes? Rage.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below.