by Molly Jane Kremer, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson’s ‘Love Romances’ to John Cassaday’s farewell to ‘The Lone Ranger’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Venom #11 by Dave Gibbons. (Marvel)
JJ: File this under “things that make you go ‘hurm’.” Dave Gibbons’ variant to Venom #11 has me caught in a tailspin. It’s perfect: absolutely cheeky, expertly realized, simultaneously unprecedented and totally obvious.
The genius of it is the subtlety. Venom is currently running Eddie Brock through every conceivable torment and plot twist you can imagine. So Gibbons throws Eddie right where we like him: in the gutter, his heart beating a torrent of worry and despair right down the drain where monsters lurk and sharpen their teeth. His very life, represented by crimson, runs alongside the inky blops of his pet symbiote over a discarded piece of tie-in merchandise, that famous flopping tongue cutting across its sphere in the same place where once there was but a single drop of a comedian’s blood.
The details, they cut deep. Where Gibbons’ first Watchmen cover was a Satanic bloodbath of pop culture subversion, his Venom variant is a valentine, meant to warm hearts and draw eyes to one of Marvel’s strongest books published today.
Go-Bots #4 by Tom Scioli. (IDW Publishing)
AOK: There’s something beguiling about Tom Scioli’s art for Go-Bots, something soft and art school and small press that doesn’t match up with the corporate slick one associates with a Transformers knockoff franchise. There’s no inks, as far as I can tell, no hard lines.
You can almost see the smudge of the palm’s heel drag across the pencil art. You can picture Scioli’s hands stained with graphite. Feel a love, a primal, youthful, pristine affection for these big honking car guys, for the act of illustration, the medium of comics.
It reminds me of Gilbert Hernandez more than Tonka, of John Pham slipping a Road Warrior tribute into Sublife. There’s the faintest touch of Jack Kirby. This big boy with set face, tire treads, perfect fists, more than all other references he screams of a piece of copy paper taped to a bedroom wall. Tom Sciloi’s Go-Bots are punk rock.
Love Romances #1 by Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson. (Marvel)
MJ: This year, Marvel’s 80th anniversary has seen one-shot revivals of past classic series from the publisher (some from before they were ever called “Marvel”). Of course with a monumental number like that they’re gonna pull out all the stops on the variants. We reap a sweet visual reward this week with Russell Dauterman & Matt Wilson’s phenomenal “Young Guns” cover to Love Romances #1. Here’s a chance to fall in love all over again with one of Marvel’s cutest and most iconic couples: Spider-Man and Mary Jane.
2002’s Spider-Man immortalized Peter and MJ’s upside-down smoochin’, and while that rainy scene had a steaminess to it could have evaporated those falling droplets on contact, this one is simply, well… sweet. Super sweet. Mary Jane smiles almost bashfully as Spider-Man chastely kisses her cheek. (In fact, they’re both totally blushing—nice touch, Mr. Wilson.) It’s quite possibly the cutest these two have ever been, and face it, Tiger, they’ve always been cute.
Pete even brought flowers. It’s a shame this wasn’t released a week earlier, because let’s be honest: seven (or even six) days ago would have been optimal for a certain holiday. Oh, wait, I know what must have happened—Marvel wanted to avoid all the commercialization, because true love should be celebrated everyday, right? Right. Anyway, I can’t think of a more perfect Valentine from Marvel, Dauterman & Wilson, even if it might be less than punctual.
The Lone Ranger #5 by John Cassaday. (Dynamite)
CH: If you must ride into the sunset, this is the cover to take you there. Dynamite planned writer Mark Russell’s The Lone Ranger series as an ongoing but decided to end it with issue #5. Based on historical events, with a rocky relationship between the Ranger and Tonto until plans of greedy cattlemen give them a common enemy, this iteration of the Masked Rider is a refreshing sip of Sarsaparilla.
Artist John Cassaday’s been a favorite since Planetary. His work on this swan song issue once more showcases his line talent and precision. The mask has been imagined in all sorts of forms, kerchief to domino, but Cassaday relies on original story realism. This is how a mask cut from the vest of a murdered brother looks. The Ranger and Tonto are men on a mission, steeds kicking up clods with such depth that you taste dust. Barkeep, another Sarsaparilla.
Guardians of the Galaxy #2 by Matteo Scalera. (Marvel)
BH: After his breakout debut in Thanos and the release of his own wild series, it’s no surprise that Cosmic Ghost Rider has found a new home with the Guardians of the Galaxy, especially with his co-creators Donny Cates and Geoff Shaw running the show. It’s only fitting that this absurd, against-all-odds “hero” get a variant cover all his own, and who better to provide it than the cosmically-talented Matteo Scalera?
Considering Scalera’s penchant for epic science-fiction imagery, it’s not surprising he was able to concoct such a vivid representation of Frank Castle’s most bizarre alter-ego. It’s a straightforward portrait composition, stunning in its detail and sense of momentum. Scalera’s eye greatly benefits an audaciously-designed character like Cosmic Ghost Rider, and from the crackling energy driving his bike to the flames whipping about his skull, he depicts his subject in very visceral terms. The bright colors and ineffable textures make you hear the thrum of Frank’s bike and feel the heat of his chains as he races towards you.
Reading Frank’s adventures, you can almost forget how powerful he is because of how hilarious he can be. Here Scalera captures the sheer galactic power roaring underneath his hood.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!