by Stefania Rudd, Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Frazer Irving’s ‘Kino’ #14 cover to Joshua Middleton’s ‘Martian Manhunter’ #3 variant, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Kino #14 by Frazer Irving. (Catalyst Prime/Lion Forge)
JJ: I can’t tell if Frazer Irving’s cover to Kino #14 is on the verge of transcendence, entropy, or both. It’s certainly tapped into the sense of awe and terror one might experience when faced with an epiphany, when the world around you slows to a crawl and all is shining, clear, right.
It zeroes in at the center. Of what? The mind, the sun, the universe. Everything. Unites past and present until all there is is now, now, now. Irving’s subjects are today and tomorrow, yesterday, all of it at once, grappling with the splendor of the Big Wow as the center eye dilates to let all of everything in. It’s a race of information, distilled into a million points of light that fire directly into our fragile forms of dust and history.
The colors are ingenious. Gold for purity, blue for life, fuchsia for fury, all of it crackling around the endless, ceaseless white of Creation. Inadvertently or deliberately, Irving nudges us ever closer to understanding the meaning of the void. It is shining. It is not dying.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2 by Celia Lowenthal. (BOOM! Studios)
MR: The way Celia Lowenthal’s cover to Buffy the Vampire Slayer #2 toys with depth using color and shadow is simply astounding. The forest recedes into pitch black darkness. Mid-ground, a horse-riding vampire hunter, the centerpiece, flanks a scraggly pair of bloodsuckers who’s blood-stained hands and clothing suggests they’ve already gotten away with at least one kill. The red light (from a companion’s lantern? The source is unclear) falls selectively over the foreground and middle, calling attention to critical particulars: A bloody claw, jagged teeth, an arrow.
Lowenthal has framed this shot at an angle, accelerating the entire scene and imbuing it with an off-kilter tension. The hunter’s face, eyes fixed on her target, leads us down the length of her red arrow, down to the ill-fated ghouls below. She leans gracefully into her shot, whereas the vampires feel like they’re in uncontrolled freefall. But the coup-de-grace is the way that hellish red light shoots up off the trees, as though the forest itself were erupting from the ground that very moment. Angled dramatically in the direction opposite the rest of the scene, the trees themselves seem to be in on the chase.
Steven Universe #25, by Jen Bartel. (kaBOOM/BOOM! Studios)
SR: When looking over Jen Bartel’s variant for Steven Universe #25, it’s only natural to be dazzled. Striking a power pose, White Diamond emerges from the blackest of black to shine her radiance on all who dare gaze in her direction.
White Diamond stands tall, and not just because of her heels, either: her poise, perfect, commanding, directs our attention to the belle of this galactic ball. Her headpiece emanates a white brilliance that dances with the stars shooting off the page, twinkling as divinely as her crystalline eyes and her small, slight smirk. It’s as if she is enjoying this moment, you discovering her entrance, drinking it all in. Only she knows what’s going to happen next.
And as you stand there in front of her, dumbfounded, waiting for her to speak, her waiting eyes tell you that it will be you who makes the first bon mot… as soon as you can pick up your jaw from the floor.
Marvel Comics Presents #2 by Art Adams & Federico Blee. (Marvel)
CH: That signature Art Adams Wolverine sells it. Mister Fantastic and Gorilla-Man, though? For fans of Monkeyman and O’Brien, it’s a sly nod to the Adams character Axwell Tiberius, “the Reed Richards of the gorilla world”.
Nostalgia aside, the oft-imitated but seldom equaled Adams artwork is especially appropriate here. This issue contains stories of Logan in the 50s, Richards at the launch of the space race, and a new Gorilla-Man tale. But can you really look at Gorilla-Man and not think of his Fabulous 50s and Swingin’ 60s iterations?
Adams’ detailed linework remains beauty beheld, as does his boots-on-the-ground perspective of his three primaries. He’s also used the individual countenances to express the trio as evil’s worst-apprehension scenario: Bad Cop, Worse Cop, and Hella Smarter Than Me Cop. The composition’s framing accommodates title and texts, but the images so littered lose appeal. Virgin is this cover’s first, best version.
Martian Manhunter #3 by Joshua Middleton. (DC)
JJ: Joshua Middleton gets Martian Manhunter. As its variant artist, Middleton has tapped into something incredibly special: All the decency of J’onn J’onzz, all the quirks and the ticks, all the, yes, humanity, they’re on full display in his covers. For issue #4, Middleton decided to go one further and capture that one essential (and quite sad) element that makes our favorite manhunter Martian: loneliness.
Steve Orlando & Riley Rossmo’s series jumps around in time, but I choose to interpret this image as a snapshot to a moment long since passed. A memory of the Martian night sky, when M’Yri’ah and J’onn stole a moment to be alone. Two people, with every worry in the world weighing on their shoulders—their family, their future—choosing instead to get lost in their lover’s ruby-red eyes.
Middleton cloaks them with a galactic chill which gives their inherent warmth an otherworldly resonance. It underscores one very clear message, that no matter who you are, or where you live, love is it. When it’s gone, it hurts, but it’s not the end. It changes, evolves, shifts into something that drives us to be better, stronger, even in strange new places. When all there is is fear, love remains.
So there they were. Fingers intertwined, their entire lives ahead of them.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!