by Molly Jane Kremer, Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera, Brendan Hodgdon, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Doc Shaner’s ‘Green Arrow’ #50 variant to Mike Del Mundo’s “Young Guns” cover, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Deathstroke #41 by Dave Johnson. (DC)
CH: Guns and ammo. Sporty cars and lethal ladies. Flashing blades. I’s dotted with skulls. Psychedelic circles and far-out fonts. Making this NCBD into Wayback Wednesday is a variant cover by artist Dave Johnson, mainlining a hot dose of Steranko excess to engaging ends. A character with a name like Slade Wilson deserves cover treatments worthy of a Fury or a Bond, and Johnson serves it up as an homage and satire combo.
The moody, unmasked Slade countenance provides monocular cool. The colorful crosshairs silhouette becomes visual shorthand for ‘dangerous’. A nearly cat-suited female combatant embodies lithe lethality despite the heels. The stylish coupe promises the reader a fast getaway from day-to-day mundania. Presiding over all, the Terminator. Bristling with weaponry, he stands apart in his styling. Mostly around the mask. His implied expression hints of joy in the work, maybe a wink to another mercenary sharing the same last name.
Conan the Barbarian #4 by Esad Ribič. (Marvel)
MR: He knows what you’re thinking: “Barbarian. Low born village runt who swung his big sword fast and hard enough, clobbered the right people at the right time, and landed himself a seat on a throne.” Deflecting resentment isn’t new to Conan—it comes with the territory, with being a ruthlessly capable individual. What he’s hoping to get across to you with that piercing stare is that he didn’t fight his way to the top for the sake of comfort and security. He keeps his sword and shield closer than he would any man or woman. Sitting there so undeniably shirtless, he very much wants to impress upon his visitors exactly where the strength of his word comes from.
Esad Ribič’s Conan The Barbarian #4 cover offers readers yet another masterful portrait of a pulp fiction icon, suitable for framing and hanging in any royal mead hall.
The Six Million Dollar Man #1 by Michael Walsh. (Dynamite)
BFH: Steve Austin, the one not of the Stone Cold variety, was a seminal 70s pop culture character. Attempts to revamp him for the present day have yet to really take hold, and not just because his heroic title has been rendered silly by inflation. But here comes Michael Walsh, determined to bring the Six Million Dollar Man into the modern era all over again. Boy does he ever.
The first step to Walsh’s success is how he doesn’t shy away from the 70s backdrop. From his old-school hair to the yellow NASA jacket to the spherical background elements, Walsh’s rendition of Austin feels Space Age-y without laying it on too thick. The other winning element is the cheeky tone that Walsh gives the whole composition. The swords sticking through our hero all over the place, his detached robotic hand, Austin’s wry, cocky grin all capture a sense of cool and swagger that just seems fun. Exactly the vibe that you need to make a premise like The Six Million Dollar Man worth revisiting.
Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal Comics #1 by Mike Del Mundo. (Marvel)
MJ: Mike Del Mundo has held the prestigious title of “Marvel Young Gun” for over a year now, and if you’ve seen even one of his many many covers you know why. (His interiors are fantastic too of course, but Undercover ain’t about those, silly.) He is among distinguished and talented company as a Young Gun, and as such is allowed the Young Guns Variant format: a logoless layout that spotlights the artist’s name on the cover. Even though the image often has little to do with the comic inside, who cares when the art is this good?
This week’s bafflingly pretty Del Mundo variant is for Ziggy Pig and Silly Seal Comics #1 and is, funnily enough, one of the best Fantastic Four covers you’ll ever see. It utilizes a Connect Four board (yes, that classic Milton Bradley board game) which seems like such an obvious (and obviously fun) choice of visual. It’s crazy no one thought of it before.
The members of the Fantastic Four are situated diagonally down the page, each hanging out in their own round slots. Reed is winding his gooey body around the inside of the aperture, while Sue gracefully perches, legs crossed in the next nearest space, her feet casually fading away. Johnny is next: lounging, showing off a handful of flame, as Ben hams it up at the bottom, always the foundation stone, a lopsided grin over crossed arms.
This Fantastic Four piece is masterful, playful, heartwarming, and beautifully rendered. It could only have been created by Del Mundo, one of the most deserving artists to ever be one of Marvel’s Young Guns.
Green Arrow #50 by Evan “Doc” Shaner. (DC)
JJ: Couples in comics face the same inevitable pratfalls in romance as IRL paramours such as you and me. (Perhaps not you and me, but me and my significant other. Hi, MJ!) Intrusive third parties angling for a relationship’s accelerated decline, life changes that send people careening down different paths, and irreconcilable differences that occur naturally when two human beings—with all the nuances, habits, and personality “quirks” that come with them—decide to make a go of things, all of these issues can often split intimacy in twain.
One thing us real-life folks don’t have to worry about rending our passions into ruin is comic book cancellations, which is what currently besets Oliver Queen and his intended, Dinah Lance. It’s a romance that’s been rocked to its core many times before, though stories in Heroes in Crisis and this Rebirth-sprung Green Arrow series have sent our favorite vigilante lovers on a scary path that may not resolve in a way we romantics deem fit—and there’s no more book to read after this.
Doc Shaner, providing us with a variant cover hat-trick this week (see also: Batman #66 and Young Justice #3), doesn’t skimp on that sentiment in his emerald valentine to Green Arrow #50. It’s a poignant, expertly rendered study that encapsulates decades of storied ardor between our favorite archer and the legendary Black Canary—and the barriers that often separate them. Even though the stark white reed shoots Oliver directly to the core of Dinah’s affection, they’re deliberately set apart. But Shaner, ever the draftsman, shows us that the direction of the arrow points to the path the Green Arrow will always follow. Shaner reminds us that, when it comes to the Black Canary, Oliver’s aim will always be true.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!