by Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Francis Manapul’s ‘Action Comics’ variant to Christian Ward’s kaleidoscopic ‘Alien’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Martian Manhunter #4 by Joshua Middleton. (DC)
CH: This week’s DC covers bear several Homeric portraits of signature characters Superman, Batgirl, Flash, and Wonder Woman. Artist Joshua Middleton’s variant for Martian Manhunter #4 returns J’onn J’onzz aesthetically to those ranks.
Middleton’s J’onn, while modern, rekindles heroic qualities of past renditions. He hovers in continuity between his virescently Yul Brynner years and the empathic eminence of the post-Crisis Justice League. This Manhunter locks on the viewer like quarry, reading thoughts before they become actions. He’s a physical threat, insubstantial one instant only to then deliver mountain-leveling punches to body and mind the next.
That this cover shares shelf space with Joe Quinones’ equally paradigmatic Dial H for Hero #1 on the same NCBD is especially fulfilling. Both were feature characters in DC’s Silver Age House of Mystery. Their coinciding 2019 revivals prove that good concepts endure to excite the imagination, sparking creativity across generations.
William Gibson’s Alien 3 #5 by Christian Ward. (Dark Horse Comics)
BH: Right now there is no artist that captures the ineffable wonder of the cosmos quite like Christian Ward. From ODY-C to Black Bolt to last week’s debut of Invisible Kingdom, Ward’s kaleidoscopic colors and fluid sense of design have delivered truly gorgeous renditions of the final frontier to comic shops over the years. With this cover to William Gibson’s Alien 3 Ward has turned his gaze to the other side of that coin by bringing the terrifying visage of the xenomorph to life.
Of course there’s no changing the classic H.R. Giger design for this most lethal killing machine, but under Ward’s pen we get to see it as never before. Bathed in blues and purples, seemingly crossing through indistinct holographic patterns, the unsettling monster has a beauty to it here that it rarely has elsewhere. Even when depicting the embodiment of nihilism and the uncaring danger of the void, Ward can’t help but find the grace in it all. That’s what makes this such a striking rendition of an icon.
Action Comics #1009 by Francis Manapul. (DC)
JJ: Our favorite superheroic spaceman strikes an iconic pose with Francis Manapul’s latest Action stunner. It’s sheer wonder, paired with flavors of effervescence and excitement. Put another way, it’s Pop Rocks from Krypton, served with a Coca-Cola chaser.
Manapul has an intimate awareness of how the geography to the perfect cover lies. Here, he went for all peaks, zero valleys. And his colors, they’re absolute murder. Blood and rubies, navy and baby blues, this Metropolis Marvel boasts popping primaries that feel as though they were purloined from—heck, I dunno, the Sixth Dimension? Beyond even that? For contrast the artist offers a blast of white and a reverent pinch of Kirby Krackle just for show. And behind our Man of Tomorrow, Manapul harnesses the sun.
Isola #7 by Sarah Stone. (Image Comics)
AOK:An arrow can tell you a story. See tiger queen, pierced through the back of the neck just below the skull, into a secret space between guardian and protected. Behind a mask made from embrace. Forehead pressed into cheek. Arrowhead and shaft emerge from the soft space between shoulder blades.
This wound is bloodless but still fatal.
This wound is a story, too. These two, skewered, it isn’t chance that brought them together. It isn’t a mortal end. Even without feathered death doing it physically, Rook and Olwyn are connected. This could be a metaphor if it weren’t a portent.
Neither arrow nor blow are real. Olwyn and Rook, Rook and Olwyn, are painted delicate in blues and purples, sunset on frozen lips, shades and dimensions and fullness of being, depth. The arrow is of another world. Hot pink and edgeless. A conversation about is and isn’t.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!