by Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From an infernal ‘Fantastic Four’ variant by Bill Sienkiewicz to Jesús Saiz’s stately cover to ‘Doctor Strange’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Fantastic Four #9 by Bill Sienkiewicz. (Marvel)
JJ: The corona of a star is an aura, burning heat and life into a cold and unfeeling cosmos every second of its existence until that star dies. Its radiating beams are measured in waves, H-alphas, X-rays. It’s science. The Human Torch, however, is passion, measured in units of fury, wit, power. A boy given god-level might by the unforeseen consequences of hurtling through a sea of cosmic waves. So yes, he’s science, too.
Technically, Johnny Storm’s radiating ultraviolet. For the enemies that would do his family harm, that may as well be ultra-violence. In Bill Sienkiewicz’s variant for Fantastic Four #9, Johnny Storm doesn’t smolder so much as incinerate. He strikes a cover boy pose like a disciplined star might, but his complexion has taken on that of a supernova. Perhaps someone has wronged him, and we’re in the milliseconds between “Flame On!” and a proper trouncing. Whatever the reasons for this inferno, this star burns a corona fit for a king. Woe betide his wrath.
The Flash #69 variant by Mitch Gerads (DC)
CH: On Twitter, artist Mitch Gerads said his variant cover for The Flash #69 was inspired after a viewing of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Great artistic expression incites more of the same, and Gerads’ work here is Exhibit A. It’s a masterful display of perspectives, reflection, and speed masquerading as graphic euphoria. Gerads plays with motion-capture freeze frames, simultaneously blending velocity to limits of human perception. Speed nigh-demanding a superheroic panic stop nanoseconds hence. It’s a lightning and scarlet package of raw, motion-lined glamour.
The window glass and rearview deliver coequal, static images of Flash amidst his electrified smoke and mirrors momentum. Were Gerads’ rendering left smooth, the consistency would become a moonbeam, an illusion. He prevents that by grounding the composition with varying textured grain. It makes the car tactile, the surrounding night corporeal, but vanishes in headlights and in the glare of Flash’s energy arcs.
Barry may or may not be generating 1.21 gigawatts here, but Gerads displays incontestably the challenge for any mortal coping with a speedster of this magnitude. His mic drop cover grants renewed respect for those hapless charter members of the Rogue’s Gallery.
Doctor Strange #13 by Jesús Saiz. (Marvel)
BFH: While he may be the Sorcerer Supreme, there are many things in the Marvel Universe more powerful than Stephen Strange. But what if the good doctor were to level up? What if he claimed one of the most horrifying, awe-inspiring mantles in the galaxy? While the thought of Strange taking the place of Galactus is more than a little unsettling, in the talented hands of artist Jesús Saiz at least it’s cool to look at.
With this cover, Saiz captures so much of both Strange and Galactus, even when the latter is only represented by his helm. Strange has a calm, confident expression on his face, which isn’t surprising given his character but which is off-putting in its presumptuousness under the circumstances. Galactus’ helmet, on the other hand, is realized in just the right way to drive home the enormous power it represents.
Obviously there’s the almost comical size of it in comparison to Strange, acknowledging how dwarfed Strange is by Galactus’ role in the cosmos. Besides that, Saiz threw in the added touch of the diffuse, unnatural glow coming from within the helmet. It suggests the implicit energy of this grand thing, that this is not just a ceremonial object but source of power unto itself. That Strange is even contemplating taking this for himself, much less with such certainty, speaks volumes about his character, most of it not great.
What, exactly, in the story this cover represents will be revealed to readers today. But on its own, Saiz’s cover has already told a complete tale, one of human hubris in the face of a cosmic constant. What an eye-catching story it is.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!