by Clyde HallBrendan Hodgdon, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Kris Anka’s hopelessly romantic ‘Runaways’ cover to Jamal Campbell’s dizzying display of ‘Action’, here are the covers we love the most this week.

Action Comics #1012 by Jamal Campbell. (DC)

JJ: High above this warm Metropolis day is action. Typical. Supernatural beings and Strange Visitors, a contest with all sorts of dire implications for the safety of the citizens watching below. The Red Cloud and Superman, at odds in Action Comics for a year now, battling it out once more this week, all over this thrilling cover from artist Jamal Campbell.

It’s DC iconography spliced with immediate danger. Red swirls, gas tendrils, reach out improbably against high speeds for the crimson boots of the Man of Steel. Charcoal bamfs of power serve as conduits for the Red Cloud’s many reaches, gaining purchase—close to swallowing our hero whole.

Campbell harnesses the sun to underline the power on display here. Flares of yellow strength pop with bulb-flashes, feeding the acceleration of this Kryptonian champion in a bid to outdo his latest nemesis. Deep muscular blues at the center of this image convey Superman’s strength and resolve, led to twin fists gripped in determination to outrace the Red Cloud. To do such a thing is to best the elements themselves. I think Superman is more than up to the task. *pauses* I hope.

The Flash #73 by Evan “Doc” Shaner. (DC)

CH: In his mind palace, artist Doc Shaner must have a well-apportioned Comic Book Library. There, surrounded by epic titles spanning many eras, I imagine there is a shelf dedicated to all the things that made superheroes exciting and vibrant to younger versions of ourselves. And from that creative source material, he takes components for new covers. Ones that give modern versions of the character the same crackling energy that nearly swooned us as kids. His variant cover for The Flash #73 undoubtably occupies a place of honor there. 

It’s for a Year One issue, so seeing Barry leap from one building to the next, treading air while leaving a scarlet and yellow blur across the moon, perfectly captures his thrill of newfound power. But it’s the dismount as the Flash descends the vertical surface toward the reader, the details of the high-rise obfuscated by his incredible velocity, that defines our hero’s vitality. His delight while breaking gravity’s chains along with multiple laws of physics. 

Shaner’s rendition of Barry conjures comparisons to the devil-may-care sass of Jay Garrick’s Flash. So much that another Shaner variant, one to dovetail with this cover, of Barry’s Golden Age counterpart performing a convening descent from an Art Deco building, seems appropriate. Not only for its shared spirit, but as a worthy companion to Infantino’s and Anderson’s cover for The Flash #123.

Isola #8 by Karl Kerschl & Msassyk. (Image Comics)

BFH: At the heart of Isola, the epic-yet-intimate fantasy from Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl, Msassyk and Aditya Bidikar, is the concept of noble Queen Olwyn being turned into a mystical tiger. It’s upon that blurring of the line between person and beast, civilization and nature, that the rest of the book hinges. This makes the imagery of this latest cover all the more potent, as Kerschl and Msassyk blur those lines even further with this stunning new player in their tale.

Depicting who I assume is the “stranger” mentioned in the issue’s solicitation, Kerschl and Msassyk have provided us with a very unsettling figure, one who almost seems a mirror image to Olwyn’s guardian Rook. But if Olwyn’s transformation represents a bridge between humanity and the natural world, this new player seems to represent something wholly unnatural. Her four arms and almost branch-like hair suggest something abnormal, and her wide-eyed, frantic expression makes it clear that she is far from the composed, thoughtful companion that Olwyn is used to. Whoever this character is, she’s a complication, and very likely an unpredictable one at that.

And then there’s Olwyn herself, held at the base of the image by the stranger’s clawed hand. Trapped in the body of a tiger though she may be, Olwyn’s regal countenance is unmistakable here. Despite the stranger’s casual display of control, Olwyn still stands tall, while looking up at her with a clear sense of contempt. She also stands out thanks to Msassyk’s careful use of colors, as the magical blue of Olwyn’s stripes is the only real vibrant color against the ashen, muted palette that was used for the stranger… except for her one eye, which has the same sort of bright blue-green as Olwyn. What this suggests about this stranger is uncertain, but with such a striking composition on the cover, who wouldn’t want to find out?

Runaways #22 by Kris Anka. (Marvel)

JJ: Runaways has ever been about young folks asserting themselves in the face of destiny. To wield your formidable mutant powers against master villains and Sentinel robots—that’s disco, but what do you do when superpowers fall short? What do you do when you find yourself deep in the fog… of love? For his cover to Runaways #22, Kris Anka doesn’t provide an answer. But the artist does offer a candy-box valentine of awkward yearning and sweeping romance, and that’s just as good. Better, really.

The cover depicts a shared reverie of thirst, and a downright adorable one at that. Appropriately enough (because this is a Marvel mutant melodrama, after all) Anka catapults his romantic ambitions towards the billowing clouds of fantasy and sticks the landing. Absurd dimestore Harlequin imagery takes hold of our would-be paramours, winds whip about the bodices of two lovers locked in an eternal embrace. A sweet, sweet fantasy. At the core of this, Anka secures a bit of subtext concerning the mistaken notion that one’s ideals must be achieved in order to secure happiness. That our wants will be ours only if we perfect ourselves.

In life, in love, are ideals necessary? Feh. Who needs ’em. Look at the cherubic blushes on our day-dreaming cuties: That dream would become a far better reality if they would just cast their furtive gazes in each other’s direction. Cupid’s arrow can only hit its target if you’re looking at the bullseye.

Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!

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