by Arpad OkayClyde Hall and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Paul Rentler’s ‘Ice Cream Man’ variant to yet another Middleton ‘Martian Manhunter’ stunner, here are the covers we love the most this week.

Marvel Comics #1000 by Mike Allred and Laura Allred. (Marvel)

AOK: If Marvel is looking to throw itself head-first into fun and nothing else, I can think of no better artists to act as heralds than the Allreds. Mike’s splash art and Laura’s poppin’ colors feel like celebration. Everybody’s flying everywhere, maximum action, and also there’s Lockjaw. Don’t exactly know what is going on over there but I like it.

The only thing that matches the glee in an Allred family jam is their reverence for comics history.

What I like is Quicksilver’s green shorts. The Model 2 Mark I Iron Man helmet. Dr. Strange’s mustard yellow gloves and cape trim. This is Marvel’s imagination put to page. What I see here is making it up and figuring it out. Look at Vision and try to explain it any other way. They weren’t Gods (well, most of them weren’t), they weren’t people. They were superheroes.

Ice Cream Man #14 by Paul Rentler. (Image Comics)

CH: He was a fixture, tending neighborhood ice cream parlors which stand now only in collective childhood memory. But this Ice Cream Man serves up bugs more than brownie sundaes. He scoops double-dipped nightmare, not Neapolitan. He’s nostalgia, with a razor twist in the gut. 

Paul Rentler’s collage cover for Ice Cream Man #14 plays on remembrances of pulpy comic book adverts and imagery, mixing toothsome dread from mind’s eye comfort confection. The Ice Cream Man’s deviant expression is fit for any Pat Boyette Charlton horror villain. 

An insectoid stampede up one starched and spotless uniform sleeve joins the skeletal horror latched to the other, welcome anchors for our grisly host. In the background, innocuous Kit Cat Clocks, parachuting plastic soldiers, Charles Atlas, and Rick Starr the Space Ranger bear witness to wrongness. Even their multitude is peppered with EC undead, dismembered bloodshot eyeballs, and ominous Scissors for the Drifter. Fittingly, the Comics Code Authority is given a shallow burial. 

Rentler shows horror as a many-layered Thing, worming into fondest fantasies of Better Old Days. The ghastly, he suggests, wriggled through those back-when pages all along. We were just too naive and too greedy for our weekly comics parfaits to notice.

Martian Manhunter #8 by Joshua Middleton. (DC)

JJ: Joshua Middleton’s latest Martian marvel is a cosmic map of swirls and arcs that leads to absolute treasure. It delivers J’onn J’onzz to his true North, an iconic image from an artistic series famously overloaded with them.

Like most Middleton, there’s more than just a variant splash at work here. More than a paycheck. I don’t know the artist’s thought processes are like these days, but J’onn has rarely ever had it this good, being a subject for one of the best cover artists working today who also seems to have tapped a vein of undistilled inspiration.

It’s evocative of peak Struzan, from the days when the upcoming Lucasfilm joint could have been months away but the one-sheets as painted by Drew were more than enough to inspire hopes and dreams until opening night. It has those nostalgic bonafides to be sure, embedded in the alien DNA of our Martian hero, right there, crackling with magentas and jades worthy of Amblin.

And then there are the details, inventive, inspired. Inventive: The arc of gleaming light, forming our little blue dot and leaving the past—the Red Planet—spinning away from us, towards memory. J’onn’s shoulders square at the apex of this arc, framed expertly, a new type of Strange Visitor for our contemporary lives. Inspired: That glint in the eye of the humanoid John Jones, whose steely gaze seems to be thinking of his red home, gone, never forgotten. The essence of J’onzz, captured magnificently, almost too good for a variant cover.

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

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