by Clyde Hall, Brendan Hodgdon, Sara Mitchell, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Ryan Ottley & Nathan Fairbairn’s stupefying “Immortal” variant to the palpable agony of Joshua Hixson’s cover to ‘The Plot’, here are the covers we love the most this week.
The Plot #1 by Joshua Hixson. (Vault Comics)
SM. The Past. Is it one massive, world-spanning thing that we collectively look back on? Or is it individual to each of us? Like a shadow, to each our own. A multitude of pasts, of small demons, with hands like barbed vines, chasing us all down to the ground. Until we, too, submit to the confines of time and become the past ourselves. Completely consumed in its unflinching grasp.
The Plot is the story of a family cursed by its past. For generations, they’ve been attempting to unburden themselves of this past by giving and giving until there’s nothing left except their souls for them to give. Sacrificing themselves, paying their debt. Bogged down, desperately wailing into the bright sky from the moonlit Earth below, begging for time to let them go.
Dial H for Hero #7 by Joe Quinones. (Wonder Comics/DC)
BFH: We all have it in us to be heroes. If we make the right choices and embrace our deepest reserves of empathy and activism and commitment to the greater good, we too can live up to the example of our larger-than-life idols. But a magic, power-granting telephone can certainly help that too, as the various classic Dial H for Hero series have shown.
And on the cover for the most recent volume’s issue #7, artist Joe Quinones pays loving and energetic homage to this core conceit of the title. Here we see Miguel, the teen at the heart of the series, brandishing his Hero Dial juxtaposed against the silhouetted suggestion of the Man of Steel himself. Not only does this have a specific resonance in this particular series (as issue #1 opens with Miguel being rescued by Superman), but it highlights the message of the comic in a stirring and beautiful way. With his bright, clear-eyed colors and his classic, evocative framing, Quinones is celebrating the true legacy of Superman, both character and icon.
Quinones reminds us that despite what the Luthors of the world would have you believe, people want to be inspired. They want to take the hand they are offered and use it to launch themselves to even higher heights. When people have the chance to do that, when they have even a little slice of the power and opportunity that our most famous heroes have, they can do wondrous things with it. In a series like Dial H for Hero, maybe Miguel can be that inspiration for someone in our world just as Superman is an inspiration for him in his own.
Batman: Curse of the White Knight #3 by Sean Gordon Murphy. (DC Black Label/DC)
CH: Some nights you sit, and you think. Trapped by all the mistakes, all the follies of youth, all the terrible, quiet things you’ve done in desperation. A Gotham City where Batman is the villain and a cured Joker the hero, must feel the same. Even for a good man. As drawn by Sean Gordon Murphy, it’s a wash of faded scarlet over a surly, seamy, cocktail of regret. It’s become Jim Gordon’s usual dram, and the crossroads lining his face prove it.
Cops of questionable repute to the left, a Bat Signal of lost validity above, nicotine addiction to the right. And in the glow of the butt, the shadows unbend. Is that the glint of a discarded dead soldier smashed against the brick? Or the glint of a barrel as a live street soldier takes aim? Even darkness is awry, broken by sickly streetlamp pall to allow glimpses of effluvia seeping from the cracked sidewalks. Murphy’s style is well used for this Gotham of the deepest dye. Equally well for the suffering blue knight who struggles as the floodgate against the lunacy and greed threatens to overwhelm it.
The Amazing Spider-Man #30 by Ryan Ottley & Nathan Fairbairn. (Marvel)
JJ: Some artists worked around Marvel’s “Immortal” gimmick covers to more earnestly celebrate the legacy of their assigned characters, and that’s fine. Others embraced it by getting just as gross as Joe Bennett & Paul Mounts did over in the pages of Immortal Hulk. But what Ryan Ottley and Nathan Fairbairn did for their “Immortal” take on Norman Osborn is one for the books. Their stupefying variant jumps on top of the original conceit, bests it, conquers all.
You want gross? Ryan & Nathan got gross. You can almost hear the bones snap and shift. Flying through the air? Snot and spit, evaporating in an inferno of evil (but mostly pumpkin bombs). The Green Goblin could be artfully described as man’s descent into monster, the Hyde waiting to strangle Jekyll, etc. This art team doesn’t bother with all that. Here metaphor gets duct taped to the pavement by a literal transmogrification, from tycoon to tyrant in three simple, equally astonishing steps. It’s a trick of a treat.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!