by Clyde Hall, Lauren Fernandes, Kate Kowalski, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From the mirth of Ben Oliver’s ‘Jimmy Olsen’ to the mayhem of Gabriel Rodriguez’s ‘Basketful of Heads’, these are our picks for May’s best covers.
Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen #10 by Ben Oliver. (DC Comics)
KK: Jimmy Olsen strolls onto this cover like it’s the set of a Marx Brothers movie or a Three Stooges episode. The effect here is pure slapstick comedy as a completely oblivious Jimmy narrowly dodges multiple attempts on his life, including a good old fashioned anvil.
This cartoonish scenario rendered in a more modern, realistic art style brings Superman’s pal into the present while paying homage to his Silver Age roots. His trendy haircut and wireless headphones also contrast with his vintage outfit, although that could also just be the cyclical nature of fashion—what’s old is new again.
The Golden Retriever here serves as a mirror—friendly, loyal, a bit goofy—man’s best friend as much as Jimmy is Superman’s. To me, Jimmy Olsen is the ultimate fanboy—an embodiment of the joyful exuberance of Action Comics’ young intended audience. I, for one, hope to be as optimistic and unsinkable as Jimmy while narrowly avoiding the catastrophe that is 2020.
The Ludocrats #1 by Jamie McKelvie. (Image Comics)
JJ: Jamie McKelvie’s knack for the symmetrical cannot be overstated. His portrait covers for the dearly departed The Wicked + The Divine were stately club shots of the immaculately beautiful, symmetrical to the point of cosmic improbability.
McKelvie’s gone akimbo with his variant for The Ludocrats #1. Facial symmetry remains intact, yes, but venture outwards to the weird, wild mystique that surrounds his subject. It’s all boutique pastels and Patrick Nagel geometry, punctuated by a raygun from Michael Allred’s arsenal of fun and a literal wrench thrown into the works. And his style has suffered not at all for it.
While his devotion to detail has endured this deviancy McKelvie’s line feels looser here, still disciplined but… rebellious? Contradiction permeates this piece, and I’m getting drunk just trying to soak it all in. His subject’s hair defies explanation and the wine’s going everywhere when it shouldn’t. Gravity is at odds with rationality. A delirious bon-bon emulsified in qualified cool, I respect it.
The Low, Low Woods #5 by Jenny Frison. (Hill House Comics/DC)
CH: Realistic characters confronted by paranormal horrors is a strength of The Low, Low Woods. One of many. Not only are the stories superbly written by Carmen Maria Machado, the style of artist DaNi keeps them grounded. Main characters are lovely people, though not always charming. Then there’s the witch woman.
Such individuals were once implacable components of most American hamlets. In every small town of my childhood, one resident per was rumored to be some degree of ‘witch’. The one you went to for various esoteric reasons. Your future foretold. An unborn child’s sex determined. A holistic treatment outlined. (A backwoods herbalist saved my father’s foot from amputation using a recipe of elderberry bark and dry gin, the family story goes.)
DaNi has imaged this folklore figure into quite the unsettling support player. Think a quirky, tomboyish tween with a certain Anya Taylor-Joy churlish charm. Add wrinkled, aged hands belying an age far past dotage. In the issues, DaNi renders the Witch as an unnatural blending of maiden and crone. Jenny Frison features her on this month’s cover, adding a sheen of glamour to offset her contradictory features.
Frison’s efforts make her unsettling in different ways. Her witch woman, claws still sharp, eyes still piercing, comes with tears overflowing her aged palms. Blood tears, crying a hemophiliac river. It’s okay that Frison’s version is prettier than DaNi’s. Her approach begs comparison with the Fae, hints at a fair folk connection, stoking unease. Allure abounds equally in Seelie noble or Unseelie nightmare.
Lois Lane #10 by Tula Lotay. (DC)
JJ: Lois Lane’s hit a wall.
Stuck by writer’s block, our intrepid reporter shifts her gaze outside for another scan of the Metropolis skyline. Home, where the stories tend to pop, spill, explode at a second’s notice. She’s working on a story now, a real messy one, and the damn thing’s giving her a proper fight. The words just aren’t fitting on the page. The details are a jumble. Perry’s deadline is forcing her shoulders down towards the floor. Pressure. It’s murder on the posture. So Lois Lane pauses, reflects.
Chances a glimpse.
Tula Lotay’s variant for Lois Lane #10 is a second in the life of the greatest fictional journalist ever created. A second, that fleeting instant, when inspiration hits and the endorphins begin to fire. By pure serendipity Lois spots a blur of primary color and Lotay freezes time. The blues of the Metropolis sky seem to deepen, but the red that flashes across Lois’ face… that’s passion, the same passion she’s always had, the passion for seeing justice done. Lotay freezes this instant when Lois Lane reignites that fire inside, just before she turns back to her laptop and topples yet another wall.
Basketful of Heads #7 by Gabriel Rodriguez. (Hill House Comics/DC)
LF: June Branch has something on her mind.
In this variant cover for the seventh issue of Basketful of Heads, Gabriel Rodriguez displays the tidbits of thought that cross the mind of a woman pushed to violence. His cover is a literal showing of the odd alliterations our brains make (“Lovely Liam, Lying Liam”), the strange lists we form (“Things I Can Decapitate, Things I Can’t Decapitate”), the anxious topics our minds circle around obsessively (“Hate.”) Rodriguez lays it all across her head, shrouding her hair and face with blood as though it were a veil.
June Branch has several things on her mind.
But from the look on her face (if you could somehow ignore the blood) she looks like she could be waiting in line at her favorite ice cream shop. Her chin is up, nevermind the blood trickling down it, ready to drip onto her raincoat. There is just the quirk of a smile playing on her lips. Her eyes are alight… if you ignore the blood-red center of her pupil. But you can’t ignore it. Despite the chaos of the bloodied words floating across her head, my eye continuously travels back to June’s.
The saying is that “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” Rodriguez sucks you into June Branch’s soul, and leaves you wondering what’s left of it.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers, from this month, from any month, in the comments section below!