by Clyde Hall and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is where DoomRocket takes a moment to gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Bilquis Evely and Mat Lopes’s ‘Supergirl’ #8 to Tom Reilly’s ‘The Thing’ #5, these are our picks for February’s coolest covers.
THE X-CELLENT #1 by Michael Allred & Laura Allred. (Marvel)
JJ: Michael Allred harnesses the gleefully weirdo essence of superheroes and imbues them with pop effervescence. That’s not news. In his cover for The X-Cellent #1, however, he takes his technique one step further and renders the legendary X-Statix as warring celestial bodies. It’s a cosmic happening designed to freak you out.
Laura Allred’s colors are clutch; her vibrant flourishes never clash and the contrasts of solid reds, yellows, blacks, and blues feel like our eyes are being thrown back to the Marvel Age of boisterous covers looking to sell you an epic with but a single image. (Throw in some bombastic trade dress and some Simek-esque letter work and I might go mad from all the glory.) Here, it’s all about going wild, a pocket of fun insanity with an indifferent cosmos enveloping all of it. The insistent symmetry of the ‘X’ being drowned out by two flanks of oddballs, geeks, and misfits, the Allreds aren’t encouraging you to pick up this zonked-out Marvel masterwork, they’re almost daring you to pass it by.
DARK KNIGHTS OF STEEL #4 by Joshua Middleton. (DC)
CH: Dark Knights of Steel provides a superior high fantasy/superhero amalgam owing far more to GoT than D&D. Characters may be familiar, but they’re not carbon copies of the usual DC analogs; this title’s ensemble approach has a freshness which rescues it from being just another limited Bat- or Super- or Justice-series.
Harley Quinn, serving as royal courtside jester, exceeds the Harley we know in certain respects. She’s outspoken and more free-spirited than most advisors to the royals. We can imagine her humor a playful delivery system for truth in the tradition of historical jesters. Also, so far as we know, this Harley’s suffered no past association with a mad, bad enemy of Els or Waynes. Joshua Middleton captures her carefree charm, intellect, and beauty. She may be singing a bawdy drinking song, or a softer ballad regarding the human frailties of the gods among us.
SUPERGIRL: WOMAN OF TOMORROW #8 by Bilquis Evely & Mat Lopes. (DC)
JJ: Soaring the spaceways alongside Kara Zor-El in the pages of Supergirl: Woman of Tomorrow has been a unique thrill. Dangerous in a way few modern Big Two superhero books are dangerous, emotional in that indelible, last-scene-from-The–Champ sort of way, Woman of Tomorrow has been a ride. Issue #8 dropped this month, and from the look on Kara’s face, she’s feeling what I’m feeling.
Bilquis Evely and Mat Lopes are an unparalleled art team. It’s really quite exquisite how well they work together: Evely can render an expression on a face, or a feeling from a setting, and convey multitudes of emotions with a stroke of the pencil; then Lopes assembles his palette, finds the mood of the moment, begins to construct the power of the piece. The finished product glows. It hums.
Here, Kara’s at the end of her journey. She has seen laughter and love, peril and adventure, death and torment, spanning strange alien worlds and countless stars. Now she’s here, at the end of things, contemplating a hard-won battle, Lopes’s sunset hues closing out her story and ours. Evely gives Kara a placid stare—she’s somewhere else, possibly somewhere before now—ignoring the snaking trail of blood dissolving in the waters at her feet. The sword tells a tale. The deep-sea flora sitting beachside behind her tells another one, of a world far away from us that took shape through time and cataclysm, shifting and changing and becoming until this one moment when a Strange Visitor and a whole world of trouble came along and kicked up its far away sands. Now it’s quiet.
THE THING #4 by Tom Reilly. (Marvel)
CH: For the bashful, blue-eyed Ben Grimm, it must feel like Jack’s back. That’s because Tom Reilly’s cover for The Thing #4 is reminiscent of Kirby’s photo collage work on early Fantastic Four tales. It’s especially evocative of the Crossroads for Infinity/Junction to Everywhere splash from Fantastic Four #51, 1966. Which would explain Ben’s panicked expression. The Negative Zone is nobody’s vacation pick and, in the era of this series, it’s likely still used as a dumping ground for dangerous villains.
Negative Zone or no, Reilly’s depiction of Ben’s cosmos odyssey is a potent signpost-up-ahead blend of trippy and terrifying. While it fires on nostalgia cylinders, it also crackles with potential for issue #5. Imagine a dovetailed connecting cover expanding on the background with an unearthly entity closing fast. One wriggling and hungry and granting more than sufficient reason for Ben’s silent space scream.
FAITHLESS III #1 by Tula Lotay. (BOOM! Studios)
JJ: Faithless is back—commence to blushing. Brian Azzarello and Maria Llovet’s Alighieri-esque ode to magic, sin, and terror has returned to comic stands, and this time artist Tula Lotay has provided it a cover that doesn’t require a polybag with a schoolmarm warning printed all over it. So much the better.
Silkscreen serpents frame an intimate moment that’s about to take a turn. Or maybe it already has. The seduction has already been made, and our subject has either begun to move in for the kill or is enjoying the still moments afterwards. Either way, her gaze has shifted from her quarry to the fourth wall, where we look on, our breath caught in our chests. Maybe we’re wrong; maybe this is simply a charged encounter between the supernatural and the supernaturally curious. Or maybe we’re next. *gulp*
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers, from this month, from any month, in the comments section below!