By Stefania Rudd, Arpad Okay, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. Each week, we single out the most striking covers that grace comic book stands and gush all over them.
Darkseid Special #1, by Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn. (DC Comics)
JJ: Out there in the deep expanses of the universe lurks a god of terrible power. Sitting on a throne contemplating our end. Energy crackles behind him and through him, ending just behind his cruel red gaze. He’s thinking, contemplating. Life. Anti-life.
There! The answers to everything, in the palm of his hands. The unyielding machinery about him, forged in his abominable image, bringing him — and us — ever closer to the Omega point. For now, to know him is to know mercy; to know him is to know our days are numbered.
Chris Burnham and Nathan Fairbairn are a team unparalleled. Their cover to DC’s Darkseid Special is more than an ode to King Kirby. It’s a valentine to evil, an iconic image of a despot that belongs in the annals of legend. Put simply, it’s rad as fuck.
Victor LaValle’s Destroyer #4, by Micaela Dawn. (BOOM! Studios)
AOK: The cover to the fourth issue of Victor LaValle’s Destroyer is a beguiling creation. At a glance, Micaela Dawn has produced a beautiful piece of art. A pair of hands and, in the space contained between them, a boy. Rendered with the color and style of a stained glass window. The contour lines are white. The overlay between hand and head, finger and foot and leg, fall in place like watercolors on vellum. It could be an album cover, some NPR darlings, or the latest Odd Future mix tape.
But look closer. Destroyer has more in common with the transparent pages in an anatomy book than it does the Pitchfork hit list. This little boy has sutures running across his chest and coming out of his eyes. There’s staples in his scalp. The fingernails that close around him are cracked. Dawn’s cover dazzles, but it still tells the truth about the dark contents found within. It’s inspired. It’s also disturbing.
America #6, by Jen Bartel. (Marvel Comics)
JJ: If there was ever a series that deserved its own line of tribute covers, it is most certainly Love and Rockets. And if there was a comic published today that could (and should) start this trend, it would be Marvel Comics’ America. Lucky for us there is a book like America. Lucky for us there’s an artist like Jen Bartel, who pays fearless homage to Jaime Hernandez’s legendary cover to Love and Rockets #24.
America has already honored one of the world’s most beloved pop goddesses on its cover, without a single shred of irony or cynicism. For a book that can toe that line, with the grace of a prima ballerina no less, it was only right that Bartel would dive head-first into this cover. It blends the iconography of Hernandez’s paradigm-shifting efforts with the candy-colored sensuality of Bartel’s world with the balance of a Gondolin sword.
An issue from Marvel Comics that pays homage to one of the most beautifully-rendered series in all comicdom? I’m ready for this brave new world.
Faith and the Future Force #2, by Paulina Ganucheau. (Valiant)
SR: The variant cover in this four-part summer event from Valiant, is done by the amazingly talented Paulina Ganucheau. The cover is composed of Faith, center and upright, emerging from shadowy shades of blues and purples. Above her the time traveler, Neela Sethi, hovering in warmer hues of red, orange, and yellow, mirror images. Both have the same clock, with the same time on it: 11:52. Is it morning? Night? Does it matter? Perhaps the quesiont should be: what happens when the clock strikes twelve?
Faith and Neela’s left middle fingers connect, as a bright golden light illuminates their path. It gives the impression that they are traveling (or falling) through the cosmos together. Where will they land? Who will they meet? Whatever happens after this particular moment, they both look surprised and uncertain about their future, which has me feeling the same.
All-Star Batman #13, by Rafael Albuquerque. (DC Comics)
JJ: Rafael Albuquerque has been busting his ass on this latest All-Star Batman arc. It isn’t enough for the artist to simply knock out the pages to Scott Snyder’s final run on his outside-the-box Batman saga. He’s been contributing its covers as well, not to mention its variants. (Don’t forget the mountain of other covers he has going on most of the time.) And yet his output hasn’t diminished Albuquerque’s quality. As a matter of fact, his years have hardened him into a one-man force of nature. It’s only fitting that this cover reflects his might.
This cover to the penultimate issue of All-Star is at once somber and thrilling. The wind howls against the Dark Knight, his cape pulling against the hero’s beleaguered shoulders as he prepares for a lethal strike from his opponent. The rain’s a deluge and lightning strikes too near, a blast of energy that scarcely fights back the darkness around them. The elements wage war on his senses. His opponent moves in for the kill. This could be how the Batman ends, out there beyond Gotham City.
It’s a cover that tells a tale black as pitch, a glimmer of hope in a burst of blue. It’s a cover that reminds us what we’re looking at, bathing our eyes in a wave of magenta neon. It’s perfect.
And that’s it! Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below.