By Clyde Hall, Brendan F. Hodgdon, Mickey Rivera, 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.
Action Comics #992, by Jerry Ordway. (DC Comics)
JJ: It’s an acknowledged truth about superhero comics: Big moments demand legendary artists. Action Comics #992, the entire issue, is a big moment for Superman. It’s a game-changer that deals with the fallout of “The Oz Effect” saga, an issue that sets Superman on a trajectory that seems designed to make Super-fans’ hearts ache. To underscore the gravity of this issue DC has presented us the artwork of a legend.
Jerry Ordway is our generation’s Curt Swan. His Superman has already been inducted into the annals of greatness. He’s been making Superman look good for so long that you couldn’t confuse his contributions as anything but an act of grace. Here, Ordway provides us his take on the post-Rebirth Superman. He stands alone, grief his only companion in the Fortress of Solitude. Ordway takes a moment and makes it iconic. He’s good that way. A Superman in crisis. A job done magnificently well.
Eleanor and the Egret #5, by Sam Kieth. (AfterShock Comics)
MR: Sam Kieth’s Jungian fairy tales have almost always been preoccupied with the subconscious weirdness that lurks behind our eyes, that emotional muck just past the limit of what we’re aware of. Though written by John Layman, Eleanor and the Egret still has that delicious inner core of dream logic that Kieth is known for, where internal psychologies take physical form and wreak havoc. As disastrous as that would be in real life, it’s easy to see how it might be useful. The hardest thing to know is what people are truly thinking. I’d give points for clarity if someone’s frustration took the form of a 6-foot tall heron that eats all of my favorite trade paperbacks.
The Shadow #4, by Lee Weeks and Kelley Jones. (Dynamite)
JJ: The cover game is strong for Dynamite’s The Shadow series. That strength is found in the publisher’s impeccable taste in artists. This week we have Lee Weeks, who provides an action shot of our anti-hero diving boots-first onto a speeding locomotive, twin guns drawn, prepared for vengeance. The angle Weeks employs underscores the madness at play in this rousing image. You can almost hear a blast of horns from some brilliant Bernard Herrmann score. It’s impossible to look at this cover and not feel your pulse quicken.
Then I turn my attention to Kelley Jones’ variant cover, and it slays me. Where Weeks’ composition puts The Shadow’s supernatural abilities on display, Jones pulls in close to convey the character’s simmering intensity. The Shadow has the ability to cloud men’s minds they say. Vengeance drives him. Jones renders that drive, his hypnotic focus, all over the character’s face. There’s somebody else just off the borders of the image, likely cowering in terror before the stunning ferocity of The Shadow. To the anguish of that poor soul — and to our absolute thrill — Jones moves in for the kill.
Detective Comics #969, by Guillem March. (DC Comics)
BFH: In the spirit of Batman’s home turf, this cover is Gothic with an emphasis on the capital “G”. Guillem March lays the atmosphere on thick for this one, as one should with any depiction of Gotham City and its nocturnal inhabitants. From the swirling amber sky in the background to the gargoyle-and-shadow-friendly building supporting the cast, March’s image conveys a clear, unmistakable tone and identity without even having to consider the characters depicted at its center.
But oh, what lovely depictions they are. March makes them feel like a unified group while still finding little details to set them apart from each other. Batman and Batwoman stand tall and focused, while next to them Azrael and Orphan are poised for action. Batwing swoops up triumphantly behind them, while Red Robin and Spoiler are together, and a bit more restrained than the others. And then in the very back is Clayface, a tragic monster shown with empathetic care. All in all, a great encapsulation of the Knights, and James Tynion IV’s fantastic run on this title as a whole.
Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #2, by Dean Ormston. (Dark Horse Comics)
CH: Dean Ormston’s work on Vertigo titles and Black Hammer establishes him as a Master of the Unsettling. His variant cover art for Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil #2 centers on the enigma that is Cthu-Lou. Former plumber, chosen envoy of the Great Old Ones, feared supervillain, he may shed light on the fate of the lost hero Black Hammer.
Judging by issue #1, it’s a deliciously deviant tale and Ormston delivers a cover in precise pitch. The innocence of childhood, corrupted by Elder influence, is as stained as those clapboard surroundings. The Onlooker beyond the door; is he proud parent or impatient overlord? Or both. A wry, death-rattle chuckle added with the ‘family portraits’ adorning the background. Even the toy, a less-than-pristine Black Hammer plaything, dangles teasingly as a clue to the mystery of his disappearance. This cover demands that we answer the call of You Know Who.
And that’s it! Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below.