By Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan F. Hodgdon, 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.
The Jetsons #4, by Ben Caldwell. (DC Comics)
CH: ‘Dear PTB, et al, DC Comics, This Valentine’s Day, please forego the usual Rex the Wonder Dog and Detective Chimp plush toys, and gift us one more monthly title from writer Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Pier Brito, with covers by Ben Caldwell: The Legion of Super-Heroes. And make the initial twenty-odd covers like this one, a telling portrait of each LSH member with background action, other members, villains, and support characters. XOXOXO’
While we wait on that, we still have The Jetsons #4, continuing an extremely creative sci-fi/action adventure based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon comedy.
Caldwell’s waifish Judy Jetson graces the cover, caught in an unguarded, carefree moment marveling at the beauty of the natural world. Either that, or a nanite simulation butterfly hologram. Either way, she’s darling and elfish in her serene interlude while Earth goes handcart hellbent around her. For that backdrop, the rest of Judy’s family assume heroic flight poses, braving orbit in the path of an oncoming heavenly body. Long live the Jetsons!
Rogue & Gambit #2, by Kris Anka. (Marvel Comics)
BFH: There are two things that Kris Anka is known for drawing as well or better than anyone in the industry: colorful clothing and toned bodies. And his latest beautiful offering — his cover for Rogue & Gambit #2 — Anka lives up to that reputation quite nicely.
The looks of our titular heroes here call back to some of their best retro stylings (i.e. Rogue’s feathered hair, Gambit’s bunched-up trenchcoat look), revitalized by Anka’s clean, modern penciling. But then he heightens the tone of the piece further with the artfully-placed tears in their clothes, enough to highlight their superheroic physiques and add a level of sexual tension to the scene. What could be just an action-centric hero vs. hero image becomes a much more titillating and dynamic shot. Anka’s art in a nutshell.
Just as importantly, it’s Rogue and Gambit in a nutshell. The choice of Anka to provide covers for this mini helps convey the core of this storied X-Men romance effortlessly, so even those readers that have been living under a rock since 1990 will get what this story is all about. And for those of us who know this tortured ‘ship all too well, it dramatizes the appeal of these heroes together in exactly the right way.
Deathstroke #28, by Ryan Sook. (DC Comics)
AOK: Ryan Sook has an early contender for cover of the year with Deathstroke #28. His kaleidoscopic firefight between the titular anti-hero and the New Super-Man of China is an absolutely stunning cacophony of kicks, slashes, and holds. Muzzle flash and tracers and heat vision crisscross the page in an M.C. Escher knot of combat. It’s the climatic conclusion of The Lady of Shanghai. Check out New Super-Man’s reflection in Deathstroke’s sword, the Deathstroke head in New Super-Man’s golden S. Sing a song of scales and stars and boot tread. This cover is a buffet of gorgeous masculine forms beating the shit out of each other.
It’s one thing to have this idea. Executing it with such clarity and excitement is next level. Each move, punch, kick, grimace, and squint implies an action that precedes and follows the static image Sook captures. My imagination is flying, my eyes dancing, my brain aflame. Amazing.
Batman #40, by Joëlle Jones and Jordie Bellaire. (DC Comics)
CH: It’s one thing to leave poor Commissioner Gordon talking to thin air with his patented SEM (Stealth Exit Maneuver), but it’s another thing for Batman to pull a successful SAM (Stealth Arrival Maneuver) on Wonder Woman after she’s activated the Bat-Signal to draw him there.
I would be approaching from behind the billion-candlepower light source, too, and hoping that Amazonian pupils reacted to light in some manner akin to mortals. Part predatory, part playful (she knows he’s there, or at least considers the probability; check out her expression), the cover of Batman #40 is purely Joëlle Jones at her finest. Or at her World’s Finest, considering the teaming of the Dark Knight and the Amazing Amazon, a combination every bit as enjoyable as Bruce and Clark, only far less frequent.
One could expect no less from the talent behind those poised, retro-perky, yet blood-spattered covers of Lady Killer. Jordie Bellaire washes out Wonder Woman’s bold colors in the backlit brilliance of the spotlight, the right noirish quality, a monochrome Athena descending the shadowy depths in search of its darkest denizen. It’s literally modern mythology. There’s always been an allure to mortal, very male, warriors allied with superhuman, very female, goddesses. Jones plucks that Jason-Hera chord melodically.
VS #1, by Esad Ribić and Tom Muller. (Image Comics)
JJ: Here’s a helluva thing. VS, a book about war as sport. In it, the military industrial complex seems to have absorbed the entertainment industry, and now propagandized gladiatorial shenanigans are the toast of society. Gotta cow the masses somehow. (Insert timely XFL joke here.)
Gonna read the crap out of this, clearly. Ivan Brandon of Black Cloud fame and Esad Ribić of you-know-who-Esad-Ribić-is. Sign me up. But what’s got me sold on VS, beyond its ‘roided-out Rollerball premise, is this monstrous cover from Ribić and Tom Muller.
Ribić don’t play. Muscles on muscles. Sternocleidomastoids throb like the fuel-running tubes running parallel to them. A look of grim determination is set between a jaw that will likely never break and a “fuck with me at your peril” application of guyliner. But what makes this cover pop my eyes out of their ocular cavities is Tom Muller’s reliably killer trade dressing. The letters of our title, thick as the neck of our subject, slapped over his forehead as though the title of the book was about to kick our ass. This is how I like it. VS, in my face.
And that’s it! Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below!