By Molly Jane Kremer, Stefania Rudd, Clyde Hall, Brendan F. Hodgdon, and Mickey Rivera. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Cassey Kuo’s ‘FULL BLEED’ to Howard Porter’s latest front for ‘The Flash’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
FULL BLEED: The Comics & Culture Quarterly, Vol. 1, by Cassey Kuo (IDW Publishing)
MR: Pre-internet life required extreme measures to keep a subculture going. Your reviews, think pieces, and hot takes had to be physically delivered to doorsteps every month by government operatives (or, after 1971, FedEx) — barbarous and slow, but it worked. Magazines thrived as a primary source for non-news, specialty information. Their importance was evidenced by the amount of care that went into writing, editing, and designing them — care which I think Full Bleed is looking to live up to.
This cover illustration by Cassey Kuo is a good representation of how magazines affected the minds of youths in the age of paper. Attention unwavering, this reader’s mind has experienced a very organized explosion, producing a cloud of impossible and improbable objects: A Tetris-shaped pot of coffee, a Tetris-shaped dog, a large block of raw fish, a camera, art supplies, a Tetris-shaped slice of cake, a book half-submerged in your brain, a boot — all of this surrounded by the floating remains of the meat and gristle that once made up the top of their head.
It reminds me of that bizzare Emily Dickinson quote: “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” That’s just your mind being blown. The job of a good magazine — and I have a feeling Full Bleed is going to be really cool — is to catalyze your thoughts into a chain reaction that produces something greater than what was put in. If you’re lucky, you’ll look like the person on this cover by the end of it.
Twisted Romance #2, by Alejandra Gutiérrez. (Image Comics)
SR: A gaggle of tall, slender, and beautiful people — ahem, models — stand in poses, idly and effortlessly surrounding a cute, stylish, and full-figured gal on the cover of this week’s issue of Twisted Romance. It has me singing that Sesame Street tune, “One of these things is not like the others, One of these things just doesn’t belong…” But I get the impression that the reason our girl “just doesn’t belong” is because she is in full color, while the others are in solid, muted tones.
That means she is meant to stand out, not blend in. For me it says she has more spark and spunk than the other four combined. Alejandra Gutiérrez’s cover for the story “Twinkle & The Star” highlights those self-doubting feelings we all have, and the insecurities we experience when we compare ourselves to others. I can only imagine through the central character of Twinkle Johar that we learn when we embrace ourselves for who we are, we shine so brightly others cannot help but notice.
Wonder Woman #40, by Jenny Frison. (DC Comics)
MJ: Jenny Frison’s Wonder Woman variant covers have been murdering us with painterly gorgeousness — twice monthly — since issue #7. She’s stayed on the title longer than any other Rebirth variant artist, giving her time to refine her already masterful take on the character and the chance to fully expound upon her interpretation of Diana of Themyscira. Frison’s vision, not to mention her consistency, remains nothing short of astounding.
Frison makes this issue’s cover all about contrasts. The stark white space of the background is set against the warm golds and pinks of Wonder Woman’s face to beautiful effect. Diana’s hair, as though lifted by a soft breeze, moves up against the slow descent of Silver Swan’s feathers, leading the viewer’s glance up to an ice-blue eye. I hope Frison remains Wonder Woman’s cover artist indefinitely; her talent visually elevates the comic to one of the best-looking DC books on the stands. Twice monthly.
Kick-Ass #1, by Olivier Coipel (Image Comics)
BFH: If there’s one thing that has defined Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass books more than anything else, it has been an unrelenting and unapologetic desire to be ridiculous and inappropriate. Which makes sense, seeing as how it took classic kid-oriented superhero tropes and dropped them into a heightened, South Park-y depiction of modern adolescence to see how insane and offensive such tropes could be.
With that background in mind, this variant cover from the venerable Olivier Coipel seems to be going out of its way to suggest that this newest iteration of Kick-Ass will be a very different narrative creature.
Here, Coipel depicts our new Kick-Ass, a young single mother, in an almost Rockwellian context. It’s an intimate portrait of a mother kissing her daughter goodnight, a comfy-looking familial scene marred only by the super-suit and the bloodstains on the carpet. But beyond the stark stylistic departure from the previous books in the series, Coipel’s cover also captures what makes this new story so potentially interesting. Rather than imagining superheroics through the inherently vulgar and masturbatory POV of a teenage boy, this series follows a single mother trying to make the world better for her child.
While I’ve no doubt that Millar will still find time to inject his patented rude boy humor, I hope that this cover isn’t completely lying when it promises a story closer to Millar’s more earnest work like Starlight and Huck. It seems like we could use more of that right now.
The Flash #40, by Howard Porter. (DC Comics)
CH: DC covers and gorillas have a long, illustrious history winding back to the days when editors and sales departments first sussed out that simians meant more simoleons. Grodd was the perfect Silver Age Flash villain with that caveat in mind, because it wasn’t savage primate fare but rather menacing yet clever imagery that was needed. That little Comics Code Authority box guaranteed it. And here was one evil, hyper-intelligent, telepathic ape able to control the minds of others. No need to get terribly physical with Flash, just revel in the superior simian intellect.
Howard Porter’s cover art for The Flash #40 is a great venting for all the pent-up rage Grodd must have felt in those early years spent mental-bolting Flash or grinning at Flash’s shocked reaction to his latest devilish scheme. Here’s one hyper-savage, telepathic, 800-pound gorilla putting his nemesis down for a dirt nap. Porter became a personal favorite of mine during his 1990s run on JLA, where his action sequences brought heat to the conflicts of team dynamics and character development. It’s heartening to see his work continue to evolve, especially in breakneck, brilliant battle splashes like this one. He’s matured into a refined, top-level talent.
Planet of the Apes: Ursus #2, by Becca Carey. (BOOM! Studios)
CH: Fans of any iteration of Planet of the Apes (but especially the 1968 film) have enjoyed a wealth of beautiful cover art when it comes to its comic book adaptations and continuations. Mostly, there’s an expected method to it, a reliance on the rendering of the apes to figure out from which source the story’s taken. All terribly familiar, even standardized.
Then along comes an artist like Becca Carey, whose vision breaks free, ignores expectation, and stands convention on its ear to make something new and wonderful and yet still connected to our PoA consciousness. Her cover art gracing Planet of the Apes: Ursus #2, with its distressed vintage paperback mien, hearkens to a time when a journeyman dauber might have only some scattered passages or a vague editor’s synopsis to base a cover illo on. It’s a wickedly beautiful wink to the notion, suitable for a first printing of the Boulle novel.
The collage skillfully combines concept imagery (period astronauts, a half-buried Statue of Liberty, a brooding great ape photo, dunes of a wasteland) with rocky cliffs and a host of x-frame suspended figures. The arrangement even recalls some of the still art from the Return to the Planet of the Apes cartoon series which, while imperfect, still boasted gorgeous 1970s aesthetics (and which also took its own imaginative, enjoyable detour from any established PoA film continuity).
Even if you missed National Gorilla Suit Day on January 31 (I did, and yes, it’s a real thing), here’s a chance to learn the back story of the most militant of their ilk. Carey’s work imparts that shared human-primate trait of curiosity, because really? How could you view this cover and not pick up the book?
And that’s it! Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below — best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!