By Molly Jane Kremer, Clyde Hall, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Nimit Malavia’s ‘Ice Cream Man’ to Joshua Middleton’s variant to ‘Aquaman’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Pumpkinhead #1, by Kelley Jones. (Dynamite)
CH: Some artists are born to draw spandex-clad superheroes, others Noir crime or anthropomorphic fare, and some have a chameleon Patronus enabling them to do it all. Kelley Jones was made to draw monsters, and his cover for Dynamite’s Pumpkinhead #1 clearly illustrates how, had he come along a generation earlier, Jones would have been a perfect fit for the E.C. bullpen. The vengeance demon has never looked more nightmarish, on screen or off, with his knobby shoulder protuberances, elongated skull, and grimaced visage captured mid-snack.
It was a little surprising to me that said munchie (the head of a ne’er-do-well no doubt amply deserving of hell-spawned retribution) came without dangling trachea, sinew, or veins. But the cleanly-severed noggin, taken in what appears the middle of an interrupted scream, alludes to the terrible swift claws of the creature. The psychology over gore is actually quite brilliant.
Pumpkinhead’s a landshark who stalks, menaces, and then has a litany of ways to make you pay, be it spindling, gnawing, Ginsu-ing, or any combinations thereof before he turns a victim into his broken and fleshly chew toy. Jones’ cover is art that makes you wonder what the recipient of the demon’s attention did to deserve this. Now start considering your own sinful checklist to make sure Pumpkinhead’s not going for a ghoulish hat trick.
Aquaman #33, by Stjepan Sejic and Joshua Middleton. (DC Comics)
MJ: It’s a great week for the fella who can talk to fish. Rarely are both the standard and variant of a DC comic just as compelling as those of Aquaman #33.
Joshua Middleton has been killing it on Aquaman variant covers since the Rebirth relaunch. (We spotlight his work on Undercover quite regularly.) Similarly to his recent work on variants for Batgirl, he switches his styles so often that somehow still, month after month, the covers remain stunningly fresh. On issue #33’s variant, Arthur’s hair floats behind him in a profile headshot, his steely gaze fixed off-page. Middleton combines the warm oranges and golds of Arthur’s hair and costume with the cool teal of the oceanic background (and the fishies!) to beautiful effect.
Stjepan Sejic also takes full advantage of the comic’s watery setting, in what has to be one of the most romantic Aquaman covers since (coincidentally) Patrick Gleason’s cover to 2005’s Aquaman #33. At first glance Arthur and Mera look rather blissful amidst their liplock, until a second look makes it apparent they’re being dragged apart by the hands of foes unseen. Sejic adds more drama and passion (not to mention bubbles!) than typically expected on an Aquaman cover. It’s definitely got this reader intrigued.
Batwoman #12, by Dan Panosian. (DC Comics)
CH: The covers of Batwoman have largely been beautiful, polished, poster-worthy art with Kate Kane taking her war on crime to the superstitious, cowardly lot head-on. Plus, many have a predominantly red-black-and-white color scheme, a personal favorite combination of mine. Then came Dan Panosian’s cover for issue #12. It’s uniquely, menacingly moody, and stylistically a break away from the recent Batwoman offerings. It not only grabs attention, its detail grips it and refuses to let go.
Panosian’s line art is deliciously imperfect on those rusted, pointy gothic spires-in-waiting beneath our plummeting heroine as she takes a dizzying full header off the rooftops. The sketchy style he’s chosen here (and he varies that pencil work adroitly depending on the project) is ideal for an animated flailing Batwoman being escorted by, ironically enough, a camp of bats on her perilous plunge. We know she won’t go splat, she’s a gymnast if not an acrobat, and she’s also tough enough to take a bounce or two and keep fighting, but the adrenalized depiction lends a true sense of danger and urgency.
While witnessing them deliver impressive ‘Oh, crap!’ moments to villainous POVs is satisfying, there’s also empathy and identification seeing our indomitable superheroes make an occasional wrong step. It’s certainly true for Batman, and it’s true here for Batwoman.
Ice Cream Man #2, by Nimit Malavia. (Image Comics)
JJ: Nimit Malavia. Hot damn. W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo’s horror anthology is only two issues deep, but it’s never looked this tasty. Malavia’s variant to Ice Cream Man #2 is a psychedelic sweet tart. It makes my eyes drool.
Waffle cones, cookie sandwiches, and a river of sprinkles swim around a marble goddess sculpted from sorbet. And there, dancing off into a sugar-coated oblivion, fudge bars the color of a Turbo Rocket. I’ve gained weight just staring at this thing. I can practically taste the colors.
Speaking of, those candy colors evoke a sense of danger. There’s peril that comes with overindulging, and Malavia is content testing your decadent limits. That blue raspberry queen seems to be leaning forward from her bed of strawberry glaze, fingers reaching out to someone. Her next victim, perhaps. Singing that Archies siren song. “Honey,” she coos. “Sugar, sugar.” There are worse ways to go.
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!