By Molly Jane Kremer, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan F. Hodgdon, Mickey Rivera, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Nick Robles’ now-iconic cover to ‘Kid Lobotomy’ #6 to Ivan Reis and Marcelo Maiolo’s front to ‘The Terrifics’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Saga #50 by Fiona Staples. (Image Comics)
BFH: It feels right that Saga’s contribution to Image’s Artist Appreciation cover month would arrive with its landmark 50th issue. After all, this book (with respect to Brian K. Vaughan) owes so much to the tremendous work of Fiona Staples. A front-and-center celebration of her talents at this milestone feels appropriate.
Just as appropriate and essential to this celebration is the cover’s subjects, the family at the center of Saga. While the simple moment of familial bliss depicted here seems almost intentionally contradictory to the violent and sexual nature of the series as a whole, it really does speak to the emotional core of this long and winding story. Because through it all, the guiding light of Saga has been the love of this family, who stands unbowed through prejudice, tragedy, and failure. And while Alanna, Marko, and Hazel have had precious few moments of genuine peace that we’ve seen, it’s gratifying to see them happy and together like this, if only on a cover.
Shadowman #1 by Tonci Zonjic. (Valiant)
AOK: Face the raw, lethal power of Shadowman. Brush strokes eke out the details of lips and brow, and a stylized line of solid black fauxes out the jawbone and seals the superhero look. The nose that rises and then sinks into black bone defies the realism of the rest of the portrait. It’s a cover, yeah, and it’s a museum piece. The coolest album cover you’ll never find in the bin. Stunning like a punch.
Tonci Zonjic can grab you with every detail in sharp definition from across a room. In monochrome, no less. Simple doesn’t do the power of this cover justice. Call it primal. Zonjic nails the impossible desire a cover stirs in us. You desperately want the contents to make you feel as strongly as this does. But it stands: singular, perfect, unable to be relegated to a panel, page, or part.
The Terrifics #2 by Ivan Reis and Marcelo Maiolo. (DC Comics)
CH: Some heroes just go together, easily imagined working effectively in concert by the casual reader. It’s the teams that defy easy speculation with their quirky rosters that are a source of nirvana.
For me, the first such unusual consortium came with the original run of The Champions. Later, Giffen and Maguire’s iconic Justice League cover sent me scrambling to preorder. DC has again slapped me further into second childhood with The Terrifics, and the covers are a big part of the thrill. Just like the inaugural issue, the cover for issue #2 features what seems a Fantastic Four homage. But this quartet has no shared origin story, coming from every corner of the DCU. Mr. Terrific, modern member of the Justice Society. Paired with Phantom Girl, a Legion of Super-Heroes regular. Alongside Plastic Man, Justice Leaguer and malleable class clown way older than he looks. And rounding them out, Metamorpho, the Silver Age Element Man who probably has more Roll Call reservations than any character in DC history. They may look like the FF, but they won’t function like them.
Artists Ivan Reis and Marcelo Maiolo assure us of that with the allied superheroes reacting to the rising menace of the Dark Multiverse. Phantom Girl shocked by the turn of events! Metamorpho looking to Mr. Terrific for answers, while the latter takes stock and forms a plan! Plastic Man screaming in panic! So maybe there are some similarities to Reed and company. None of these characters have ever looked better than in this meltdown moment follow-up to their heroic cover pose for issue #1. The Before and After tone of both covers conveys the message: The series may be fraught with peril, but there’ll be no lack of fun along the way.
Lockjaw #2 by Kris Anka. (Marvel Comics)
MR: Having landed his own comic purely on the strength of his wordless charm, Lockjaw‘s place in the hearts and minds of Inhumans fans is all but cemented. For some strange reason, acts of heroism and valor are exponentially bolstered when carried out by creatures of intense innocence and cuteness.
In keeping with last issue’s introduction of a certain Golden Age jungle hero, this cover by Kris Anka invokes the spirit of classic pulp fantasy art. It’s quite an epic and stunning throwback, spiked with the self-aware ridiculousness beaming off of Lockjaw’s scrunched up, slobbering mug. He looks downright hypnotized, gazing with his beady eyes into the middle distance, suspiciously okay with the more-or-less naked blonde beefcake perched on his back.
One wonders what possessed Lockjaw, in the middle of the night, to run away from his home, to teleport from the moon to earth and now to this mysterious jungle, on the trail of some mysterious unknown signal. Was something lacking? When told he was a good boy, did he not feel it in his heart? Does this loin-cloth wearing supermodel have what he seeks?
Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #18 by Rod Reis. (Marvel Comics)
MJ: There are a whole lot of Star Wars comics, and even more variants for each issue, so it’s not often that an incentive cover from a Galaxy Far, Far Away really grabs my eye. But Doctor Aphra #18 happened to catch my attention in a huge way, thanks to the amazing talents of its artist Rod Reis.
This is the ninth in a series of thirty-six “Galactic Icon” variants by Reis, appearing consecutively on all three Star Wars ongoing series. Every variant is a somber, beautifully rendered portrait of a single Star Wars character, little in the way of background to distract or detract from the central figure. Reis’ painterly style effortlessly communicates in a single image what we love (or hate; or both–look, it’s complex) about each subject, none more completely than in this depiction of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, the First Order’s new Supreme Leader, and a character I not-so-casually refer to as my Problematic Space Boyfriend.
This cover might be one of Reis’ best likenesses in the series so far, and in his delicate watercolors the character’s petulance, determination, and vulnerability are made manifest. (And yeah, underneath that soulful stare, the evil is pretty evident too.) All of the first nine Galactic Icon covers have featured stars of The Last Jedi (the next one starts off a new batch with Alden Ehrenreich’s Han Solo). Ending Reis’ Episode VIII interpretations with this masterpiece was an excellent decision.
Kid Lobotomy #6 by Nick Robles. (Black Crown/IDW Publishing)
JJ: Would a modern-day Orpheus dream? It seems his decadent lifestyle has him laying awake nights. Nick Robles’ ode to a boy in trouble is one of this week’s very best covers. What makes it extra special — aside from all the feelings it’s giving me as I say goodbye to one of my favorite new series — is that it almost didn’t exist.
Here’s a fun story: Robles originally posted a version of this image on Twitter as Kid Lobotomy fan art. Kid artist Tess Fowler loved it, Black Crown editor Shelly Bond loved it, the rest of the internet loved it, and blammo guess what — Robles went from BC enthusiast to a bonafide player almost overnight. And his piece — lovely, moody and serene — ultimately became the main cover to Kid Lobotomy‘s final issue. Now somebody put that thing under glass and send it to DoomRocket HQ, stat.
Another fun wrinkle in this story: Robles is the artist on Tini Howard’s next Black Crown affair, Euthanauts, out later this year. The moral of this saga? Always post fan art. You never know where it may pop up next.
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!