By Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Hayden Sherman’s ‘Cold War’ to Esad Ribić’s ‘VS’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Cold War #3 by Hayden Sherman. (AfterShock Comics)
JJ: Hayden Sherman’s cover to Cold War #3 is a snapshot from some misbegotten cyberpunk future. One that’s gone even more awry than you’d expect. In this brutal AfterShock title, people awake from a cryogenic sleep and step into a future they didn’t ask for. A gun is thrust in their hands, they’re pointed towards a target they don’t understand, and are told to kill or die. It’s vicious. And Sherman doesn’t just ensure his covers convey Cold War‘s bleak worldview — he makes damn sure it looks fucking deadly. Literally and aesthetically.
Taken out of context, Sherman’s image becomes even more chilling. A shock of yellow perfectly contrasts the tar-black of our subject’s hand as it grimly lifts a bloody havoc that used to be somebody’s helmet. The name of the former owner is lost in a red smear that likely originated from the head that helm failed to protect. What’ll happen to this thing? Will it become a trophy? Will it get discarded into the refuse of history, along with its former owner? Did this person deserve to die? Guess I’ll have to buy the issue to figure it out.
The Dead Hand #1 by Stephen Mooney and Jordie Bellaire. (Image Comics)
CH: An old Cold War spy dealing with the collapse of the USSR and the return of a globe-threatening organization in 1991 sounds like just the tale in need of a Stephen Mooney cover. Marry his pulp-paperback technique to the stylish colors of Jordie Bellaire and you have a Half Past Danger: Pretty Deadly banquet of espionage entertainment. The directly confrontational composition, a stunning, suppressed firearm beauty backed by business-end crosshair focus from her enforcer, raises the question of just who poses the most formidable threat. It’s easy to imagine them both peering out from a vintage pocket edition spin rack.
The rest falls into place around the primary duo superbly, with casual menace to the left, three-piece peril below, high-flying escape to the right. The dark and brooding Craggy Man and a star-visored operative frame the title and call attention to the dynamic Dead Hand device suitable for t-shirts and other branding, if not for the whole ‘super-secret evil organization’ thing. Over-the-top action, under-the-table dubious dealing, and an agent past his prime are ingredients that Mooney and Bellaire can definitely deliver to a violent and subdued main entrée.
VS #3 by Esad Ribić. (Image Comics)
MR: You can feel the silence of the cover to VS #3 — the cold silence of a pre-battle dawn. There’s two seemingly contradictory forces that artist Esad Ribić puts into play in this image: a sense of emptiness and a sense of heaviness. The smoggy, damn near radioactively yellow sky plays host to massive, motionless machines. Other than the intimidating scale of this scene there’s the anxiety of knowing that only the accuracy of certain circuits and algorithms is keeping everything afloat, keeping the whole fleet from falling out of the sky.
VS is one of the most visually stunning comics out there, filled with a combination of poetically sleek futurism and gratuitous violence. The solitary warrior there at the bottom right is the focus of its story: Satta Flynn. A hardened marine and virtual warsport legend, Flynn has spent most of the story dodging gunfire and dealing it out in return. But there’s an unspoken meditative stability emanating from his character. He’s not just a soldier and a competitor — Chaos is his home. Appropriately then, Flynn is portrayed here as though he were wildlife, perched on a levitating aircraft like a mountain lion surveying the prairie for his next kill.
Domino #1 by Elsa Charretier. (Marvel Comics)
CH: Elsa Charretier cites many inspirations to her work, and her cover for Domino #1 channels two of them especially. Imagine that Darwyn Cooke and Bruce Timm had collaborated on a Bond film title sequence but centered it on a vision of the Marvel mutant mercenary that belongs solely to Charretier. I’ve seen Domino imagined by many artists over the years, and hers is a fresh, sophisticated approach that matches the smart elegance-in-action of the composition.
The pale silhouettes closing on the focal point portrait, each strapped with web belts, holster tie-downs and shoulder rigging, are blithely evocative. Their poised and double-vision renders grant an energy and motion to the staid centerpiece, Domino staring down trouble with an offhand presentation of a gun dangling like a fashion accessory at the end of an elegantly gloved and pearl-braceleted arm. Black silhouettes stand out in the primary image as well, granting a sublime equilibrium.
Charretier’s color palette and background circles resonate the iconic cover work of Steranko’s Nick Fury, channeling a new Domino as the last word in lethal-chic.
New Super-Man and the Justice League of China #22 by Bernard Chang. (DC Comics)
JJ: The future and history. Analog and digital. Stodgy and fresh. While the contrasts between Superman and New Super-Man are made obvious by this cover, Bernard Chang makes sure that character comes before comparison.
I love how Chang revived the classic “phone booth quick-change” part of the Superman mythos just so have some fun, presenting a team-up image with one of the best character additions to the canon in ages. There’s a fracas out there that could use a man of steel, and while Clark Kent is still fussing with his button-down, here’s Kong Kenan, taking a call while Superman hurries the heck up. It’s exactly the kind of fun you’d expect from Gene Luen Yang’s New Super-Man. And Bernard Chang took special care to remind us that “fun” is precisely why we keep reading these super-stories, year after year after year.
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!