By Molly Jane Kremer, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Brendan F. Hodgdon, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Marguerite Sauvage’s ‘Wasted Space’ to the top-tier ‘Action Comics’ #1000 variants from DC Comics’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Action Comics #1000 by Joshua Middleton. (DC Comics)
MJ: There are a lot of variants to Action Comics #1000. Aside from the numerous store-exclusive variants that the die-hard collectors will be hunting throughout the foreseeable future, DC Comics has published ten (!!) covers readily available at your local comic shop. And they’re all so good, it’s beyond difficult to pick a favorite; except that my heart often steers in the direction of Joshua Middleton’s art. (See past Undercovers for me babbling about his Batgirl variants.)
Each Action cover focuses on a specific decade of the iconic character’s enduring legacy. Middleton has the 80’s, though his cover seems the most timeless. Lois Lane’s impeccable fashion (and resemblance to Margot Kidder) is the main reminder of the time period, but Middleton’s subtle addition of Brainiac nestled into the stunning, painterly sky make this look like a period-correct (and incredibly pretty) movie poster. One could say this is almost restrained for a Middleton piece, but in its bright, striking simplicity is perfection.
Wasted Space #1, by Marguerite Sauvage. (Vault Comics)
BFH: Space operas are all over the place lately, particularly in comics, and I for one couldn’t be happier. The latest of these is Wasted Space from Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman, which sounds great enough just on its promise of disgraced galactic preachers and suggestively-designated “Fuq bots”. But when you wrap the first issue in some gorgeous Marguerite Sauvage artwork, it just keeps looking better.
What really makes this cover sing is how the overall design recalls old-school pulp covers, with the piping around the perimeter and the collage of faces and bodies. But then Sauvage adds her own personality and flair to it, showcasing sexy heroes against a cosmic backdrop. And on top of that, in the foreground we have the kinetic sight of a character in motion, highlighted by a stylish streaking light effect. It’s a great balance of classic and modern that catches the eye and intrigues the mind, and calls attention to what sounds like fun new series.
Assassinistas #4 by Paulina Ganucheau. (Black Crown/IDW Publishing)
JJ: Music and mayhem, that’s what Black Crown has brought back to comics. An attitude, a mission, a strength. A light. It’s attracted several incredibly gifted creators, all of whom have gladly lined up under the jet-black awning outside the choicest party in the industry today. This week, it’s Paulina Ganucheau’s time to shine.
Here, Ganucheau takes us back. When? Ask Tini Howard: “Then.” Take one look at Assassinistas‘ Octavia, much younger, much groovier, lacing up a pair of skates as Yes no doubt blasts through the rink just outside this stunner of a cover, and you have an idea of when. Helps that Ganucheau doesn’t skimp on the vintage details. Head bands bleed stripes across the image, evoking dreamlike memory of carefree days. The colors are a blast of after-school specials and Whatchamacallit wrappers. The dings and scrapes signify that, even then, Octavia was a warrior. Ready to hit back.
Her destiny is still years away. For now, thanks to Paulina Ganucheau, Octavia wages a different kind of war. On the roller rink.
Action Comics #1000 by Michael Allred and Laura Allred. (DC Comics)
CH: This epic milestone comes in cover variations for every decade of Superman’s publication history. A whole gallery of choices, each entry rendered by industry worthies, but Mike and Laura Allred’s 1960s homage made my Silver Age inner fan’s heart sing. Indeed, the artists Allred distilled the very essence of my childhood Man of Tomorrow, all the elements that first made me a fan back when. For those who’ve forgotten their juvenile love of fun in the funny books, or for later generations who in the glow of modern enlightenment dismiss that output as contemptuous Comics Authority pap, I must beg to differ.
Comics titles of that era were a beautiful pastiche of child-appropriate tales, imaginatively realized and rendered into the most bizarre, the most surreal, sometimes (intentionally or not) the most child-inappropriate stories and characters to ever flout censorship’s finest moral compasses. Not until the Vertigo imprint were DC readers treated to brilliant and entertaining absurdity rivalling the Legion of Super-Pets, or the imperfect pathos of Bizarro World tales, or the inherent horror of an alien powerhouse-ant emperor Red K hybrid. Not to mention the mixed couple romantic explorations of a Kryptonian and a mermaid.
The Allreds have always understood this, their work at times a logical extension of the Silver Age’s boldly exquisite outlandishness. Checkerboard border in place, they have united the barrel-chested Boring and Swanderson Superman style and paid honor to all 80 Page Giant covers past with a heaping helping of giant Fortress keys, cities in a bottle, and Imaginary Tale denizens. Of all the #1000 cover artists, the Allreds may have come closest to capturing the elusive true spirit of their decade.
Her Infernal Descent #1 by Robert Hack. (AfterShock Comics)
AOK: What a strange, morose, sanguine vision Robert Hack has given us here. An odd place to find optimism, underneath a tree of bones, but I can still feel it. Skulls are fruit, spines branches, limbs limbs, the trunk and everything held together with who knows what. Not bound by anything visible, just the product of some dark magic mocking the natural world. A cracked cerebral pome sprouts bones and leaves. The sky is fire, orange with wisps of white, smoke overhead, not a sunset, blood on a blanket so old it has faded past rust to soup.
Maybe it’s the angle of the mother’s head, chin tipped toward the sky, eyes closed. Maybe how the wind takes her hair, makes a cape of her shawl. As long as there’s breeze on your back, there’s hope. Maybe it’s bare feet on grass. For me, this image isn’t damned. It’s blessed.
Mister Miracle #8 by Mitch Gerads. (DC Comics)
CH: War and marriage, war and marriage, go together like gangbusters in the hands of artist Mitch Gerads. Or in the case of this cover, maybe war and parentage. Calling the shots in a devastating battle of the planets while navigating the domestic challenges of husband and father would drive anyone to their knees, so Scott Free’s genuflection under the weight of responsibility is understandable.
Gerads creates impact here with an unsettling double dose of effect and emotion. The swirling, sweeping firestorm that pins Mister Miracle in his servile position, at the mercy of forces greater than himself is compositional perfection. Weapons loom in the eye of the militant maelstrom, one poised precariously over the smoldering remains of an abandoned plush toy. The vulnerabilities implied here are heightened by that plushy being a Batman doll, the effigy of a very human hero.
The current Mister Miracle series is dark and heavy, but with breakthroughs of sunlight which often come from Scott’s home life. As a mixture, that’s not as comforting as it may seem. Happiness, stability, parental joy may be what he fights for, may make him fight harder, but the threat to all he cherishes always looms. This cover is a model in miniature of the narrative edge the creators and their audience tread with every issue.
Action Comics #1000 by Lee Bermejo. (DC Comics)
JJ: No one grasps the other-worldly nature of Superman quite like Lee Bermejo. We know the Man of Steel’s Kansas farm upbringing makes him down-to-earth as anything else. We take that for granted. Which makes it easy to forget that he’s the last Kryptonian. An alien being. Born on a dying planet. Hurtled through galaxies to become the greatest hero the world has ever seen. We forget that he represents the unknown, powered by the very sun that sets behind him in Mr. Bermejo’s variant to Action Comics #1000.
He’s this cosmic being wrapped in a cape and framed by dimples. In this piece by Bermejo, Superman hovers above, placed in a position of power. Yet it’s the body language the artist gives him that strikes me. He’s not menacing some fallen supervillain, dusted with pavement and glass after taking a super-punch to the jaw. No, Superman keeps one hand open even while the other remains clenched. Clearly, this is someone who’s here to help. To set something right. And the faint smile on his face seems to say, “It’s okay. I’m here, now.” What we see confounds the senses. But looking at Superman somehow always makes everything seem okay. That’s what gives Superman grace. Lee Bermejo remembered.
His representation of Superman for the landmark Action Comics #1000 powers through the countless perceptions people have ever had of this character. A guardian angel, an alien, a superhero, a symbol, a man. A paradox. Perfected.
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!