By Molly Jane Kremer, Clyde Hall, Mickey Rivera, Jami Jones and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Sonny Liew’s ‘Eternity Girl’ to Nimit Malavia’s ‘RoboCop: Citizens Arrest’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Eternity Girl #4 by Sonny Liew. (DC’s Young Animal)
MR: DoomRocket readers got a sneak peak at Crash, the cool and collected lord of order, in last week’s exclusive 6-page preview. From his massive vinyl LP spacebunker floating in some bright, nebulated corner of the universe, he explained the fundamentals of DJ mixing, simultaneously dropping some truth about the nature of existence. Seeing him here on this cover by Sonny Liew, he doesn’t strike you as someone who’d be overly concerned with maintaining control of things – stylish yes, but hip-hop casual at most. Rather than being the lord of obsessive control, Crash embodies the aspect of “order” that is creative and constructive. Though this ‘fro billows chaotically out past the frame, out into the far edges of the universe maybe, he knows what he’s doing with it. Order doesn’t have to be boring and obsessive. Order can be the lantern we put chaos inside to make the whole thing shine.
The shaded, contoured, fully colored Crash is the realest thing pictured, since Caroline Sharp, the Eternity Lady herself, is relegated to a levitating bauble the lord is inspecting. She looks so sad, floating there in a superflat universe all her own, living out her downcast truth as Charlie Brown’s suicidal female anime clone. All of the incredible power we have seen Caroline exhibit in this comic so far has been shrunk down and stylized, made almost into a sleek chibi mascot which Crash now ponders in mute regard.
Thor #1 by Christian Ward. (Marvel Comics)
CH: Christian Ward may or may not be worthy to lift Mjolnir, but his variant cover for Thor #1 is definitely a worthy addition to the seven-cover gallery heralding a fresh era for the Thunderer. The dreamscape blends of mystic and machination imagery in his art suits the Odinson’s cosmic element in all the right ways. Ward admits his style is inspired by several other, sometimes very conflicting, styles. And while he at times sways that influence by taking aim at specific subjects for homage (check out his 50th anniversary Nick Fury cover work and see if Steranko doesn’t wink at you), and while he does that very well, he also has his own signature futurist-organic creativity that pops here, in his Thor cover.
How could early mankind, faced with Asgardian warriors blending the mythic and the cosmic as Thor does on Ward’s watch, not believe it had undergone a close encounter of the godly kind? And the infinite starways serving as backdrop here aren’t quite those of Ditko, nor Kirby, but they are certainly, excellently Ward.
Plastic Man #1 by Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson. (DC Comics)
MJ: One of the most inherently goofy characters in the DC Universe, Plastic Man has a new miniseries that debuts today. The wonderfully logo-less variant cover is by the gifted duo of Amanda Conner and Dave Johnson—a perfect fit for the character. Both have a gift for visual humor in their art, and when they work together the results are always top-notch.
Conner typically works (and works well) with colorist Paul Mounts, but Dave Johnson’s colors are a taste of something new. The textures he adds (especially to the gangster’s suit) makes the fabric practically tangible, and the chunkier shadows and light he utilizes jump out at the viewer as his style. Conner’s flair for hilarity really shows in this cover, as does her penchant for glorious details. It’s the little things: Plas’ smirky grin just as cheesy as it should be; the tough guy’s fancy pinky ring extended as he tries to pull the trigger.
The slapstick-y, Three Stooges-esque eyepokes are definitely a move Plastic Man would make, which is handy; the inspired squishy-fingers-through-the-gun-barrel is the real kicker in this cover. This truly made me giggle, and will continue to do so long after I’ve read the issue.
RoboCop: Citizens Arrest #3 by Nimit Malavia. (BOOM! Studios)
JJ: Our gnawing anxieties over living in a surveillance state are put through the psychedelic wringer in Nimit Malavia’s cover to RoboCop: Citizens Arrest #3. Amid the artist’s swirling sorbet-colored environments is a stark and rather grim reminder that, yes, there’s a omni-present corporation keeping their peepers pinned on our every movement and purchase. That the future we seek can indeed be ours, after a fashion — provided we’re willing to shell out for the myriad micro-payments attached to said future.
The latest innovation from Omni Consumer Products in Citizens Arrest is an app that allows its users to enforce the law on a micro-level — crowd-sourced espionage, a license to narc on our own neighbors. That leaves little and less room in this world for our beloved catchphrase-spitting robot cop. Malavia provides the former Alex Murphy a bit of dignity, however, by placing our view at an angle beneath our cyber-savior. This creative choice allows us to infer a level of distress from RoboCop, hidden somewhere between his stoic jaw and impenetrable visor. Though if you want to get three-dimensional about things, consider this: all that stands between the oppressive gaze of OCP and us readers is Officer Murphy, RoboCop, here to serve and protect a populace that has been electronically brainwashed to believe heroes have become obsolete.
And here’s Undercover’s batch from last week!
Dazzler: X Song #1 by Bill Sienkiewicz. (Marvel Comics)
JamiJ: Dazzler takes the stage once more in this Bill Sienkiewicz variant to Dazzler: X Song #1. Sienkiewicz demands you give Alison Blaire the attention she deserves, like the star she is. This is a return to Dazzler covers for Sienkiewicz, having painted the covers for issues #27 through #32 of the original Dazzler series. His love for the character is crystal-clear.
This cover is a callback to the classic, halter-top disco queen using her mutant powers as a way to enhance her stage show. A blinding light radiates from the page, daring you to ignore the figure holding this nova in her hand. The woman on this cover isn’t the Dazzler we know now, seasoned and rocking with a punk band; this is a performer lost in her own reveries. Dazzler glows, bathed in tones of red; her shape draws the eye across the page, allowing Sienkiewicz to light the image from the top down, beginning with the prismatic glow dancing in Dazzler’s palm. The slight haze towards the bottom of the page is well used — is the haze an effect on the page, or are we truly dazzled by this Disco Queen?
This variant is a testament to Sienkiewicz’s talent and experience. Here you’ll find depth, passion, and a woman who takes center stage wherever she is.
Nightwing #45, by John Romita, Jr, Danny Miki, and Tomeu Morey. (DC Comics)
JJ: Dick Grayson, defender of Blüdhaven, heir apparent to the mantle of the bat and, it would seem, destructor of robo-ninjas. John Romita Jr. sets us up and Danny Miki & Tomeu Morey knock us dead in this variant to Nightwing #45.
The present dilemma in the Nightwing series is a technological one, so it’s only right Romita takes that concept to its absolute extreme. I love how JRJR designs Nightwing. Presented here is a bruiser, a Gotham-hardened vigilante one knife-swipe away from saying bye-bye to his pretty-boy looks. His knuckles are raw, smeared in — well, I suppose not blood, but the life-fluid these digitized adversaries once had flowing through their inner workings. Morey’s textures give this post-battle scene the appropriate severity, with sparks still shooting from the decimated aggressors open wounds and that creepy scarlet good dripping here and there.
But at the center of things, our boy Grayson. Having himself a hard-won sit. Using his bo staff to elevate a gruesome trophy, probably for the benefit of the supervillain who decided (wrongly) to sic these mechanical malefactors on someone who’d spent his life training alongside the Batman. Romita gives Dick an expression that slays me — a wily, confident, brash smirk. He’s saying, “What else you got?” We just can’t hear it. Ever the showman.
Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows #4 by Max Fiumara. (Dark Horse Comics)
CH: With Father’s Day celebrated later this month, the cover of Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows # 4 is especially affecting. Artist Max Fiumara is in his element here, plumbing the despairing depths of Jim Robinson’s regret. In this series, Fiumara’s most memorable scenes have been equal parts delight and distress as he chronicles the unbridled desire of Dr. Robinson to unlock the mystery of the stars for a renewable energy source, for contact with intelligent extra-terrestrial life, for using its power to serve the United States during WWII as a superhero. He achieves all these goals and in addition became the inspiration for a cosmos-spanning army of heroes dedicated to maintaining order and preserving life. By anyone’s standards, he’s a Great Man.
Except that the price, as with many great men and women, was his personal relationship with his family. While an army of interstellar beings consider him their ‘father’, he’s estranged from his actual son. And thanks to a fast-track space anomaly, Robinson is witness to his aged son’s losing battle with cancer. This cover conveys the burning desire in the older and wiser Dr. Robinson to rise as a hero again, but this time on behalf of his own child. They’re both engulfed in the uncaring void of space, only Doctor Star’s para-wand illuminating the endless night. He may not be able to save Charlie, but he painfully illustrates that it’s never too late to make amends while life remains. The cover is a window to the cautionary tale within, a cat’s-in-the-cradle superhero variation. Never put off what’s really important and show those you love how much they matter.
Dazzler: X Song #1, by Elizabeth Torque. (Marvel Comics)
MJ: If you haven’t had a glimpse of Dazzler since her 1980 debut as a mutant disco-singing pop star, Elizabeth Torque’s cover for this week’s Dazzler one-shot might be a shocking change. While the roller skates and v-neck jumpsuit might be the iconic outfit most imagine the character wearing, she’s had lots of costume changes in her thirty-eight years of fictional existence.
Dazzler’s 2018 aesthetic here is light-years away from that of her debut. Torque dresses her in studded, broad-shouldered black leather and low-cut jeans, with pink-tipped hair over an undercut. The details of the studded belt and bracelets are at once retro and modern, and the blown-out neons and stark shadows emphasize that this lady is on stage and in charge — as if belting out a song wearing the sneeriest smirk this side of a McKelvie drawing didn’t show it already.
But in case we push Alison’s OG look too far from our thoughts, Torque gives us a walk down memory lane with a stage backdrop, an inspired way to sneak in the ultimate compare-and-contrast. But the icing on this glittery cake has to be the inclusion of her original disco-sparkle logo centered in the cover’s layout. A cover that can pay homage to a character’s dated origin while forging ahead into the future is a rare (and cherished) one indeed.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below. Best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!