By Molly Jane KremerStefania RuddClyde Hall, Sara Mitchell, and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From the celestial beauty of Alex Ross’ ‘Astro City’ to Tula Lotay’s meditative cover to ‘Red Sonja’ #17, here’s what we’re loving this week.

Batman Beyond #21 by Dave Johnson. (DC)

JJ: There’s something intrinsically thrilling about Dave Johnson’s variant to Batman Beyond #21, something I can rather easily put my finger on. It looks and feels like Johnson took the shuttering opening frames of Darwyn Cooke’s title sequence of the much-beloved animated series, pulled them open—like one might do with an oversized .png file of a Where’s Waldo poster on their iPhone—and then threw us headlong into the yawning metropolis that is Neo-Gotham. It scratches a nostalgic itch and it looks frightfully good doing it.

There was always something a bit disappointing about the aesthetics of Batman Beyond the TV show; while the opening sequence (set to that banging score by Kristopher Carter) was an exercise in amphetamine-fueled, retina-scorching perfection, at times the episodes felt conspicuously empty and somewhat lifeless. Instead of navigating the deep shadows and blistering neon lights of Neo-Gotham, we instead watched Terry McGinnis and Ace the Bat-Hound trounce Jokerz against flat, slate-grey backgrounds at a yard’s distance. That’s why I’m so happy DC publishes a Batman Beyond comic book, and I’m especially happy that Johnson continues to knock out visually arresting covers along the way: We get a chance to see Neo-Gotham as originally envisioned by Mr. Cooke’s design work, and thrill to the sight of Batman diving into its abyss-deep canyons.

Astro City #52, by Alex Ross. (DC Vertigo)

SR: When I first laid eyes on Alex Ross’ cover for Astro City #52, its celestial beauty took my breath away. My mind then went to a song by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Into My Arms”, where the lyrics, “So keep your candles burning/Make her journey bright and pure/That she’ll keep returning/Always and evermore…” somehow made for a heart-wrenching soundtrack to the fading couple dancing amid the cosmos as infinite Earths passed them by.

The couple in question is Michael Tenicek and his wife, Miranda. The memory of Miranda—who has haunted Michael’s dreams since her confusing disappearance—has fueled his work of running a support group for civilian survivors of superhero battles. In the last issue of this astounding superhero series, will Michael and Miranda finally be reunited? Will they disrupt time and space only to be evaporated into the ether together for all eternity? If this cover is any indication of the beauty that would come from it, I certainly hope so.

Red Sonja #17 by Tula Lotay. (Dynamite)

SM: A soft, meditative Sonja is a sight to behold. How can you not become forlorn yourself while sitting here with her? She is decadent, solemn power. She is torn contemplation. Gazing over this image, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. This cover looks worn, like an old photo that’s been loved. A photo from the generation just before you, one that survived every family move. The hotspots on her cape and around her hands like light exposure after years of sunlight shining onto where it hung on the wall.

In this upcoming issue, Sonja must face whether or not she keeps her sword. Posed with this dilemma, no wonder she’s looking so wistfully pensive. I can’t help but think of Hamlet. There’s the classic image you’re probably picturing right now of the Prince of Denmark holding the skull, contemplating whether ‘tis better to live or to die. For Sonja, her sword is just as intrinsic to her life as death was to Hamlet’s.

While we usually see Sonja fairly exposed, she owns that exposure like she owns her sword—fiercely. Here, however, Sonja’s exposure is vulnerability. No lean muscles, no overflowing *ahem* body parts. Just a girl on a throne wondering what in the world she’s supposed to do next. To possess, or to return, that is the question.

Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. #4 by Tommy Lee Edwards (DC’s Young Animal)

CH: Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. is like Batman Betwixt. Twist around some Batman Beyond, mix with regular Bat-continuity, and something fresh but familiar is the result. One of the pleasures of each issue is seeing how characters we know are faring in the dystopian Gotham one decade-in-the-future reality. The cover of issue #4 promises more such insights with a hint of the Scarecrow. Artist Tommy Lee Edwards’ jack-o-lantern and murder of crows would have been appropriately mood-inducing as an October release, but I’m a life-long Halloween buff and my summer can always use more Samhain iconography.

Edwards has been on a creative bender lately with the Mother Panic: Gotham A.D. covers, bringing the montages of characters and inner scenes to puissant, passionate culmination. #4 shows a haunted Gotham, one without Batman yet plagued with younger pretenders to the Clown Prince of Crime’s throne, an eerie and nightmarish apparition of the city’s worst fears realized, and the anti-Bat in white left to cope with the tattered fabric of a victimized society. As awry as the title logo placement on the final cover is Edwards’ composition around it, making the reader tilt inner perspective to fully comprehend a murkier world in want of a Dark Knight.

Batgirl #24 by Joshua Middleton. (DC)

MJ: A few months ago, DC made the intelligent decision to remove the title and trade dress from their variants. Artists can now take advantage of the entire cover space for their work, which has led to some gorgeous pieces by Jenny Frison, Mark Brooks, Francesco Mattina, and my personal favorite Joshua Middleton, on variants for both Aquaman and Batgirl.

In a storyline dealing with villain Two-Face—that most Gemini of Arkham inmates—Middleton has incorporated Harvey’s themes of duality into this cover, slicing it in two halves to lushly illustrate life versus death.

On the left side, half of Babs looks out at the reader with a piercing stare, her blue eyes almost clear. She’s in full costume surrounded by a smattering of soft pink roses, and a splash of her red hair roils across the center. The colors towards the bottom fade out in brushy strokes, while the right side is clearly delineated for its full length: that of the left side of a skeleton, matching up perfectly with the left illustration. The linework on the bones is very distinct, and the colors are similarly soft within a much more limited palette. Instead of roses here we see white funerary lilies, with an actual bat, perfectly rendered with wings unfurled, to parallel the Bat-symbol on the left side.

And, like a halo, Two-Face’s coin rises behind Batgirl’s head: and of course on the right, the scratched, “bad” side of the coin crowns the skull, while the clean end of the coin lies behind Babs’ bright hair. This cover is a beautiful piece of art that also serves as a stunning memento mori.

Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below. Best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!