By Stefania Rudd, Arpad Okay, Clyde Hall, Sara Mitchell and Jarrod Jones. Undercover is our opportunity to lovingly gaze upon gorgeous works from magnificent artists. From Michael Cho’s ‘Batwoman’ to Kris Anka’s ‘Runaways’, here’s what we’re loving this week.
Batwoman #17 by Michael Cho (DC)
CH: The Batwoman series has enjoyed some of the most emotion-invoking and beautifully atmospheric covers of any DC book in the recent past. They’ve ranged in style and substance from the disturbingly nightmarish to the poised essence of iconography. More than a few have been poster-worthy plus, marrying visual characterization with a modern, elegant sensibility. Michael Cho has delivered up several of the more quintessential ones, but his cover for #17 sets new standards with a zesty injection of retro-coolness.
The feisty color palette literally exhales the fragrance of old newsprint. The upswept cape whipping behind her, accented by those livid tones, moves as the reader’s pupils dilate with the flood of contrasting shades and hues. The heroine poised over her distinctive Batcycle, grinning ferally as she closes on her quarry, harkens to another classic street-fighting hero, Wildcat. This Batwoman isn’t confined to a curtain of shadows, nor merged into Gotham’s murkiness to suddenly materialize before her prey. She’s on the hunt and she doesn’t care who knows it, most especially those who’ve been naughty in her sight. There’s no introspection found here, just a hood-bashing force of nature revving engine full-throttle to deal criminal lowlifes some well-deserved suffering.
Runaways #11 by Kris Anka. (Marvel)
AOK: Kris Anka gives us maximum Gert, afloat in a sea of beautiful people. Pink beard, pink hair, lollipop, coffee, bubble tea, phone, gauges, tattoos, headphones. Everyone is as tomorrow as it gets, and then there’s Gert. Dressed like a mom. Eyebrows arched, lips a beguiling middle ground between frown and sneer. How much happens in a year? How different was yesterday from today? How long as Gert been gone, really?
Around Gert is a thin halo of light. She’s the only one not in profile, the only one who hasn’t been to the gym today, but it is this tiny touch that really sets her apart from the hundred stories she’s surrounded by. The colors, a minimalist Lisa Frank cascade of pinks and purples, a magic hour glow with a subtle gyre of shadow at the cover’s edge, they don’t lead the eye, they reinforce the idea. Dig it.
The Magic Order #2 by Olivier Coipel. (Image Comics)
SM: Breathe in. Breathe out. Can you hear the soft movement of the water? Can you feel the fish as they pass lazily by? Twisting around your ankle, or gliding lightly past your cheek? Through your hair? Can you watch the light as it dances, broken along every surface? Can you lose yourself in the weightlessness? Is everything brilliantly blue? Can you float away?
I feel completely protected from danger when I imagine myself in this car. Like the moments before my eyes open in the morning, I don’t ever want this to end. Unfortunately, it seems this woman can see something that I cannot. Whether it’s another person, or simply knowledge of our future destination, I don’t know. Who she is I don’t even know. The Magic Order is a dark, cinematic and beautifully drawn series and they’ve yet to introduce me to her. I need to know who she is, I need her to tell me what she knows. I’m opening my eyes and marching into the bright light of day. I’m following her into issue #2.
The Life of Captain Marvel #1 by Joe Quesada and Richard Isanove. (Marvel)
SR: Since the dawn of civilization stars have played an integral role in our lives. They have provided guidance, direction, and meaning to those who seek it. (Why do you think so many people read their horoscopes daily?) Joe Quesada and Richard Isanove’s variant cover for the highly anticipated The Life of Captain Marvel #1 takes the Captain’s star symbol and places it in the evening New England sky, forcing a child Carol Danvers to stop in her tracks and stare in awe.
Her body language gives the impression that the star has appeared suddenly; the iconography of the light shines so brightly she cannot look away. Will this be the moment her future is revealed to her? Or is this a passing omen now planted forever in her memory? Just like the lighthouse off in the distance, which helps guide ships home safely, the star calls to Carol, beckoning her ever closer to her fate.
Batman #51 by Lee Weeks and Elizabeth Breitweiser. (DC)
JJ: It seems as though there are often three Batmen in the DCU, one that’s put to work far less often than the others. There’s the grim avenger, scowling atop some forsaken gargoyle above the yawning caverns of Gotham City, waiting for that one piercing shriek that will send him plummeting towards retribution. There’s the stoic detective, leafing through purloined police documents in the dark, a miniature flashlight jutting from between his teeth. And then there’s the superhero, the uber-Batman, who fights Apokoliptian gods and is often seen chumming it up with The Flash in the Hall of Justice. It’s the latter we see more of these days, for better or worse, but Tom King’s Batman run attempts to find room for all three.
And no one strikes that precarious balance more ably than Lee Weeks, as evinced by his latest cover for Batman. The image is gothic in its own unique way, a stolen image of a beast felling another, its leathery wings catching the wind, compounding the dread of his prey. It’s peak noir, too, a snapshot of a lantern-jawed investigator putting the screws to an adversary who dared get in his way. But it’s also general superhero derring-do taken to its grimmest extreme—that’s Mr. Freeze right there, one of Batman’s more challenging foes, lamenting every life choice he ever had that led to this shocking moment.
Backing up Lee is Betty Breitweiser, whose stunning hues often give the works of Brubaker & Phillips a sinister veneer. Here she underscores the cold, isolated heart of Batman, still reeling from letting himself get so close to someone else. Her Gotham is a nondescript grid of structures, one giant prison for our Dark Knight, its night skies bleeding (or weeping) in this one violent moment. Woe betide the evildoers who choose now to work in Gotham City. The Batman has optimized every facet of himself to combat a broken heart.
Don’t forget to share your favorite covers from this week in the comments section below. Best response wins a pack of DoomRocket stickers!