Aug 31 2013

Cover Story: Best Comic Book Covers of August 2013

Each month, hundreds of comics are released to stores for the hungry masses of fans around the world. To stand out on the shelves, you have to put the great art up front. You can judge a book by its cover.

Welcome back to our continuing monthly column, where the covers tell a story of their own. This month, we feature 19 covers that includes the work of Shuster Award-winning artist Mike Del Mundo, animation legend Bruce Timm, general legend Alex Ross, Canadian treasure Jeff Lemire and many more. This is Cover Story.

Adventures of Superman #4 (DC Comics) - Artist: Bruce Timm

Adventures of Superman #4 (DC Comics) – Artist: Bruce Timm

This print cover of the digital first Adventures of Superman is as iconic as the content inside. It’s funny how Bruce Timm, best known for his animated interpretations of DC characters from the 1990s onwards, may now be considered more iconic and definitive than many of the characters seen in the current run of DC Comics. Using bold and striking colours, this cover is simplicity itself, and timeless.

Astro City #3 (DC Comics) - Artist: Alex Ross

Astro City #3 (DC Comics) – Artist: Alex Ross

Speaking of timeless: Alex Ross. Returning to this classic series, here Ross evokes the Golden Age of superheroes, but adds a touch of modernity by framing it within the ubiquitous electronic devices being waved around at every public appearance. Ross recreates the scene in both of the small screens, which is impressive in and of itself, but perhaps he is also commenting on people not living in the grandeur of the moment. We can’t help but think of those “eyes up, jaws down” moments evoked in his art for Marvels.

Batwoman #23 (DC Comics) - Artist: J.H. Williams III

Batwoman #23 (DC Comics) – Artist: J.H. Williams III

Lots of comics in the DC New 52 stable have jumped aboard the artist-driven wagon in the last 12 months (including a few in this column), but J.H. Williams III has been doing it from issue #1 of the always (visually) interesting Batwoman. Bathed in the red of blood and death, Williams uses the absence of colour to highlight his subject here, creating something truly haunting.

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #3 (Dark Horse) - Artist: Dave Wachter

Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem #3 (Dark Horse) – Artist: Dave Wachter

Sometimes it’s the simple concepts that take your breath away. The perfect layout on this cover demands that you spend some time soaking up the details, such as the soft face that the Golem presents the small human in front of him, and a rough side that not only faces away, but mirrors the war-torn surroundings.

Daredevil #30 (Marvel) - Artist: Chris Samnee

Daredevil #30 (Marvel) – Artist: Chris Samnee

There are many reasons that this cover deserve as place on any ‘best of’ lists, not least of which is that it’s by Chris Samnee. Yet the most compelling one is that it has Daredevil and Silver Surfer fighting in mid-air.

Green Arrow #23 (DC Comics) - Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Green Arrow #23 (DC Comics) – Artist: Andrea Sorrentino

Like the series itself, written by Jeff Lemire, Andrea Sorrentino’s cover so completely evokes the the Mike Grell era of the book that you’d be forgiven for thinking this was the 1980s and the New 52 had never happened. Shado remains such an iconic figure several decades after her introduction, and it is terrific to see this duo together again on the cover of anything.

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (Marvel) - Artist: Paolo Rivera

Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (Marvel) – Artist: Paolo Rivera

Paolo Rivera is doing a series of these variant covers for Guardians of the Galaxy at the moment, taking inspiration from  EC Comics sci-fi covers from the likes of Wallace Wood, Jack Davis, and Al Feldstein. Although the original covers of that era were painted, Rivera goes into detail on his blog about how he achieves this look in the digital age, from the inks from his father Joe Rivera through to the digital sketch stage and colouring.

Indestructible Hulk #12 (Marvel) - Artist: Mike Del Mundo

Indestructible Hulk #12 (Marvel) – Artist: Mike Del Mundo

Mike Del Mundo recently won a Shuster Award for cover art, and it is easy to see why. Regularly highlighted in this column, he has two entries this month, the other being X-Men Legacy #15 below. Part of Marvel’s “Time Travel” series of variant covers, it reminds us of what we always think of when we see the “Mona Lisa”: we wouldn’t like her when she’s angry.

Infinity #1 (Marvel) - Artist: Skottie Young

Infinity #1 (Marvel) – Artist: Skottie Young

Another Skottie Young variant cover is nothing new, although they are always lots of fun to look at. However, this one perfectly sums up the reader experience on the multitude of events coming at us from both the DCU and Marvel. We are Captain America, simply trying to keep up with constant waves of books coming at us. Each of the other characters represents a competing book or publisher, vying for our attention. Cap’s frustration is ours: he can’t turn them away, because they are his friends and only choices for companions. Yet in his pure red-white-and-blue beating heart he knows the truth: the waves will keep coming, and he’ll eventually run out of money.

The Massive #15 (Dark Horse) - Artist: J. P. Leon

The Massive #15 (Dark Horse) – Artist: J. P. Leon

Brian Wood’s The Massive lives up to its title in this cover, with bombs that appear to leap off the page and into your hearts. The split panel motif has never been used more effectively in this series than it has here.

Mind MGMT #14 (Dark Horse) - Artist: Matt Kindt

Mind MGMT #14 (Dark Horse) – Artist: Matt Kindt

Matt Kindt is excelling at these retro covers, subverting the white picket fence dream with concealed weapons and a bloody hammer. If we were Kindt’s weeds, we’d be very afraid right now.

Saga #13 (Image Comics) - Artist: Fiona Staples

Saga #13 (Image Comics) – Artist: Fiona Staples

Really just here because after four months, we are super happy to have Saga back on our monthly grab bag. That, and it begins a theme that Staples will follow through over the next few issues, pairing characters on the cover. You can’t help but look at this one and go “Aww?”

Skullkickers #24 (Image Comics) - Edwin Huang and Jim Zub

Skullkickers #24 (Image Comics) – Edwin Huang and Jim Zub

This title is no stranger to poking gentle fun at the titles and motifs of their distinguished competition and marvellous neighbours, and Before Watchmen was well and truly overdue a lampooning. A tip of the hat for that.

Ten Grand #4 (Image Comics) - Artist: Ben Templesmith

Ten Grand #4 (Image Comics) – Artist: Ben Templesmith

Not only is the character depicted on the cover literally caught between Earth and hell, but there is a point on the cover where he and the two planes of existence begin to blur into one another. Templesmith’s art feels like a living entity, crackling and popping its way off the page, as if the very issue itself is about to burst into flame at any given moment. If this doesn’t convince you to buy Ten Grand on a monthly basis, then go have a long hard look at yourself. Go on. What do you see? That’s right.

Trillium #1 (DC/Vertigo) - Artist: Jeff Lemire

Trillium #1 (DC/Vertigo) – Artist: Jeff Lemire

This column has seen a number of variant covers over the years, but few manage to do it on the same issue. The first issue of the so far brilliant Trillium is offered as a flip book, with mirrored stories that intersect in the middle. Through happenstance, we began our journey with the image on the left but it doesn’t matter: the reader will have a different experience depending on which side they start from.

Venom #39 (Marvel) - Artist: Declan Shalvey

Venom #39 (Marvel) – Artist: Declan Shalvey

The dynamite team of Shalvey and colourist Jordie Bellaire, who have done some terrific work on The Massive together, bring an impressive mostly tri-colour print to this cover. It vaguely recalls some Saul Bass-style work in the patterns on Venom’s outfit, with a background that reminds us of The Last Temptation of Christ poster for some reason.

Wonder Woman #23 (DC Comics) - Artist: Cliff Chiang

Wonder Woman #23 (DC Comics) – Artist: Cliff Chiang

In a wonderful bit of composition, the hatchet wielding Diana is out of blood as the deathly face of Ares frames her every move. There is so much detail in those beard strands, so much that they seem organic and ever-shifting. They also give a nice contrast between red, gold and silver that make up the page.

X-Men Legacy #15 (Marvel) - Artist: Mike Del Mundo

X-Men Legacy #15 (Marvel) – Artist: Mike Del Mundo

It’s “Deadly” Del Mundo again! Apart from being an X-Men Legacy cover by Del Mundo, which almost guarantees it a ‘cover of the month’ slot, it’s a beautifully composed piece. The photorealistic detail on the hands and Polaroid sell this image, right down to the ‘faded’ quality of the photo, its worn edges and the way some of the floating objects are drawn as “out of focus”.

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