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. It was incredibly difficult to narrow down our lists this month.
The returning vogue of the “variant cover theme month”, such as February’s Harley Quinn Month (DC Comics) or Phil Noto’s photo covers (Marvel) has made it harder to not just put up a link point to “all of these.” Regardless, the only thing more impressive than the 26 covers we’ve selected this month is the complete tonal range of the art, from fully painted covers, to minimalist colour blocking and graffiti style pieces.
Don’t forget to vote for your favourite in the comments section below! This is COVER STORY.
The Amazing Spider-Man #14 (Marvel) – Artist: Gabriele Dell’Otto
It may not be the biggest event of 2014/2015, as we still have Convergence and Secret Wars to go yet, but Spider-Verse was certainly one of the most engaging. Artists got to cut loose on a myriad of Spider-Men (and Spider-Women…and Spider-Ham), and a fair chunk of them are represented here on this slice from a larger piece of artwork. The stunning painted art comes from Gabriele Dell’Otto, known to Marvel fans the world over for his Marvel Visions book and spine art for the ongoing Official Marvel Graphic Novel Collection.
Ant-Man #2 (Marvel) – Artist: Mark Brooks
Mark Brooks is one of the finest cover artists in the business, and last month’s cover was a knockout. He someone manages to take it up a notch (or is it down a notch in the case of Ant-Man?) by trapping the hapless character inside a snow globe, ironically in Miami, a rare (albeit not unheard of) occurrence in Florida. This character now literally can’t take a break, although he’s giving it a damn good go here.
Archie #665 (Archie Comics) – Artist: Sanford Greene
Sanford Greene will already be familiar to reader of the Archie Comics stable for his work on Sonic the Hedgehog covers amongst other things. This is a modern spin on the classic character, filtered through a bit of retro street art and colours, is perhaps a little bit of a taste of what we can expect when Mark Waid and Fiona Staples reinvent the character later this year. Is that partial “Shuga” we can see painted in the corner a reference to The Archies’ 1969 hit single “Sugar Sugar“?
Constantine #22 (DC Comics) – Artist: Juan Ferreyra
Juan Ferreyra has turned up several times in this column for either his Colder: The Bad Seed work or this title, both of which have been superb over the last few years. It’s almost prophetic watching Constantine bury himself here, with the television show now in limbo and the book getting a post-Convergence renaming. The top half of this cover alone would be one of the best covers of the month, yet the sheer amount of detail in the cross-section, and the amazing use of lighting, makes this one of our favourites this month.
Daredevil #12 (Marvel) – Artist: Chris Samnee
Samnee knocks another winning out of the park, this time playing up on the ubiquity of modern connectivity for the “always on” generations. Using the multiple devices to form a complete picture of The Man Without Fear, there’s a certain irony in knowing that Matt Murdoch can’t see a single one of them. Unless you’ve been reading Tom Taylor’s Superior Iron Man lately.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes #3 (Boom! Studios) – Artist: Hazard Graffiti
The artist remains something of an enigma, but the artwork speaks for itself. A lightning bolt of a cover that sees an ape holding a machine gun behind the bloodied words “Man is a nuisance.” The words echo those of Dr. Zaius in the original Planet of the Apes (1968): “Why, man is a nuisance. He eats up his food supply in the forest, then migrates to our green belts and ravages our crops. The sooner he is exterminated, the better. It’s a question of simian survival.” Let’s hope conservative politics doesn’t get a hold of this poster.
Deep State #4 (Boom! Studios) – Artist: Matt Taylor
UK based illustrator and comic artist Matt Taylor is described on his site as creating “Americana inspired illustrations with a nod to classic comic book art of the fifties and sixties.” In this case, the 60s nod isn’t just to the space race but to the psychedelia of the era as well. The use of no more than three repeated colours makes for an amazingly evocative image.
Ei8ht #1 (Dark Horse) – Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
Not just one of the best debuts of the month, but one of the most striking covers as well. Albuquerque uses colour in a deliberate fashion in this book, and from the opening pages of the issue we are told “The past is green. The present is purple. The future is blue. The Meld is something else entirely.” LIke The Meld, this cover is something else entirely.
Guardians of the Galaxy #24 (Marvel) – Artist: Andrea Sorrentino
To coincide with The Black Vortex event, Andrea Sorrentino has completed a set of “Cosmically enhanced” variants for each of the major tie-in titles across the line. The miroir noir of the title is said to reflect the “full cosmic potential in life” of the person being reflected, and we can see how this is represented here for Gamora. The lettering in the top half, which presumably is part of a greater whole, is subtle enough to look like stars and shapes on a first glance.
Harley Quinn #15 (DC Comics) – Artist: Amanda Conner
This month saw quite a few Harley Quinn themed variant covers at DC, which you will see as you scroll through this gallery of images. Co-writer Amanda Conner gives us the rare treat of three Harley Quinn covers this month, including delightfully adorable ones for Aquaman #39 and Superman #39, but we couldn’t go past this one because of the plethora of floating heads.
Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952 #3 (Dark Horse) – Artist: Alex Maleev
Alex Maleev pretty much gets given a slot when he has a new cover out for something in this column, and so this one shoots straight to the prestigious list that is Cover Story. Most recently seen on George Romero’s Empire of the Dead, the artist often combines photographic and digital effects with drawing. Lately, he’s been favouring gouache with coloured pencils on the Hellboy covers, as seen here.
This month, Phil Noto released a series of photo-inspired covers based on the magazines of the 1960s and 70s, including Time and Life. Taking the idea of Hank Pym being the photographer at some earlier period, the various covers either ape famous photographs or their style. “I’ve gone back to the idea that Hank Pym is the “photographer” for all these shots,” elaborates Noto “and some of them will be David Bailey-esque portraits along with the more candid ones.” There are a lot of greats in this series, including the cheeky All-New X-Men #38 variant, but there was something here about the fashion concept that just made this pop.
Inhuman #12 (Marvel) – Artists: Ryan Stegman & Richard Isanove
It could be all the red hair, but this might be one of those rare times when we pick both a main cover and its variant. It’s that mane of ginger locks contrasted against the minimalist background that makes this cover pop on the stands. Black Bolt doesn’t stand a chance.
Miles Morales: Ultimate Spider-Man #10 (Marvel) – Artist: David Marquez
There’s no rest for the wicked. Fresh off a trip through the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales is confronted with a battalion of HYDRA soldiers. Conveniently, they’ve assembled themselves in the shape of their own symbol, so there is no mistaking that they might be there collecting for the local bake sale. Terrific examples of both optical magic and something we’re calling “busy minimalism”.
Plunder #1 (Archaia/Boom! Studios) – Artist: Daniele Serra
Speaking about Serra’s artbook Veins and Skulls, horror writer Ramsey Campbell said that the artist “he can communicate more in the shape of a line and the shade of a tint than many painters convey in an entire canvas.” For there is both a sense of horror and hope in this twisted piece of bleakness, yet the tiny ship floats in a hopeful glow.
Rai #7 (Valiant Entertainment) – Artist: Rafael Albuquerque
This is Albuquerque’s second spin in this month’s column, and the cover for RAI couldn’t be more different from his Eight work (above). We’re really favouring minimalist pieces this month, aren’t we? Or is it that this is just the trend at the moment? Either way, it’s an image that looks as though it was elegantly carved out with the same single blade slide that is slicing that poor man in twain.
Saga #25 (Image Comics) – Artist: Fiona Staples
The only thing better than a Fiona Staples cover for SAGA is one that is twice the size. The epic cinematic quality of her art is writ large here on this special wraparound cover, marking the monumental 25th consecutive issue of comic book perfection. Do we really have to tell you why this is awesome? Look at it! (Are you looking at it?) Good. Bask in the awesome. (Are you basking?)
Satellite Sam #11 (Image Comics) – Artist: Howard Chaykin
Howard Chaykin and sex are synonymous, or at least his art is. The Black Kiss artist has given SATELLITE SAM every inch of its authentic 1950s underbelly, and this is a perfect example of why. If it were just a pair of legs in hells and stockings drawn by Chaykin, it would still be here this month. Using those same legs to both dwarf and accentuate the New York City skyline is sublime.
Sinestro #10 (DC Comics) – Artists: Ian Bertram & Matt Hollingsworth
“Oh the indignity!” Out of the many fine Harley Quinn variants out this month (about 25 – count ’em!), this was one of them. The juxtaposition of the always serious Sinestro with the always flippant Harley is wonderful enough, but the haircut of a notoriously poorly trimmed anti-villain is icing on the cake. Speaking of which…
Spawn #250 (Image Comics) – Artist: Skottie Young
…to celebrate his 250th issue, Skottie Young baked Spawn a cake. Isn’t that cute?
Spider-Gwen #1 (Marvel) – Artist: Robbi Rodriguez
There are a stack of terrific variant covers for the launch of SPIDER-GWEN, the breakout star of the Spider-Verse event, including an absolutely gorgeous piece by Adam Hughes and the obligatory Skottie Young variant (there are seriously a lot of those), this original piece by the series artist is everything that the book is about: fun, vibrant and heralding the arrival of a genuinely welcome new hero to the Marvel universe.
Star Wars: Darth Vader #1 (Marvel) – Artist: Mike Del Mundo
Compared with the 68 individual variants that Star Wars #1 sported, poor old Darth gets a humble 17. This one, by the 2014 Panels Award winning Mike “Deadly” Del Mundo, is one of the stand-outs. Recalling the original teaser poster for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, it almost the mirror image: instead of the Sith Lord lurking in the shadows of the child, now that mop-headed know-it-all is trapped inside the machine. Yippee!
Suiciders #1 (Vertigo) – Artist: Lee Bermejo
We never have enough good things to say about Lee Bermejo. One of our earliest podcasts was on Bermejo’s Batman: Noël, and we’ve kind of fallen in love with his art ever since. The eye-catching cover could be for the next summer blockbuster, with the Saint towering over the post-disaster waste of New Angeles.
Trinity of Sin #5 (DC Comics) – Artist: Guillem March
Almost a metaphor for the way these three characters, built up to be the next major shift in the DCU for the first two years of the New 52, and summarily shoved into a narrative cube as soon as “Trinity War” was over. However, in the hands of the magnificent Guillem March, it’s a bold cover concept that draws potential readers in.
The Valiant #3 (Valiant Entertainment) – Artist: Jeff Lemire & Matt Kindt
The names “Jeff Lemire” and “Matt Kindt” have both featured heavily in this column over the years, and the two of them together is a winner for us. This is actually a variant cover, the other two coming from Paolo Rivera and Francesco Francavilla, Cover Story favourites each and every one. So the moral to the story is that if you aren’t paying attention to Valiant Entertainment at the moment, you probably should start.
Zombies Vs Robots #2 (IDW) – Artist: Ashley Wood
Ashley Wood is one of the best artists working today, as his cover for the second issue of the ongoing ZOMBIES VS ROBOTS series (a concept he co-created) is slice of amazing. His technique combines traditional painting with digital photography, here creating some more of that “horror and hope” we saw in Daniele Serra’s cover above.
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