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, it’s Halloween and appropriately many of the covers are spooky ones: even Archie.You’ll see 20 groovy covers from Frightening Francesco Francavilla, Jumping Jim Steranko, Devilish Darwyn Cook, Eerie Emma Rios, Rendering Richard Corben, Jack-o’-Lantern J.H. Williams III and many more macabre (and just plain awesome) pieces of cover art. This is our Cover Story.
There is a series of Francesco Francavilla covers for this surprisingly spooky take on Riverdale, and any one of them could easily make the column this month. It was actually a Francavilla variant cover that inspired this series (Life With Archie #23) in the first place, so it is only fitting that his final covers are equally impressive. Choosing one at random, the retro-inspired cover has a looming zombie Jughead, but perhaps the most frightening aspect is the silhouetted figures of Archie, Betty and Veronica, or the vision of Francavilla’s own name carved into a tombstone.
Animal Man has always had a particularly strong art style, and regular Scott Snyder collaborator Rafael Albuquerque has captured the overwhelming nature of the titular hero’s ongoing battle with the forces of the world. The Eisner Award-winning artist creates a chaos out of minimalism, the muted colours of Buddy Baker dwarfed by the vivid hues of The Red.
It’s that Francesco Francavilla again! Francavilla’s attractive retro style harks back directly to the pulp posters of the 1950s and 1960s, if “I Was a Teenage Astrogirl” isn’t a clear enough indication. Apart from the visually appealing lust, blood and jet-packs of the cover, if you take a step back from the cover you’ll notice that Cammi is framed within the outline of a ray-gun. Equally at ease on a comic book or framed on a wall.
Master colourist Dave Stewart is unquestionably one of the best in the business, and some of his top work has always been in his collaborations with Mike Mignola. One of the curious things about this cover is how your perception of it changes depending on whether you read it top to bottom or vice versa. The latter would see a bird escaping from the mouth of a zombie like creature – or is the bird in control? We may never know.
Batman. Black and White. Steranko. ‘Nuff said.
It’s amazing that after almost three-quarters of a century, there are still interesting new takes on the Batman. Maleev is representing a Clayface story, a character who has been used simply as a chameleon or as an embodiment of disease by Dave McKean in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. Here there is something almost Lovecraftian about the wave his clay tendrils reach up from the morass to envelop the Bat.
Really? Batwing is still going? It’s probably a good thing, as we wouldn’t get to see this cover otherwise. Cooke’s early career with DC saw him working on Batman: The Animated Series and the main title design for Batman Beyond. Here the Art Deco inspired designs, a striking combination of line and colour, are a blending of the two. It’s Batman with the lights on all of a sudden.
Given that this story is actually an interlude, it seems appropriate that Adam Hughes is taking a break this month. Interior artist Mark Buckingham, who has been the regular artist on the book since issue #6 back in 2002, and this issue looks at Bigby Wolf taking some time out in his favourite hunting grounds. We absolutely love the vision of the wolf baying at the sky against a pure white background, accentuated by Boy Blue blowing his horn. Look at the way both Bigby and Blue meld into the snow, or possibly grow up out of it.
New York based artist Nathan Fox has been following a distinct visual style with his covers for FBP (formerly Collider), with familiar blues, pinks and yellows swirling about the page. There is a puzzle to this panel, with so many moving parts that are innocuous enough on their own, but work themselves up into a sinister maelstrom when pieced together. The loose petals from the flowers almost look like figures falling to the alien flowers below upon first glance, and it is unclear as to whether those flowers are supporting or hindering the shining city above.
Greg Tocchini’s art has been seen inside the likes of Thor: Son of Asgard and Ion, but this beautiful cover art is an eye-catching way for Vertigo to start a new series. Indeed, there’s a touch of the Fables style about it, especially with that tiger burning bright at the top.
As Hulk continues to travel through time, this striking cover plays on one of the most famous origin stories in the history of comics. Hulk visits his own gamma-soaked birth, protecting a younger Bruce Banner from that fateful day. We’re not sure how this works (it’s probably explained in the comic somewhere), but it sure makes for a pretty cover!
Putting to one side the whole Doctor Octopus/Superior Spider-man thing, this mini-series is set during the classic era of Peter Parker, making this continuity free and a terrific playground for villains. Marco Rudy, who also does the interiors, maximises minimalism by showcasing a selection of villains at the top, with the web of Spider-man ultimately filling up the rest of the page. Using only the primary colours of Spider-man’s costume, Rudy creates an iconic stylistic template for the coming issues.
Eisner Award-winning artist Paolo Rivera does the variant cover for this new Dark Horse mini-series, and there is something vaguely instructional about it. It’s actually reminiscent of propaganda posters, or wartime reminders to buy bonds or collect scrap metal. Either way, we’ve just joined a cult. Are you happy now, Paolo Rivera?
Mouse Guard: Legends of The Guard #4 (Archaia) – Artist: David Petersen
The wraparound cover for the multi award-winning title is as gorgeous as it is spooky, kind of fitting in nicely with this Halloween theme we’ve got going this month. The part of you that wants to pick up that little mouse and keep him as a pet may be overridden by the revulsion of the skeletal remains of the figure before it. The landscape cover has a sense of depth and scope, as it that cavern full of gold could go on forever. Then your eyes adjust to the light bouncing off the gold, making one of the better uses of lighting we’ve seen in graphic art.
Apart from being by the very talented Emma Ríos, which should be more than enough reason for this to be included on the Cover Story list, a composition that is both delicate and bloody makes this stand out from the crowd. We only see the central figure in reflection, which is already telling us something about the character, and the light splattering of blood on her arm is obscured by the gentle colours of the water that she can be glimpsed in. We see three separate hands emerging, or sinking, into the reeds. Ríos plays the beautiful against the gruesome, something the book has already given us a glimpse of in the fascinating first issue.
There is little in the world so beautifully matched as Richard Corben and Edgar Allan Poe, and just in time for Halloween we get his take on two of Poe’s best loved tales. Corben comes like a thief in the night, and one by one drops the revellers. You can see them right there in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, dying each in the despairing posture of the Red Death’s fall. Quoth the Raven “We want some more!”
Speaking of matches made in heaven, or some other waking dreamland given birth by these wonderful creators, original The Sandman scribe Neil Gaiman and Batwoman extraordinaire J.H. Williams III exhibit something of a symbiotic relationship in The Sandman: Overture #1. Apart from the obvious aesthetic appeal of the colours and floral arrangements of this cover, Williams balances the familiar with the exotic, showcasing the cosmic origins that are at play in this issue alongside the striking mask that readers will already know and love. It’s the Dream King, but not necessarily the same one we first met 25 years ago.
Howard Chaykin is a man with sex on his mind. Not to mention death and live television, all three of which are the subject of Matt Fraction’s mystery. Never before has a woman with a fish bowl on her head looked so sexy, and the faint whiff of death about her may have something to do with the fact that we can’t see any proper air holes on the casing. Perhaps this is why she is turning purple, although that outfit doesn’t look terribly warm.
Citizens of Earth: rejoice! For Geof Darrow has returned to his infamous Shaolin Cowboy creation, and the body and anthropomorphic animal count is already on the rise. Like all Darrow pieces, hours can disappear staring into the minute details on every page, and the cover is no exception. If you needed to sum up the Shaolin Cowboy experience, it would be something like this. With the original Burlyman issues now long out of print, snatch this one up now or King Crab will reap his terrible vengeance.
Velvet, or the administrative assistant who came in from the cold, is one of the best debuts of the month, and we daresay a reason that people might be picking a copy up off the shelf. It’s an old-school film poster or even dime-store novel, flipping the script and casting Miss Moneypenny in the lead. Epting’s cinematic style is being picked up by Hollywood, as it is his art that serves as the basis for Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
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