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. At least it would be if we hadn’t missed it for the majority of the year to date. That said, comic book fans know the expression “Better late than never” all too often in this crazy monthly shipping schedule world of ours. Without any further ado, it’s been a bumper crop of covers again this month. There is a bit of a theme of whitish minimalism in at least half-a-dozen of these fine covers, and who would have thought that Doctor Strange would be making more than one appearance here? This is Cover Story.
There ain’t no cover like an Alex Ross cover, ’cause an Alex Ross cover don’t stop. At least, they don’t stop amazing us, as would be appropriate for the cover of a book with the word ‘amazing’ in the title. Here Ross evokes the 1960s version of Spider-man, recalling the orignal Steve Ditko design for Peter Parker, with the ghost of Spider-man foreshadowing his legacy. If Parker hadn’t returned recently to the comics after several years away, this cover would be giving us even more chills.
Say what you like about the “Zero Year” story arc, and we have at length on the Behind the Panels podcast, Capullo has been taking it up notch in the art department since Issue #1. Yet what makes this cover work is the simplicity of it all. While he weaves a complex web filled with ouroboroi and overgrown cities inside the book, Batman is literally and figuratively caught in the Riddler’s web on the front of the volume. Simply iconic.
So much has been written and said about Superman and Batman being flip-sides of the same coin. Yet few have visually captured this dichotomy so succinct as Jae Lee does in the cover to the latest title featuring the Man of Steel and the Dark Knight. Batman isn’t simply ‘in the dark’, but he appears to exist entirely in and of the shadows. Superman is at his most powerful in the sunlight, but the merging of the black tones can’t help but indicate that perhaps some of the darkness has rubbed-off on the Last Son of Krypton.
Phil Noto’s art continues to be breathtaking, whether it is in his striking portraits or action filled pieces. Here he takes the bold step of highlighting the hero by mostly using the red and black that the character is associated with, and using the majority of the space for one of San Francisco’s most iconic forms of transport. In a single image, we see Widow’s ability to seamlessly blend into any situation, but remain a visible part of the landscape regardless.
Like Noto’s image above, the hero here is highlighted by his stark contrast with the background. The complete absence of any detail on the character is striking, yet John Constantine’s silhouette – with its familiar trenchcoat and soon-to-be-lit cigarette – are unmistakable. Let’s hope JC gets his cigarettes in the upcoming TV series.
So what we have here is an example of why Daredevil’s creative team, now several years into their run, remains one of the things to get excited by every single month. With The Owl the main villain this month, this brilliant optical illusion sees Daredevil literally trapped within the confines of the nocturnal villain. If you aren’t convinced how just how awesome this cover is, try focusing alternatively on the owl shape and Daredevil.
It must be a kind of morphic resonance, as this similar (but wholly unique) entries almost mirrors Samnee’s efforts above. Riley Rossmo is one of those insanely talented artists who appears to be perfectly suited to the macabre and the surreal in equal measures. Plus, it has a purple cat so it’s an instant win in our books.
The only thing more synonymous with Edgar Allen Poe than murder and Gothic architecture is writer/artist Richard Corben. Here he captures one of the most bone-chilling descriptions in Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, putting the “gigantic stature, the prodigious strength and…the wild ferocity” of the orangutan against the austere and restrained surface world of Poe’s literature. It’s just as frightening here at it was in the original text.
Look, the odds of a scuba diving Elektra finding an underwater cave shaped exactly like one of her bladed sais seems remote, but it sure does make for some beautiful art from “Deadly” Mike Del Mundo.
Eye Of Newt #1 (Dark Horse) – Artist: Michael Hague
Michael Hague is a bit of a legend in illustrated literature circles, with his iconic art seen in the pages of various editions of The Wind in the Willows, The Wizard of Oz, The Hobbit and other classic fairy tales. Hague uses a classic fantasy and storybook style of art for a new original work, bringing the same levels of detail and vivid splashes of colour that his other work has been celebrated for.
The Flash #32 (DC Comics) – Artist: Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund
The Flash’s red and yellow outfit is so iconic, that even the forthcoming TV series didn’t want to mess with it too much. So what happens when you remove both of those things from the cover of his own title? Awesome, lightning-infused badassery apparently. And not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good.
Over the course of the last 16 issues or so of Green Arrow under Jeff Lemire, Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino has managed to change the way we look at the comic book page. Using colour, and the absence of it, to highlight moments, movements or fragments in time, there have been issues where he has literally turned our heads upside-down in pursuit of the perfect mood. Case in point is this Richard Dragon inspired cover, which once again highlights this month’s unofficial theme of viewing heroes through the frame of their foes.
You could take all of David Aja’s Hawkeye covers, place them on a wall and you’ve got yourself an instant gallery. Just add water. Actually, no: don’t pour water on Aja’s art, because chances are pretty good it’ll go soggy and warp. Unless you are on a digital device, then there’s a real danger of either permanently damaging the equipment or doing nasty shocky things to yourself. These are things to avoid. What you can do is appreciate how epic Clint Barton looks on this cover, using the red analogous colour group and hexagonal shapes that have marked this arc of the downtrodden archer’s journey.
Iron Man #27 (Marvel) – Artist: Christian Ward
When you think about it, Christian Ward and Iron Man are an obvious mix. Tony Stark is a futurist, and Ward may have arrived from a not-too-distant future where art and poetry are synonymous with the innermost sparks of the human mind. Ward’s art is techno-organic, but there’s a softness to it that belies its complexity. It’s also bloody cool. You really have to hand it to him.
New Avengers Annual #1 (Marvel) – Artist: Marco Rudy
Doctor Strange is soon to be a star of the silver screen, and this piece of deliciously dark art from Marco Rudy shows us exactly the kind of take someone like horror writer/director Scott Derrickson could bring to the franchise.
Original Sin #3 (Marvel) – Artist: Gabriele Dell’otto
Hey, it’s that Doctor Strange fellow again. Dell’otto’s painted art would be known to anybody who has signed on for the epic journey that is The Official Marvel Graphic Novel Collection or picked up a copy of the fun Amazing Spider-Man: Family Business. If we didn’t already have Marco Rudy’s cover this month, we might just say that this is best that Doctor Strange had ever looked. Either way, this is one slick cover.
Can we all just agree that by this fourth wave of Saga issues, Fiona Staples can just have a permanent place in all ‘best covers’ lists until the end of time? Plus: we want a star balloon now please.
That is a gun in his pocket, and we are happy to see it. Piotr Kowalski continues to push the boundaries of comic book taboos with a monthly dose of Sex, and there is a cocksure lack of subtlety to this loaded device that has the balls to rock out with its glock out.
She-Hulk #5 (Marvel) – Artist: Kevin P. Wada
Wada gave a very brief description of this on his Tumblr this month: “So happy with this one. Let me know what you guys think!” We think it’s just great.
We don’t need to go into any lengthy explanation as to why Mike Allred art is terrific: we just accept that it is. Yet here we are given the even more joyful prospect of Allred’s versions of the Guardians of the Galaxy floating in space with the Silver Surfer, Ms. Marvel and Earth Girl.
Solar: Man of the Atom #4 (Dynamite) – Artist: Juan Doe
Juan Doe’s covers historically have a Eastern Bloc propaganda vibe to them. This one is no exception. It is good, yes? Yes. Yes it is.
This T-Rex fella is known for his Ghostbusters variants around these parts, but never before have we been so terrified by a Sonic the Hedgehog cover in this Monster Movie Variant. The Australian artist is illustrating Silent Hill: Downpour for IDW starting in August. If you want to see more of his work, you should probably go and ask your Local Comic Book Store to order you a copy right away. (Preorders are how books stay alive, don’t you know?)
It’s Thor wailing on a minotaur while Galactus watches on from above. How could this painted Agustin Alessio cover not make it onto this month’s Cover Story? It’s in perfect balance to the Esad Ribic art that fills the interiors, and recalls the movement and epic grandeur of the Caravaggisti.
Trees #2 (Image Comics) – Artist: Jason Howard
There’s a lot going on in this deceptively simple cover. Pay close attention to the symbols in the background, as they relate to the content of the story as well. The use of the two colours, and a simple greenish hue (coupled with a generous helping of Benday dots) really makes this cover pop.
The Wicked + The Divine #1 ((Image Comics) – Artist: Jamie McKelvie
Although these are technically the primary and variant covers, it is difficult to treat them as completely separate. Sat next to each other like this, they appear to form one continuous piece and the junction of wicked and divine.
Witchfinder: The Mysteries of Unland #1 (Dark Horse) – Artist: Julián Totino Tedesco
The only mystery you’ll be pondering is why you haven’t got this one bagged and boarded by sundown. Speaking of which…
Wolverine #9 (Marvel) – Artist: Ryan Stegman
Combining colours by Edgar Delgado, Stegman’s Japanese inspired Rising Sun is the reason you won’t be sleeping this evening.