Written by: Joey Esposito, Special to CC2K
Every month, dozens of books are released, sometimes with five different covers. What's in a cover? Well, comics are one of the few mediums where we can literally judge a book by its cover. Sure, the art on the inside may not be by the same artist, and often times probably not even close to the same quality. But, what is it that attracts us to a book we've never noticed before? Exactly – the cover.
There are some artists who make their living simply doing covers for a series on a monthly basis. In many ways, the cover is one of the most important parts of a book. It draws you in, it sets you up for the mood of the story inside, and it makes a certain unspoken promise about the quality of the book to follow. In a nutshell, it's the first thing we see as readers.
September's Runner-up: Young Liars #7, Cover by David Lapham
Young Liars is the most fucked up book on the shelves today. At least twice per issue, you will read and just mutter to yourself "Wow, that's fucked up." Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. And the cover of this issue, the first to break away from what I thought would be the standard 'format' for each cover, is the best to date. Featuring Danny Duoshade, series main character in an entirely new setting, and also boasting "The Spiders from Mars Part 1" storyarc. What this cover doesn't show you is how INSANE the issue awaiting you inside is. Literally, there are spiders from Mars. They come to Earth for an invasion, but one of them, in the form of the other series' lead, Sadie, is a punk at heart and wants to rock. The cover is full of technicolor goodness, but it certainly did not prepare me for the craziness inside. I like this style, especially considering that it differs so drastically from what I have seen of Lapham's other work in books like Stray Bullets, usually black and white, or in the case of Young Liars, a washed out color palette.
#5: Final Crisis: Revelations #2, Cover by Philip Tan
Hot lesbian chick? Check. Fedora? Check. Faceless mask? Check. What do you get? You get Renee Montoya's Question, and she rocks, particularly in this spectacular 50/50 variant by Philip Tan. Of all the Final Crisis tie-ins, this series is the only one I'm collecting the 'character' covers for, as opposed to the normal covers with the red borders. Why? Well, the answer to that question lies right above. Not only is it superbly detailed, but it truly says something about Tan's character work to evoke the emotion that he does in this cover without the help of a face to show any emotion. Not that facial features are a shortcut; in fact, they are an art in and of itself – but this image displays an exercise in body language, an exercise that Tan clearly enjoys the challenge of. Where many lesser artists may have struggled to portray the rage (read: badassery) of The Question in this image, Tan finds the simple solution (a angry fist! blood!) and executes it perfectly. The firey backround colors don't hurt either. Don't be surprised to find Revelations #3 on this list next month.
#4: Invincible Iron Man #5, Cover by Ryan Meinerding
Another 50/50 variant cover (out of about 5 gazillion variants), Meinerding's cover is not only the best of all the different options, but the most photo-realistic cover on this list. Again, a simple design that is full of personality due to the artist's talent when it comes to body language. It's sort of the same case as Philip Tan's Question cover to Final Crisis: Revelations #2, in that Iron Man is another character that essentially is no help to the artist in the way of facial features, being that his helmet is static. As such, characterization of Iron Man is left up to his movement and positioning, as well as the environment around him. This image is simple, yet we can tell a great deal from it; clearly he was (or is currently) engaged in battle, and he's certainly focused. The smoke coming from his repulsors are a great touch, and along with body position, add levels to the complexity of this cover. The interesting thing about Iron Man and his helmet are that depending on how the artist (a good one) presents his body language and the actions taking place around him, an optical illusion tricks your mind into seeing the emotion being evoked in his body on his helmet, similar to the way we see faces in random objects in everyday life.
#3: Action Comics #869, Cover by Gary Frank
Now usually, any Gary Frank Superman would be at the top of this list. The man draws Christopher Reeve as Supes, and anyone born after 1978 knows that the first vision of Superman they ever had was of that man in the cape. Frankly (no pun intended), it's long overdue. To me, Frank represents the generation that grew up adoring Christopher Reeve as Superman now entering the comics industry, and we are seeing the influence of that. And of course, combined with Geoff Johns, once Richard Donner's assistant, and his penchant for bringing things from the original film into the main comics canon, it's the perfect combination. In this cover, we see Clark enjoying a SODA POP (note, NOT a beer…he's a boyscout after all) with Pa Kent, while Lois and Ma hang out on the porch, talking about knitting and other midwest in-law stuff. What would usually be a happy visit on the Kent farm is instead clearly tainted by the red sky and ominous moon/Brainiac hovering in the background. Sadly, the happy look on all of the character's faces imply that they are completely oblivious to the impending destruction that (presumably) awaits them. Ominous, yes, but you can't turn your eyes away from that uncanny likeness can you?
#2: Secret Six #1, Cover by Cliff Chiang
For those unfamiliar, the Secret Six is the greatest superhero (villain) team in the DCU. But more than that, their new ongoing series is sure to feature some of the best covers in comicdom for many issues to come, featuring the unique work of artists Cliff Chiang. Chiang's use of heavy line work gives his work an almost animated feel that just injects the characters with energy. His composition in this cover suits the story, as the mysterious smoke rising obscures the view of the characters that would be the new additions to the team.There's something to be said about a guy who's work makes me (almost) want to pick up an issue of Judd Winick's Green Arrow/Black Canary. Keyword is almost. The only person that could make me buy another Judd Winick book is Jesus Christ himself, and then only if there are boobs in it.
#1: Superman #680, Cover by Alex Ross
Come on. Do you really need me to explain why this is the number one pick? One word, and one word only: Krypto.