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.
5. Umbrella Academy: Dallas #2
Cover by Gabriel Ba
Oh, Pogo, how we hardly knew thee. Say what you will about My Chemical Romance, Umbrella Academy written by My Chem front man Gerard Way is the shit. And half of that compliment is directed towards cover and interior artist, Gabriel Ba. While his designs are based off of initial sketches by Way, Ba has made these characters his own, and sure as hell knows how to catch an eye or two with a cover like this one. This new series of Umbrella Academy looks to be circling around some strange alternate timeline that encompasses the Kennedy assassination, and here Ba gives us one of Hargreeves' supersmart monkey companions, presumably dressed as Marilyn Monroe. Hot. Strangely enough, the design of the character itself is not what really intrigues me about this cover, but instead the choice of background, making the overall image quite simplistic in that despite it's absurdity, it's still just a relatively basic portrait. It really shows the power and talent laced in Ba's work.
4. Moon Knight: Silent Knight #1
Cover by Clayton Crain
I will be honest, I'm not very familiar with Clayton Crain's work. And by "not very", I mean "not at all". When I checked his resume, I realized it's probably because I've never had an interest in any of the titles he's worked on. Which, judging by this cover, is a shame, because his work is great. Every Christmas, both Marvel and DC pump out at least a few Christmas specials or variant covers with Santa-ized characters. I'll admit I didn't read this issue; I learned long ago to not trust holiday specials. However, in contrast to all of the other holiday themed issues to come out this month, I have to say this takes the cake by far. What we see here is Moonie being awesome (as usual) and dishing out his own style of badass holiday cheer, presumably assuring that his neighborhood (and Khonshu) have a Merry Christmas. Notice the startling similarities of Moon Knight and one Kris Kringle.
3. Secret Six #4
Cover by Nicola Scott
Secret Six features some of the most intriguing used-to-be-shitty characters in comics today, and Nicola Scott draws them with perfect characterization in nearly every panel of every page. So how can you make already awesome work even better? Put the team on a runaway ice cream truck shooting stuff. Exactly. And that's exactly what she's done, instantly drawing in any shelf-peruser that is looking to get into something new. I mean really, even if you didn't have any idea what the hell this book was about, wouldn't you want to pick up and flip through a book featuring Catman, Deadshot, Ragdoll and Scandal hanging out of the ice cream truck from Hell? I thought so.
2. Batman #683
Cover by Alex Ross
Although it seems that an Alex Ross cover automatically qualifies to be in the top picks of the month, it's never without warrant. This cover was picked more for Ross' choice of characters than his already established uber-talent. Here we get to see an eclectic collage of important figures from throughout Grant Morrison's run, including Ra's al Ghul, Joker, Talia, and Damien. More importantly, Ross gives us (at least to my memory), the first clearly rendered, front and center, modern Nightwing in his signature painted style. Dick Grayson is the cream of the crop of DC, and it's great to finally have an Alex Ross-ed image of him. Nevermind that, but this issue marks the end of Grant Morrison's epic 2+ year run on the book (at least for now), and I couldn't think of a more all-encompassing cover to sum up his work.
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #1
Cover by Skott Young
Yes, I chose the Wizard of Oz over Batman. Shocker. But look at it! Look how happy Dorothy and Toto are! Look how cute their companions are! This cover is representative of how awesome this issue truly is, both in artwork and characterization. Literally everyone has seen or read the Wizard of Oz in one form or another, and yet, this book still proves intriguing, starting with it's cover. Young's take on the characters are both classic and unique, lending a personality to them that are respectful of every predecessor but with a new style. What is really fascinating is that this book is a straight up adaption of the original story, without any sort of 'dark' twists that many readers, including myself, have come to expect from comic adaptations of classic stories (see: Grimm's Fairy Tales). This cover shows us that a classic is a classic for a reason. I'm very excited to see the rest of Young's work on this series.
And now, a first for this column. A "Worst Cover of the Month". Normally, I would hate to point out any shortcomings of any artist actively working in comics today. Because, after all, what the hell do I know? Clearly, he is working in the comic book industry, and I am not. However, this cover was so bad, that it was deserving of an un-honorable mention:
Cover by Josh Middleton
What we have here is a failure, on all accounts. This is the issue in which Supergirl's father dies in her arms. (Woops, spoiler alert.) Now one would assume that the point of this cover design was to show the raw emotion and complex feelings Kara is managing at the time of death (handled competently within by Jamal Igle), but instead resembles that of a six year old child not getting her way and having a fit, Kryptonian style. In short, it's an important idea with terrible execution. I would like to reiterate that this is not a dig at Middleton, not in the least, as he has had many a superb cover work on books like Gotham Central, American Virgin and Runaways, as well as Supergirl and has proven his talent. To me, this simply an oversight (or rush job) that could have been fixed by a slight adjustment in character acting and facial expressions. After all, she just lost her father – for a second time – not been made to eat brussel sprouts that she hates. Bad form.