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Best Comic Book Covers Ever (This Month) – September 2012

A great comic book cover is both an advertisement and a work of art. It is both a statement and an invitation. Sometimes a great cover conveys character, sometimes mood, sometimes moment. Great covers can pastiche the classics or pay tribute to the past, or they can strive to show us something new. Great covers always show us a glimpse of somewhere else, on a canvas no bigger than a window pane. In Best Comic Book Covers Ever (This Month), we look back at some of the most eye-catching, original and exceptional covers of the month that was.

September was DC’s zero issue month, giving us dozens of covers with foreshortened heroes punching through paper. None of those covers made this list. Those covers weren’t great. That whole concept wasn’t great. So instead we have a selection of September’s finest, including three skulls, several heads, and one terrible face.

Message To Adolf vol. 1 (Vertical), cover art by Osamu Tezuka

Introducing Mr. Adolf Hitler. Typically I leave my favorite cover of the month for last, but this extreme close-up of the 20th century’s most hated man claims the title for September. This spongebobbed orange head renders the dictator risible and pathetic, and that’s wonderful. It’s a powerful statement in portrait form. (The cover to volume two makes the same statement with even greater emphasis.)

The Punisher #16 (Marvel), cover by Marco Checchetto

There are a lot of big skulls on the September list, perhaps getting the comic stores ready for Halloween. Why decorate when the shelves are already full of skulls?

Fun fact: skulls represent death. (Sorry, were you looking for Advanced Symbolism? Second door on the left.) Skulls represent death except when you’re dealing with The Punisher, and then the skull just represents The Punisher. And sure, he’s an avatar of death of sorts, but it’s really just his logo, and a big skull on a Punisher cover doesn’t necessarily mean anything except it’s a Punisher comic. But this cover reclaims that prosaic image and creates a compelling mood.

Dark Country (Raw), cover by Thomas Ott

Skull #2 offers a more traditional death/horror vibe, and an on-the-nose Silence of the Lambs echo. (Really, moths + skulls = Silence of the Lambs. Everyone knows that.) But Thomas Ott’s Teutonic wood-carving style adds an evocative sinister edge.

Rebel Blood vol. 1 (Image), cover by Riley Rossmo

There’s a skull in this cover as well, but it still has some flesh attached, for flavor. I love the use of the bear to create negative space between the zombie and the axe-man. It’s a very economical use of the page.

Unwritten #41 (DC Vertigo), cover by Yuko Shimizu

Now we move from skulls to actual heads, though I think this guy might be dead as well. There’s a lot going on in this cover, but it’s seamlessly tied together, and Shimizu continues to find new and brilliant ways to work this book’s wordy theme into her pieces.

Lobster Johnson: Caput Mortuum #1 (Dark Horse), cover by Tonci Zonjic

I always appreciate covers that find clever ways to add depth, and the way this cover layers the character’s silhouette onto the city, with his face and logo popping on top, is especially effective. Great color choices too.

Astonishing X-Men #54 (Marvel), cover by Phil Noto

Phil Noto is one of my favorite portrait artists because he puts so much into the expressions. I also like the way this cover combines the visual signature of Karma’s psionic powers with the symbols of the Communist regime that controls the character’s home nation of Vietnam. A subtle visual dramatization.

Adventure Time: Marceline And The Scream Queens #3 (Boom), variant cover by Yuko Ota

This is what I assume punk rock flyers look like in the Adventure Time universe.

The Cavalier Mr. Thompson (Fantagraphics), cover by Rich Tommaso

I’m drawn to the graphic simplicity of this cover. It plays with scale, line and color in creative ways, and the composition pulls it all together.

National Comics: Rose And Thorn #1 (DC), cover by Ryan Sook

This is a first issue cover that beautifully pitches its concept. Rose and Thorn are Jekyll and Hyde; the good girl and the bad girl; the schoolgirl in the pretty pink bedroom of her outer outside self, contrasted with the dark dangerous and heavily armed girl of her closeted inner self. But you know all that, because Ryan Sook already told you.

American Vampire: Lord of Nightmares #4 (DC Vertigo), cover by Dustin Nguyen

Question: What’s black and white and red in selective places? Answer: Awesome covers! All right, it’s probably not a completely foolproof formula, but here’s yet another example of it working brilliantly. If the blood was the only spot of red I think it would be less effective, but the red lips, red jacket, even the touch of red on the woman’s nose, create context and lead the eye.

Jack Frost vol. 6 (Yen Press), cover by JinHo Ko

I love the color palette on this cover. There’s also beautiful contrast between the line art of the figure and the lineless art of the arm, and some great texture effects. But it’s the vivid colors I love the most.

Hit-Girl #3 (Marvel Icon), cover by Jock

They’re filming Kick-Ass 2 in my adopted home town of Toronto right now, so there’s a peculiar preponderance of New York taxi cabs on the streets. That’s actually as close as I’ve ever got to Kick-Ass. But liking this cover is the second closest. It’s an eye-catching angle, and don’t we all enjoy a good logo-kicking?

Wolverine And The X-Men #17 (Marvel), cover by Mike Allred

I’ve singled this cover out for its use of shape. Doop is a blob. It’s not the most glamorous shape to build a cover around. But Allred takes the curve of Doop’s belly and continues it through Wolverine’s belt and forearm all the way to the tip of his claws, and that’s a dynamic use of blobbiness.

Skullkickers #18 (Image), cover by Saejin Oh

We end the month with another skull-ish cover, but this time it’s in the title. I have to state up front that Skullkickers writer Jim Zubkavich is a good friend, and readers of the series may know that I made an appearance in the back pages of an early issue with a recipe for stew. But I don’t let these things sway me in my cover picks, and in fact I would be happy to provide recipes for the back pages of other comics as well, if asked. Regardless of stew, this is a great fun cover full of action and humor, and I am a sucker for a good mouth-gouging. But who isn’t?

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