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Best Comic Book Covers – January 2011

There was a time before the Internet when a comic book cover was one of a reader’s first hints about contents of a new comic, back before everyone knew what would happen months and months before it went on sale. While this function has been delegated to prodigious solicitation copywriters and an army of comics journalists, the art of the comic book cover has not been lost, although it may sometimes be taken for granted — relegated to a thumbnail image in a Previews catalogue or sterile list of new books on any number of websites. There is a true and righteous art to creating a successful comic book cover, and it is a talent that comics’ best illustrators continue to practice even in obscurity. It is to celebrate this work that we’ve created the Best Comic Book Covers feature.

Curated by ComicsAlliance editors Laura Hudson, Caleb Goelner and Andy Khouri, Best Comic Book Covers will celebrate that left behind art of cover creation, spotlighting what in our opinions were the most beautifully illustrated, impeccably designed or just simply the coolest images to be found on the stands throughout the month that was.NOTE: With hundreds of new comics released every month, even art obsessives like us are going to miss something occasionally. Artists and publishers of all kinds (including manga!) can help make Best Comic Book Covers a stronger feature by making every month’s solicitations as easily available as possible (ideally without logos). You can even email them directly to us, if you like.

In no particular order…

Feeding Ground #3
Story by Swifty Lang
Art and cover by Michael Lapinski
Published by Archaia

The painted skull motif has been really prevalent in pop culture lately, particularly here in Los Angeles. I always enjoy seeing comic book covers that reflect their time and place in an elegant and tasteful way, and Lapinski’s in-your-face, er, face is a great example of that. – Andy Khouri

27 #1 (Second Printing Variant Cover)
Story by Charles Soule
Art by Renzo Podesta
Cover by W. Scott Forbes
Published by Image Comics

Story by Mike Mignola, John Arcudi
Art and cover by Guy Davis
Published by Dark Horse

A rare non-Mignola cover for a new Hellboy-related book. Guy Davis is a master of monstrous characters, but even this science-lab-style diagram of Abe Sapien, complete with some weird mystical text, conveys a humanity to the character. It’s like, “This is Abe. Don’t worry, he’s here to help.” – Andy Khouri

Written by Grant Morrison
Art by Yanick Paquette
Cover by J.H. Williams III
Published by DC Comics

Obviously, J.H. Williams III is a master of design and illustration, but this cover is particularly good. Williams hits the marks with iconic poses of Batman and Catwoman, but gives the new character, ironically called Mr. Unknown, the focus. It’s beautifully illustrated within a theme-appropriate rising sun design, and the kanji is also a nice touch. – Andy Khouri

Written by Steve Lyons
Art by Sean Chen
Cover by Alex Garner
Published by DC Comics

DC Comics art director Mark Chiarello anticipated this feature by initiating the logo-less cover initiative for all of January’s DC Universe books, which made the publisher’s line truly stand out on the racks. Alex Garner’s Steel piece is one of the best. Beyond just being a beautiful rendition of the character, the design approach makes Steel appear as though his rocket boots are blasting him right off the paper and into your face. – Andy Khouri

Writer: Jim Shooter
Artist: Bill Reinhold, Jesse Delperdang
Colorist: Wes Dzioba
Cover Artist: Raymond Swanland

Raymond Swanland puts his lightning touch on a classic sci-fi franchise, bringing even Magnus’ tunic into a contemporary light. Beholding this cover, it’s easy to imagine clocking 40 hours on a Swanland-designed Magnus Robot Fighter 3D action epic on my PlayStation 3. – Caleb Goellner

Written By J.T. Krul
Art By Diogenes Neves & Vicente Cifuentes
Cover By Mauro Cascioli
Published by DC Comics

Written by Gail Simone
Art by Ardian Syaf & Vicente Cifuentes
Cover by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau
Published by DC Comics

I’m a sucker for DC heroines in strong, ass-kicking poses like this, and DC’s January cover design scheme made this lovely piece by Stanley Lau impossible to ignore. Lau’s work has also been featured in ComicsAlliance’s Best Art Ever (This Week) series. – Andy Khouri

Written by Brian Wood
Art by Ryan Kelly
Cover by Brian Wood & Ryan Kelly
Published by Vertigo

A deceptively simple piece by Ryan Kelly that makes up with attitude what it lacks in flash. Everything about this cover, from Brian Wood’s design to the fashions Kelly references and the style with which he renders the characters, is modern and meant to convey relevancy and urgency. These women exist in our world and our time, and their personalities are easily gleaned by readers new and old. – Andy Khouri

Written by Jason Aaron
Art by R.M. Guera
Cover by Jock
Published by Vertigo

OZMA OF OZ #3 (of 8)
Written by Eric Shanower
Pencils & Cover by Skottie Young
Published by Marvel Comics

I love how Skottie Young uses the character’s hair to frame the figure. This is brilliant design and illustration from a guy whose work is probably going to be here every month. – Andy Khouri

LOKI #4 (of 4)
Written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Penciled by Sebastian Fiumara
Cover by Travel Foreman
Published by Marvel Comics

By Benito Cereno, James Harren, Nate Bellegarde

It’s easy to want to forget the holidays for another year once January rolls around, but James Harren’s muted neons and playful gritty textures have me humming Burl Ives’ Christmas catalog well into 2011. – Caleb Goellner

Written by David Liss
Penciled by Francesco Francavilla
Cover by Simone Bianchi
Published by Marvel Comics

Written by Andy Diggle
Art by Davide Gianfelice
Cover by Jock
Published by Marvel Comics

Another master of cover creation, Jock outdoes himself here with what at first glance is a very simple piece. But when you look at it for a second, you see how much went into not just the beautiful rendering of the city, but also the feeling you get of Daredevil actually collapsing on top of all those buildings. The sense of motion is enormous in this image despite the tape outline, itself the definition of static. – Andy Khouri

Written by Brian Michael Bendis
Art and cover by Alex Maleev
Published by ICON

I’ve yet to read Scarlet, but this cover by Alex Maleev makes me want to catch up. The plucky, punky redhead postures rudely in front of a line of black-and-white authority figures who don’t look like they’d be a lot of fun to hang out with. Simple but effective, and beautifully drawn to boot. – Andy Khouri

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #651 (Tron Variant)
Written by Dan Slott
Pencils by Humberto Ramos
Back-up story pencils by Stefano Caselli
Cover by Mark Brooks

Spider-Man + Tron = Khouri pr0n. – Andy Khouri

Written by Joss Whedon
Art by Georges Jeanty and Andy Owens
Cover buy Jo Chen

One reacts to this Jo Chen cover as one would to a performance by Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar. While the illustration itself is beautiful in all technical respects, it’s the acting that really makes this cover stand out. You look at this and you know something terrible has happened in this woman’s life, and you want to know more. – Andy Khouri

The Transformers: The IDW Collection Vol. 3
Cover by unknown
Published by IDW Publishing

This hardcover collection of Transformers stories follows others of the same style featuring Optimus Prime and Megatron. The striking, overly-rendered pencil close-ups of the robots is something you never see and really makes you take notice of the actual characters and their in-story nature as designed objects. In the case of Galvatron, there’s also a grandioseness that makes me consider the Transformers as something more than just a 1980s toy line. – Andy Khouri

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: Dust to Dust #8
Story by Chris Roberson
Art by Robert Adler
Cover by Connor Willumsen
Published by BOOM! Studios

This is the sort of cover that always catches my attention: stark, minimalist, great logo, elegant composition. In this case, I’m especially impressed by how out of the way Willumsen and BOOM! have gone not to replicate the Blade Runner aesthetic. – Andy Khouri

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