A great comic book cover has a lot of work to do. It’s both an advertisement and a work of art; both a statement and an invitation. Sometimes they convey character, sometimes mood, sometimes moment. Sometimes they pastiche the classics or pay tribute to the past; sometimes they strive to show us something entirely new. Always they show us a glimpse of somewhere else through a canvas no bigger than a window pane. In Best Comic Book Covers Ever (This Month), we look back over some of the most eye-catching, original and exceptional covers of the month that was.
Some familiar cover concepts get inventive new spins in the best covers for the month of May, and we put the spotlight on great work from Dan Panosian, Mike Allred, Ron Wimberly, and Chris Samnee and Matt Wilson.
As Batwing roars towards cancellation, we may remember it as the little comic that couldn't. Overwhelmed by its New 52 peers and its minor place in the Batman family, Batwing struggled to establish an obvious identity that could draw in new readers. This Dan Panosian cover hints at an idea for an aesthetic that I don't think was ever realized, but it's a strong, elegant visual. Perhaps architecture is the key to establishing the distinctions in the Batman family?
I'm not generally keen on any image that presents Black Widow as passive or captive, given that it's the default for too many presentations of women in comics. That aside, I can't deny the cleverness and punch (no pun intended) of this Phil Noto image.
I feel like sound effects are a rare sight on comic covers these days -- covers are such timeless suspensions that no sound can exist in that vacuum. Here, though, the sound effects help enhace the contrast between the interiority of the action and the monolithic imposition of the static figure that surrounds it. The world needs many more Ron Wimberly covers, because this one is a tour de force.
Samnee's line makes this look like Herge's Adventures of Elektra, which is a very appealing idea, but Matt Wilson's palette is the star of this piece.
Another cover notable for its effective use of a limited palette, but also notable for a really great and original design idea; shadow puppets. For a story set in China, this is an inspired evocation that thankfully doesn't fall into Orientialist stereotypes.
FBP: Federal Bureau of Physics #10
Another month, another dazzling Nathan Fox cover for FBP. This one seems to place the world inside psychedelic pop-art Steranko boxes rather than having its characters clamber over them, with the implied message that, whatever bonds we form, your trip and my trip are not contiguous.
Variant cover by Felix Ruiz
Published by Marvel
Available: Comics shops (print) / Marvel (digital)
A touch of psychedelia plays a part in this cover as well, matched with an '80s electric aesthetic that creates a new visual signature for Ultimate Sue Storm's powers. A good character portrait cover really needs to look like a portrait, and this Felix Ruiz piece could definitely hang on a wall.
Two guys fighting. What could be a more pedestrian concept for a comic book cover? (Well, five or six or seven guys just standing there; but I digress.) All praise to Jeff Stokely, then, for putting a new spin on the idea through both the color and composition of this playing card-inspired cover.
Themed variant covers have become a weird sub-industry -- but one that thankfully produces some excellent work. It seems like every publisher is doing its version of Skottie Young's "baby" variants now, which is not terribly interesting. Mike Allred's Batman '66 variants at DC provide much more fertile ground, and his phantasmagorical Aquaman cover stands out as the best of the bunch.
DC had to walk back its plan to put "WTF" on a bunch of its covers last year when someone pointed out what the F stands for in that piece of internet slang. Marvel has no such reservations about BAMF, which, of course, does not stand for anything and is just a sound effect, mm-hmm, sure. But as drawn by Jamie McKelvie, Nightcrawler sure looks like a BAMF.