Best of 2017: Best Covers

Best Covers of 2017

You know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but that doesn’t mean you can’t judge the cover on its own merit. This year found us marveling at covers that weren’t just carefully designed and lushly colored, but that actually did a great deal of storytelling, cramming all of the drama, excitement and emotion of the whole issue into one succinct image. Some did it literally, some did it metaphorically, but all moved us in some way beyond simply broadcasting which of our favorite characters would appear in the issue. These are our top 10 covers of 2017.

10. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 8 – Robert Hack

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina 8

Capturing everything we love about this series, this cover’s retro trade dress (and price!) makes it look like an artefact from the character’s earliest appearances in 1960s Archie comics. But, of course, the macabre image of a half-faceless Sabrina reveals the darker, anachronistic heart of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Er, “anachronistic” probably isn’t the right word — as ever, Robert Hack captures the style and substance of his period setting with remarkable attention to detail, but the darker aspects of this series could never have existed in a comic at the height of the comics code. This was an issue that leaned into that tension especially hard, so this cover’s distillation of those themes couldn’t be more perfect.

9. Godshaper 6 – Jonas Goonface

Godshaper 6

The portrait and the group shot are classic compositions for comic book covers. The first focuses on an individual, perhaps highlighting some key trait that will be important in the story itself. The other focuses on a larger segment of the cast, offering some hint of their group dynamics. Different issues may be better served by one or the other (or any number of other choices), but artists usually have to pick one. Not so with Godshaper 6, where Jonas Goonface manages to pull off both a group shot of almost the entire cast and a portrait of Bud. Much more than just a striking way to include Bud in the image, this approach makes Bud the negative space between the characters, hinting at the issue’s ultimate message of the unifying power of art.

8. Deadpool 31 – David Lopez

Deadpool 31

Deadpool is frequently an amoral anti-hero, but he always knows enough to trust in the unimpeachable character of Steve Rogers. Well, 2017 saw the biggest heel turn in comics, and David Lopez’ cover for Deadpool 31 did a great job of capturing what’s so scary about it. The red and white stripes of the flag flow from Cap’s shoulders, and Deadpool emerges from one set of stripes while Coulson emerges from the other. It’s inexplicable corruption woven from the embodiment of the stars and stripes, making it one of the most effective covers of the most harrowing Marvel event in recent memory.

7. Black Widow 10 – Chris Samnee & Matthew Wilson

Black Widow 10

More of a fanciful riff on the central relationship of Black Widow 10 than a hint of what the issue might actually contain, this issue works beautifully as a standalone pin-up. It’s an image that elegantly captures the high-flying tone of the issue without giving so much as its location away. Chris Samnee’s expressions here are impeccable, capturing the affection between these two characters, however coyly they may want to play it, all within a scene that makes both more and less sense as you think about it. Bucky’s metal arm shouldn’t be tattooable, but converting his signature star into a heart (to match Nat’s own red hourglass tat) is so perfect, we can’t help but love it.

6. Hawkeye 5 – Julian Totino Tedesco

Hawkeye 5

There were a ton of Julian Totino Tedesco’s Hawkeye covers on our ballots — many featuring similarly fun team-ups — but the storytelling in this one made it our runaway favorite. Jessica’s haughtiness and Kate’s withering side-eye are spot-on, but there’s story everywhere on this panel, from the nonchalantly replaced nameplate on the desk to the quiver of purple arrows slung over the back of Kate’s chair. But our favorite detail has to be Kate’s “World’s Best Detective” mug — a title she clearly gave herself with only a minimum of ironic self-awareness. What could go wrong when these two team up?

5. Injection 15 – Declan Shalvey & Jordie Bellaire

Injection 15

Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire are a cover dream team, and have been particularly prolific this year, cranking out gorgeous covers for everything from The Punisher to The Hellblazer. But they found a new depth on their covers for Injection this year, which all revolved around master hacker Brigid Roth. That singular subject allowed them to get very specific with their choices — Shalvey experimenting with gesture and scale, while Bellaire let loose with digital effects that made for dazzlingly electric covers. It was hard to pick a favorite, but Brigid’s determination as she emerges from the pit paired with those shockingly bright whites made this a standout.

4. Black Bolt 5 – Christian Ward

Black Bolt 5

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I suppose a picture in a picture is a thousand words squared. That’s the sense that we get from this cover, anyway, which manages to condense both the wistful flashbacks and desperate present-day of the issue into a single image. A Sears-style portrait of young Black Bolt (in a costume his mother must have bought knowing he’d grow into it) with his trusty Lockjaw is an adorable sight, but Christian Ward carefully places us in the perspective of a torn and bloodied Black Bolt in the present day. It lends the memories an extra level of melancholy, keeping them in sight but frustratingly out of reach. It’s a clever superimposition of the issue’s main themes that just happens to also feature the adorable kiddy versions of two of the Inhuman’s most recognizable characters.

3. The Mighty Thor 701 – Russell Dauterman & Matthew Wilson

The Mighty Thor 701

Every year, we end up making the following pitch: “Top 10 Thor Covers.” And every year, the joke becomes more and more plausible. Russell Dauterman and Matthew Wilson’s rainbow soaked covers are always dynamic, exciting and perfectly emblematic of the story within. This cover to The Mighty Thor 701 makes a statement by pushing its subject — Mangog the Asgardian Slayer — into the out-of-focus middle distance and lingering on a demolished Mjolnir. The issue itself sees the end of War Thor at Mangog’s gnarled, three-fingered, hands, and all of the devastation that comes with is conveyed here. The rainbow bridge of the Bifrost makes for an oddly bright setting for the death of a god, but it allows Wilson to bath the page in dazzling colors and blinding light like only this team can.

2. Ms. Marvel 18 – Nelson Blake II & Rachelle Rosenberg

Ms. Marvel 18

The conventional wisdom of a two-shot is that the subject of the image is the relationship between the characters. In that way, this cover provides us with two separate portraits of Bruno and Kamala’s relationship: on the bottom, we see their real-world distance as they each sit alone, divided by a thin line that actually spans thousands of miles; but on the top, we can see their desired closeness, as they share the wish of a warm embrace. They’re together in their dreams (and together in having those dreams), but those dreams seem to give them little comfort. Leaning into these characters’ nerdiness, Nelson Blake II slightly chibi-fies Bruno and Kamala’s daydream, heightening our sense of just how heartbreakingly imaginary that scenario truly is.

1. Spider-Woman 17 – Javier Rodriguez

Spider-Woman 17

It was hard saying goodbye to Spider-Woman in 2017, but this final cover certainly helped soften the blow, allowing the series to drive off into the sunset with a satisfied smile. Breaking the cover up into sequentials helps artist Javier Rodriguez give each member of the cast their due, but also allows us to see them through Jessica’s eyes, her affection for them echoing our own. She’s putting her last few years of adventures behind her, quite literally into the rear view mirror, but it’s not a moment of sadness for Jess — it’s an accomplishment to be proud of. The same can be said for Rodriguez, Dennis Hopeless, Veronica Fish, and the rest of Spider-Woman’s talented creative team. This cover is not only one of 2017’s most distinctive, but a beautiful note to close a series, or a year, out on.

The conversation doesn’t stop there, because your list is almost certainly different from ours. What were your favorite covers of 2017?


2 comments on “Best of 2017: Best Covers

  1. This is probably the list that we have the least consensus on — it’s just so much down to personal taste. I’m very happy with the list, but I have a few darlings that I wish could have made the cut. I absolutely loved the cover to Mister Miracle 5 (which I think we’ll see get plenty of love on our other lists) and was bummed we didn’t feature one of Gotham Academy: Second Semester‘s covers. Otherwise, my only major quibbles are with ordering and which particular covers we selected for each series, but you really can’t go wrong with any Injection or Mighty Thor cover.

  2. There will be a lot of independent covers I have missed, because I usually only get to see independent covers when reading the trade (and because this year, I’m a bit behind on my trades as I’ve been trying to read some more classic runs). I have looked at DC’s covers, but DC covers are, at the moment, really, really bad. THere have been a couple that I’ve liked, mostly Deathstroke and Mister Miracle, but none cross the level into actually being worthy of mention.

    But first, let’s do some honourable mentions. Honourable mentions, because they have been disqualified for not actually being covers

    Mondo have done a lot of fantastic comic book posters this year, but these are the two I purchased and have hanging on my wall. They are amazing, especially in person (it is incredible how the colours pop, and how the little intricacies reveal themselves. The Dark Knight one especially is full of tiny little details in what could so easily be lots of blue).

    THere are many other Mondo posters I could post here, but I’ll just do one more, their SPiderman Homecoming poster

    Now, onto actual covers. If we are going to praise Sabrina for its fantastic pastiche on pup covers, we can’t ignore the actual best. Don’t get me wrong, the Sabrina cover is amazing, but this is better

    Like Sabrina, it embraces the pulp novel tradition (worth emphasizing, this sort of cover is a cover for a pulp book, and comics didn’t use this style. So Comics Code probably isn’t the best point of reference). But this cover is a flat out masterpiece. Just like the Sabrina cover, it so lovingly reflects both the time period and the specifics of the book itself (I love Jessica giving the finger, covered up by the price sticker, and the actual cover art itself is so reflective of the genre itself while being so rooted in character). And then the final touch is the beautiful title, Jewel Identity. With that, it fully embraces every part of the pulp fiction tradition, and the title is a masterclass of naming. Both a perfect Jessica Jones title and a perfect reflection of pulpy naming schemes. Perfect

    I’m not surprised that so many Hawkeye covers were on your ballots. If you filled this entire list with Hawkeye and Mighty Thor covers, no one could complain that you’d made a bad choice. THose two books have the most consistently great covers around, leagues better than their competition. Though I admit, the one you guys actually chose was my least favourite. So I thought I’d post nice variety of Hawkeye covers, reflecting all the different sorts of covers there are.
    Whether it is fun team ups, iconic covers of Kate operating or powerfully symbollic representations of drama, Hawkeye always knocks it out of the park with fantastic covers that root everything in pulpy, Calafornia noir goodness.

    I think you have chosen the best Mighty Thor cover, but I will not let it stop me from posting more. On the other hand, mid transformation Jane is hard to beat

    If anything comes close to Hawkeye and MIghty THor’s constant excellence, it is Hulk. Perfect representations of the Gothic Horror of th ebook, and I especially love the donut one, and how it inverts a previous cover

    Even if the event went off the rails in a bad way by the end, Secret Empire had some great covers. I especially love the Sam Wilson one. Again, he was exceptionally poorly served by the event. But him flying in the sky the a beacon of hope, the heroes of the Marvel universe in his wings? Everything Sam should have been in the actual comic.

    I love how this cover shows the scale of the Progenitors. How it makes them really seem like a superior race ‘above’ us. I big part of it is Black Bolt’s position at the bottom. He is cramped in a box that is only a quarter of the page, while the Progenitors tower over in three quarters. And while Black Bolt still has plenty of space in his small box, the Progenitors fill up their massive space. So, they are big. But the art style of colouring are also much simpler for Black Bolt. WHich means the more complex art of the Progenitors reflect their position as a god-like race. Every element of this cover is designed to contrast Black Bolt and the Progenitors, and make Black Bolt feel small and insignificant compared to the gods he now faces.

    I wish the book reflected the ideas that these Darth Vader covers show. The focus on what is beneath Vader’s armour is so great for a comic all about a Vader who is not yet fully formed. A Vader still raw and unleashed. Very impressive, especially how it achieves this feeling while still leaning into the fact that Vader is a faceless man.

    Runaways has done some amazing work exploring the current context of Karolina and Molly on the covers. I especially love the Karolina one, and how her powers are so perfectly used.

    Subtlety sounds weird in a Punisher comic cover, but works so well here. There’s a real sense of violence that feels escalated by going subtle and low key, like it is hiding something more violent behind the cover. And the integration of the Punisher symbol into the settings themselves seems to twist the very world itself into Castle’s violence.

    Caselli’s work for Invincible Iron Man are just well drawn. Really well drawn. They give such life to everything framed, and elevate their concepts by sheer virtue of quality

    This cover is instantly iconic. If America sticks around as a character for a decade, expect to see this cover referenced and riffed a million times. If America sticks around, this cover will never, ever be forgotten

    Always space for some Aja. His best Scarlet Witch covers were probably in 2016, but Aja is always amazing.

    Love the use of two distinct layer in this Black Panther cover. The relationshiip between foreground and background really makes this cover stand out. I can’t think of any other cover that tries to do something like this, and it works on all levels. Colours and shadows, action, every element you can think of is distinctly contrasted between the two layers.

    The normal Jessica Jones covers feel a bit samey, but this one is both different and perfectly down. Physical body posture suggesting conflict, the purple streak pushing down in her head with Kilgrave’s face inside, the whispers in black, the large amount of white space… A wonderfully psychological Jessica Jones cover.

    Simple, but perfect.

    Has this been the year of the mirror cover? Hawkeye, Silver Surfer and now Nova. The shattered mirror, with the Cancerverse hiding beneath, is the perfect reflection of Richard RIder. Broken, and hiding horrors.

    I always love this trick, and it works. The image of Natasha covered by the image itself, is a lovely trick to show the way that her death haunts Bucky and Clint. The fact that it is such a great image of Natasha and, more importantly, an image of Natasha to fall in love with, is perfect. That Samnee cover above is honestly amazing (Black Widow had great covers), but I think this is the one that best depicts Bucky and Nat’s relationship. Beautiful, yet tragic. Nostalgic. Unforgettable, even after everything.

    And last of all, the craziness of Guardians of the Galaxy, especially those magical early issues, cannot be better represented than this.

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