Do comic book artists make god spies?
Even ignoring his more mainstream projects, Brian Bendis’ recent move to DC Comics has been worth it for the impact its had on his creator-owned projects. Cover is the third new Jinxworld project to launch in recent weeks. And that’s not even counting The United States vs. Murder Inc. #1, also out this week. It’s enough to wonder if DC is launching too many books in too short a span of time. Fortunately, Cover #1 has no trouble standing out even in the wake of Pearl #1 and Scarlet #1. It’s a no-brainer for anyone who’s been a fan of Bendis and David Mack’s previous collaborations.
The gist of this new series is that the CIA has begun recruiting comic book creators to work as clandestine operatives. The idea being that their solitary work life and habit of traveling the globe for the convention grind gives them a natural form of cover. If superhero comics serve as wish-fulfillment for readers, then Cover is wish-fulfillment for creators instead.
The premise is amusing enough, but it’s not necessarily what makes this new series stand out. As with most of Bendis’ first issues, the methodically paced script only sets the basic framework in place by the end. It’s all about the execution and presentation in this case. Cover has a unique, almost dreamlike sense of style that sets it apart from other Jinxworld projects. Normally, Bendis has a very distinct and easily identifiable voice. But in this case, you might not know he were event involved with Cover were his name not included in the credits. The dialogue still crackles, but it has a more laid back, casual quality.
There’s also a sense of authenticity to the main two comic characters, due in no small part to the fact that they’re clearly modeled on Mack and Bendis themselves. Fans will appreciate the subtle interplay between the two as main protagonist Max Field struggles to find that balance between financial security and artistic fulfillment, all while his bald-headed companion plugs away on the latest blockbuster comic book crossover. The script quickly builds up a compelling dynamic between Max and Julia, an art collector who turns out to be far more than just another adoring fan.
Art has been the driving force with all of these new Jinxworld books so far, and Cover is no exception. Mack’s pages offer a winning blend of minimalist crowd shots, lush watercolor paintings and detailed character portraits. The constantly shifting art style enhances the generally dreamy quality of the book, while also playing directly into the theme of identity. Julia in particular has a tendency to grow in detail over the course of multiple pages before fading back into obscurity and vanishing into the crowd. This reflects the notion that Max doesn’t know his new friend nearly as well as he thinks he does.
While Mack doesn’t color his own pages, his work is greatly enhanced by the digital colors of Zu Orzu. Orzu brings a monochromatic approach to many pages, emphasizing varying shades of blue, only for bursts of fiery color to suddenly liven up the story. Letterer Carlos Mangual is equally diverse in his approach, mixing organic fonts, typewritten narration and even handwritten excerpts where appropriate. A great deal of attention was paid to the presentation of this series, and it pays off.