Cover Girl: Shadow Service #1

A woman looks ready to run away as a shadowy figure and skeletal imagery loom behind her

Welcome to Cover Girls. Each month, we gather a team of WWAC contributors to analyze a new and notable comic book cover featuring one or more women. This month Claire, Nola, Wendy, Louis, Kate, and Elvie look at the cover of Shadow Service #1 by Corin M. Howell, with colours by Triona Farrell.

A woman looks ready to run away as a shadowy figure and skeletal imagery loom behind her

What is your initial reaction to this cover as a piece of comics art?

Claire Napier: In all honesty seeing it flat as a poster image I think there’s too much red edge—BUT I can easily imagine that on a shelf, in the minimal but definite three dimensions of a printed comic book, it’ll stand out and intrigue. I would look twice, and that’s a sale-encouraging fact. I don’t understand the choice of fonts for the title, but whatever, maybe reading the book will bring clarity.

The figure and the heavy metal iconography, I enjoy. The tunic is more interesting than a t-shirt and the way it clings around the body makes it clear it was a choice rather than an accident—as in, the slits at the hip, the cut—it is a tunic, not just a weirdly drawn t-shirt—which implies it means something, which means there’s something for me to receive if I pick up this book. Nails between ribs are viscera, which is likewise compelling. I think it’s neat.

Wendy Browne: The silhouette of the figure behind holding a gun in a very Modesty Blaise sort of pose is striking and enticing. It draws the viewer in, much like the skeletal frame seems to grasp at the main character. Not loving the title font choices, though I do like the way the title is not symmetrical, like the main character, amplifying them as focal points.

Louis Skye: I like red so this looks great to me. I do not like creepy skull and bones-monsters so that’s a bit disturbing. But there’s a cool lady in the centre who looks somewhat plus-size, which I really like. But I completely missed the silhouette lady with the gun – I had to look really hard for her! I still would like to read this book, methinks.

Kate Kosturski: The fonts have a certain retro vibe to them, which seems … odd for a book that looks to have a noir/horror tone. The red background is certainly an accent and makes the rest of the cover elements in more monochromatic tones stand out, but for folks that may be red-green color blind, that accent is lost on them.

Nola Pfau: I agree with Claire’s assessment of the red edge; it feels like the entire image could be scaled up a centimeter or so, still maintain a border, and still look nice. The design work rules otherwise, though. Everything about this cover is something that would entice me to pick it up.

Elvie Mae Parian: I LOVE how the colors just pop here and the vibrant, deep saturated solid, red background immediately catches my attention. There definitely is a noticeable trend of warmer, saturated color palettes being openly used and embraced in illustration as of late. The rib cage form almost wrapping what we are led to assume to be our main protagonist is a great center, focal point.

That said, I think it would be stronger if the artwork was scaled a little larger and filled up the frame more and there was less negative space. It would strengthen the illusion of literally drawing the viewer in. Details are also muddled due to the gradient effect, and this can easily be corrected by scaling up. Unless you look closely, one can easily miss the silhouette of possibly, another separate character behind our central one.

I agree with everyone else’s points that the type choices are a little weird. There’s three different font families I can recognize being used. It just clashes and very noticeably stands out as your eyes gloss vertically down the page. I don’t think they mesh well with the artwork itself and the title in particular seems like it is overshadowing details we deserve to see.

What do you think the artist is trying to achieve?

Wendy: There’s certainly a powerful sense of fear and mystery built up in the imagery and the placement of each element. The contrast of muted but strong and deadly background imagery against the more prominently coloured and lined foreground character makes everything pop.

Louis: I think the artist is going for a noir/ horror vibe. There’s a mashup of genres on this cover that is throwing me a bit. When I could just see the skeletal creature and the badass jacket lady, I thought the book would be about one thing, but with gun-toting silhouette lady in there, I have to admit, I am confused. Maybe I’m doing a disservice to the artist here – I’m looking at the cover on a laptop screen when it’s made for a full-size comic book. I think the cover would be better served with a change of perspective.

Kate: The graphic elements suggest horror. The font has a retro feel. The artist is looking for an audience that loves those old school late night horror film shows that hit their peak in the 70s and ‘80s on US television, such as Svengoolie or (dare I say it), Elvira.

Nola: Red is a warm color, an aggressive one. It says something is happening here, something that is not calm or peaceful. The iconography supports that; we’re all used to seeing skulls on things by now but the ribcage escalates that nature; the jut and curvature of the rib bones is aggressive in a way that a skull isn’t anymore. The nails push that even further, the way they’re pointed inward is confining, they create the idea of being trapped.

Elvie: It’s spooky and it’s all enticing, but I think there are multiple genres that are trying to be conveyed all at once. When you see a skull, there’s no doubt you must be projecting horror in some way, but the central figure’s design also evokes a sense of something both thrilling and slightly adventurous. Their pose displays a sense of urgency and alertness as if on the run from something. Are they running from danger? Or are they the danger?

Does this cover entice you to find out more?

Wendy: I’m definitely intrigued. As Louis notes, there is a mashup of genres going on that need to explain themselves…

Louis: I am confused, and therefore I am interested. I need answers (and I want to get to know badass jacket lady), but I’m also not sure about the skeletal-monster creature. I feel like I would find it a bit unsettling to encounter on the page. But I’m willing to give at least the first issue a shot.

Nola: Yes. It looks dark and dangerous, and frankly the goth in me says “gimme.”

Kate: This looks like a read-alike to Dark Horse’s Count Crowley Reluctant Midnight Monster Hunter, which I enjoyed. So count me interested.

Elvie: Oh definitely. It is eye-popping and has all these working elements that certainly prop up questions that can only be answered if I open the book.

Find out all of Shadow Service’s secrets when the first issue comes out this summer from Vault Comics.

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Wendy Browne

Wendy Browne

Publisher, mother, geek, executive assistant sith, gamer, writer, lazy succubus, blogger, bibliophile. Not necessarily in that order.