This post is continuing my look at the ten best Batman covers of Kelley Jones. After a stint as the cover artist for Detective Comics, and then the Batman title, Jones eventually took over interiors of Batman. These runs, along with some various side projects, constitute on of the most dramatic looks the Dark Knight has ever had.
All of which brings us to today’s entry.
4. Detective Comics #670
Part of the Knightquest storyline, the follow-up to Knightfall, this issue tells of Batman’s (Jean Paul Valley) confrontation with the recently revived Mr. Freeze.
This cover fascinated me when it came out. I specifically remember studying it for hours. The mysterious/monstrous form of Mr. Freeze, with icicles hanging off of him and steam rising off. The morgue setting with the bodies on display. The very gothic cloak of AzBats wrapping around his frame. All of these aspects lead to creating a very EC Comics inspired cover for this ’90’s Detective Comics cover.
While not as large as Jones’ depiction of Bane, his Freeze is nothing to sneeze at. The wrappings around him give him a mummy-like feel, invoking the character’s resurrection. All of the icicles hanging off of his arms and jaw are like stalactites giving him a more massive impression of his frame. Added with the steam coming off of him, give Freeze a unique look that at the time, I didn’t realize was him.
Setting the scene in a morgue gives it an eerie vibe. This appears to be right up Jones’ alley though. The composition of the drawers placed around the titles and other text on the cover work well and add to the claustrophobic nature. As if everything is piled up on each other here.
The corpse in the foreground is especially gruesome. Stitches along the torso indicate an autopsy, but the most macabre detail is the top of the head. Here, Jones has chopped of the scalp of the figure and it appears to be almost flush with the end of the drawer. While the light from AzBats’ neck piece illuminates the face of the body, drawing attention to it.
Jones did his typical job of giving the replacement Batman costume a unique look while playing to his strengths. Even within the confines of this costume design, he manages to add his signature details to the cape. The heightened shoulders and the talon-like claws give a more monstrous look to this otherwise armor heavy take on Batman.
Various woodcut techniques in the details here add to the old school horror comics tone. From the work of ’50’s EC artists to the more contemporary (and surely huge influences on Jones) work of Bernie Wrightson and Frank Frazetta.
The feeling of claustrophobia and impending danger for Batman is present in this piece. With Freeze’s body cropped off by the shadow of the wall presumably, on the right of the cover and the use of shadow in general help this. Mr. Freeze’s pinhole eyes are fixed right on Batman and he moves towards him. Having Batman cropped off on the left side with the extra negative space on the right give the impression of him being forced off the cover. The presence of the corpses bring a sense of foreboding as this is obviously a place of death.
Horror was clearly the tone that Jones was going for here. Of course, that works superbly with his style and is appropriate for a majority of Batman stories. That’s probably why Jones work seems to be at its best when combined with creepy imagery, something that will be discussed for the remainder of this series.
Next up will start the countdown to the final three covers.
To get caught up on the countdown, check out the previous entries here: