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100 Bullets #73, by Dave Johnson; Secret Six #2, by Karl Kerschl; and Checkmate #3, by Lee Bermejo

Now back to those DC solicitations. Lately, I've been drawn more and more to earthier colors, like the mustards, olives, rusts and browns in these three covers. It could be the weather. Or maybe it's because "mainstream" covers traditionally have embraced bright yellows, blues and reds.

Whatever the case, I know what I like. Here, it's not just the colors, though.

I could -- and probably will, eventually -- devote a lengthy essay to Dave Johnson's 100 Bullets covers; he rarely fails to impress and surprise me with his composition, palette and use of negative space. With Issue 73, Johnson again makes the emblem of The Trust a central element, something he's done on no fewer than five occasions. The iconography is familiar to 100 Bullets readers, perhaps as familiar as the book's logo itself, but in Johnson's hands it never seems staid. On this cover, he even repeats the motif, using it to spell out "Croatoa," a key word in 100 Bullets lore.

I follow the series in its collected format -- the wonderfully byzantine plots probably are best appreciated that way -- so I'm not up on the current storyline. However, you don't have to be a devotee to decipher this cover: the skull and crossbones, the ragdoll pose, the falling gun. All signs point to "dead."

It was a little more difficult to figure out what I liked so much about Karl Kerschl's cover for Secret Six #2. Then I looked at it alongside the first issue, and it hit me: There's a frenzied feel to them, giving us a sense that all of these images are -- bap-bap-bap -- happening at the same time. If we were to put this in movie terms, Kerschl is using the covers as the trailer instead of the poster. This is where we'd usually hear, "In a word turned upside down ..."

That approach works, I think, particularly when considering that this miniseries is all about action and espionage and impossible missions. Those covers need to be kinetic.

Lee Bermejo's cover to Checkmate #3 succeeds where the previous issue didn't. From what I gather from interviews, there's a definite Cold War undercurrent to the series' premise, with Checkmate required to maintain a balance between its metahuman and "normal" agents -- DC's Deterrence Theory -- while confronting a global superpowered arms race.

The cover to Issue 3 evokes a (well-designed) jacket from a '70s spy novel. All the imagery is there: the pistol-wielding agent, the sniper, the enemy tanks, and the red stars -- though now they're China's instead of the Soviet Union's. And while I sometimes read too much into cover art, I think the oversized silhouettes of the pawn and bishop bring to mind the onion domes of the Kremlin.

All that's missing is the name John le Carré.

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