Mmmm! That's good Ultra Nerd!


Cover of the Week: Jerry the Robot

Dark Horse Presents #5: the cover that made me drop $7.99 in an already pricey comic week
I was transfixed by the cover of this week's Dark Horse Presents #5. When I opened the delivery of comics I gazed down at the morose sci-fi image of infinite despair and was as hypnotized by the cover as the robot Jerry was by the dazzling, never-ending array of stars before him. Eric Powell has been a favorite of mine since I got the first Dark Horse issue of the Goon. By the time the eponymous zombie-killing hood had a team-up with Hellboy I was a devotee and would pick up anything either written by or featuring the artwork of the backwoods Tennessee comic prodigy.
Here it is unobstructed by print, etc.
The image captures a lot. The strong focus of a being with a gun to their own head is an instant attention-grabber. It's the first thing you notice about this amazing cover. Then your eye is drawn out the the circle of stars which frame the lone figure in an almost messianic celestial array. The implication of indefinite and perhaps eternal solitude is immediate as planets and celestial bodies spin out into the infinite unknown. As a viewer you empathize with the idea of loneliness so deep and so great that death is preferable. The interior of a spaceship is obvious and that thought evaporates as you take in more details of the isolated space traveler. At first the globe helmet seems to imply a stereotypical space hero of a bygone era but upon closer inspection the mechanisms and odd techno-ports under the glass reveal the traveler to be a robot. This is the revelation that takes this good cover and makes it an amazing one. The back of the robot's head is not a throwback to sci-fi imagery past like the automaton's arms and legs and instrument-laden torso. The head is unique, a new and inhuman Powell creation. Yet within the confines of that synthetic calculating machine lie emotions as fragile and understandable and human as any the viewer has felt. Feelings of abandonment, anxiety, boredom, and despair are all evident in the tableau and beautifully conveyed. The final, omni-present detail that is the frosting on the cake was the last thing I noticed: the hash marks.
Scrawled all around the ship are lines to mark the passing of time. They are everywhere like a gospel of depression and seclusion carved into the walls and floor of a prison cell. Again, the fact that a robot, an unthinking and unfeeling creation did this to mark the days resonates profoundly. It is such a human act that it seems almost anachronistic for a robot to do. Wouldn't the robot have some sort of internal clock? Does time matter to a robot the way it does to us? Can they even perceive the passing of time the way that we do as biological beings? All these questions are starkly and unequivocally answered in this picture with the plethora of manic lines that harken back to the Count of Monte Cristo and the Man in the Iron Mask. Powell brings all of this together in a single 7 x 10 frame... This is the beauty of comics and I love it!
The story that the cover is inspired by is written and drawn by Powell and lives up to the cover. Jerry the robot is an interesting character and his trek across the stars is an interesting and amusing tale that lacks none of Powell's trademark wit, vulgarity, and tongue-in-cheek moral lessons. The issue also features an all-star crew of other creators contributing shorts that make this book a real value even at a whopping $7.99.
On a final note I can't help but see the Kirby influence on the depiction of space on the cover. The layout of planets and the fiery energy exploding out from the sun all harken back to the cosmic arrays of Jack Kirby from books like OMAC, Silver Surfer, and New Gods. It is still in the beautiful Powell style, I just can't help but notice the influence and perhaps homage to the King.
I highly recommend Dark Horse #5 - On shelves at JC Comics and other fine comic retailers now!