I’m hard up to pick a single best: I like the work Drew Struzan did on the mid-90′s Bantams, but the unceasing use of collage and recognizable movie-stills soon got tired. (Though really, no one can paint a movie still like Struzan.) Perhaps the worst thing about those fantastic Struzan covers is that they cover books that are not so great otherwise. (I do love that The Crystal Star so perfectly captures the 90′s staple of Prozac Luke, though. Truth in advertising! Sadly, his Dracula collar on Children of the Jedi remains a mystery.)
It’s hard to get away from the movie stills, but I’m happy to see the the reliance on collages seems to be waning, or at least being somewhat toned down. There was a point when things were getting far too ADD for my tastes. (Though Star By Star was a rather ADD novel, so… I guess it works?)
I liked the Legacy of the Force covers for the most part: Tempest was the best of them. I’m torn on our most recent entries, however: The Fate of the Jedi series. From a corporate and graphic design standpoint, they’re fantastic: They’re different, they stand out, they catch your attention, everything a book cover is there to do. As a fan, on the other hand… I want something more representative. (Which is to say: More Dave Seeley, please!)
While I didn’t always like the New Jedi Order covers (Again: Gah!) I did appreciate that a great variety of artists and styles rotated through the series. I’m a big fan of variety, even if it leads to bugs.
(I’m not so fond of the ROTS-era photoshopperies. Too much fire, too many of the same Vader publicity stills, plus there’s something about them that screams Hot Topic rockabilly to me. Or again, visual overload.)
From a purely aesthetic angle (I couldn’t make it through these, so I have no idea how well they suit) I can’t help but express fondness for the Coruscant Nights covers, particularly Jedi Twilight and Patterns of Force.
But I can’t hedge on worst: To me, that goes to The Thrawn Trilogy covers by a mile. Arguably the best books in the EU – not to mention a great place, perhaps the place to start off – with covers that look like they came off particularly lame collector’s plates. Sure, they were the first, and if you check out some of other the other tie-ins of the early 90′s (particularly Star Trek) they fit right in. But for the here and now? They just look tired. With 2011 bringing the 20th anniversary of Heir to the Empire, I’d love to see them get a fresher look.
I am liking that Del Rey has kept up their commitment to variety in cover art: It’s hard to make a Star Wars book stand out from 19 years of backlist, but they’re giving it their all. And I like their unexpected choices – I never expected to see John Jude Palencar do Star Wars, for instance.
Now, we can go into the foreign editions – the Japanese covers certainly have their following – or the comic books, which tend to have more scene and character driven covers, but I’d like to concentrate on what’s actually on bookshelves here in the U.S. What kind of cover makes you pick up a Star Wars novel these days? What kind of covers do you want to see?