Comic Books Judging by the Cover
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Chris shares his favorite covers from this week’s new comics.
Most comic book fans have a solid idea about what they’re going to buy every week as they descend upon their local comic shop. With that said, there’s still a lot of fun to be had just glancing at the week’s new releases and taking a chance on a book that looks promising, funny, scary, etc. That’s where covers come in. A fantastic image can make the difference between trying something new or saying, “Nah, not this week.”
In that spirit, here are the covers that captured our attention this week, with entries from comics editor Chris Coplan. This is Judging by the Cover.
Danger Street #2
Cover by Jorge Fornés
If you didn’t read the debut issue of Danger Street, you missed out on perhaps a true standout of Tom King’s writing career. Here all of his tendencies — shedding new light on ignored/minor characters; crafting a complicated, multi-layer story; making things feel like the love-child of Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson — are taken to the Nth degree. And, sure, the cover to issue #2 doesn’t really match all that magic and insanity in theory. Especially as we can look forward to even more layers as Warlord and Starman hit the road following their mostly disastrous attempts to join the Justice League. But this cover from series artist Jorge Fornés encapsulates so much of what’s made this series super promising so early on. Like, the perfect use of green for the book’s oh-so important Green Team. Or, the sheer detail of the coins on the dead body (both of which I’ll let you figure out). Even the way the text seems so perfectly engrained with the actual scene (by being utterly imperfect, of course). It all just feels like a vivid snapshot of the depths and nuance and utter weirdness that this title promises in spades. And it’s about engaging it head on to to try and crack this wacky and wild little nut.
Cover by Meredith McClaren
There’s a lot to make most folks quite excited about Black Cloak. For one, writer Kelly Thompson (Black Widow) is making her way to Image Comics for the very first time. Or the fact that she’s teaming up with artist Meredith McClaren (Jem and The Holograms). And even if that doesn’t tantalize you right away, the series itself is described in the solicitations as “Blade Runner style mixes with SAGA-esque drama.” But spare a little thought/attention for McClaren’s cover for issue #1. Is it instantly creepy and foreboding? Yes, mostly thanks to the creatures I can only describe as “if Medusa had sisters and they were all mermaids.” Or, how the seemingly drowning woman’s air bubbles look as if they’re forming into some hellish, H.R. Giger-esque heart-plant. But there’s also something entirely not-terrifying about this piece — the sheer sense of silence bordering on serenity that it elicits, for instance. It’s as if they’ve captured a moment in time, and we can wander through it for a few minutes contemplating what’s about to come next. And that feeling is both hugely exciting and disconcerting — and that’s a pretty great start to any story if you ask me.
Cover by Kendrick “kunkka” Lim
You wouldn’t guess by his appearance on issue #9, but Carnage is in a really good place. (Or, at least whatever passes for good when you’re a murder-obsessed space parasite.) He’s working his way toward godhood having, um, “extracted” some components from Malekith the Accursed while, per the solicitations, he searches for a new weapon on his mission to “level untold destruction across the universe.” And, sure, this singular image screams the sort of soul-pulverizing levels of horror that Carnage is willing to achieve to satiate his lust and his “dreams.” But there’s also something slightly comical about this, right? Like, the way he tries to match up the eye holes of his skin mask, or the extra cheeky grin on his amorphous face. And that dichotomy is essential; it’s where all the tension occurs, and it’s massively important for playing with the thoughts and feelings of the viewer. It’s one thing to gross people out (and this cover does that times 1,000), but it’s another thing entirely to make them truly contemplate the various layers of this image. If they can get over being a little queasy beforehand, of course.
Cover by John J. Pearson
We’ve reached the end of a pretty exciting little story that I hope most of you have read. Mindset — or, “what happens if tech bros create an app that can control people’s minds” — has been an entertaining and compelling tale in its first five issues. And issue #6 proves to be a worthy ending, as our “hero” Ben grapples with the ultimate choice of “total freedom or total influence.” But even if you haven’t been reading the story proper, series artist John J. Pearson has been telling a story of sorts with his covers. Sure, on paper, they’re all sort of similar — people seemingly use the apps and have their minds blown in some compelling, hugely vivid manner. But each one feels a little different and adds a unique sort of emotionality and perspective to the fold. The end result has been a powerful way to see how the app effects different people, and the way it both unites people and highlights something personal. The cover to issue #6, then, feels like the perfect ending, as we fold Ben into the mix and unite all these different ideas and energies leading into the grand finale. Mindset? More like Mind-blown.
Cover by Luca Vassallo
I get that I may have mostly drawn myself into a corner by featuring Carnage earlier on this week’s list. Like, how could any other piece match that level of pure violence and depravity? Well, I’d like to submit the cover to issue #2 of The Firstborns. Here, members of the Heavy Metal Drummer creative team (including Emiliano Plissken and Luca Vassallo) have reunited for a story following what happens when a man (Stanley Greene) wakes from a dream in which his “high school classmate David Pilgrim burns to death in front of his eyes.” (There’s also a “strange artifact of alien origin” involved, FYI.) And, sure Vassallo’s cover doesn’t have the same raw, primal energies and endless streams of blood as Carnage. But there’s something almost as unsettling here. Maybe it’s the heavily detailed, super vulnerable human body. Or, the alien elements like some Swamp Thing-inspired take on Aliens. Even just the color scheme feels both painfully organically and maddeningly artificial somehow. All of those elements combine to make something that, while not flashy in its terror, does still tap at the ol’ prefrontal cortex in the best way.
Variant cover by Luana Vecchio
I recently binged the first three issues of Luana Vecchio’s amazing Lovesick series. That book, about a violent dominatrix undergoing a sort of existential crisis, is as sensuous and inviting as it is unsettling and disturbing. And somehow Vecchio has brought the same kind of magic to this piece for issue #2 of the similarly great All Against All. As we enter the second chapter, the world’s final surviving human, Helpless, “lusts for revenge on his captors” and sets about a plan to turn the tides against said foes. And Vecchio presents us with a truly powerful take to explore some of these ideas and motifs. The bloody alien helmet would indicate Helpless’ skill at hunting, but even that oversized display is somehow minimized with the sheer passion of this image. No snarling or spitting rage; just a moment to commune with the world as he enacts his extra terrible revenge. It speaks of not only why he’s justified in his actions but maybe the thing Helpless wants most of all: just to friggin’ live, my dudes. And based on this one cover, he’s totally doing it the right way.
Cover by Björn Barends
It’s not even remotely near Halloween, and the cavalcade of body horror continues with Ghost Rider #10. If you recall, last month’s issue #9 caught my eye as we got a chance to get up close and personal with the villain Exhaust (aka, the love-child of a motorcycle and Johnny Blaze’s newly-exorcized demonic tumor). This time around, though, it’s Mr. Blaze who is getting a little face time with Exhaust, as the pair (alongside guests like Blackheart and some magicians) clash in the final moments of “The Shadow Country” arc. This cover somehow manages to make Exhaust even more terrifying. Whether that’s throwing in more detail on his techno-organic makeup, or just the size of his face compared to the length of his teeth, this fella’s a slice of pure terror. So much so, that even an extra gnarly Ghost Rider — with huge, gleaning spikes and an equally nasty snarl — is leaps and bounds more “welcoming.” This clash is sure to be one for the ages, and Exhaust is clearly a foe you’ll never forget (no matter how much you may try).
Variant cover by Jeff Spokes
We’re at a big moment in the story of Christopher Chance’s last big case. With some 48 hours to go to solve his own murder, the so-called Human Target is trying to crack the case while also “[dealing] with the consequences of Guy Gardner’s [murder].” And with all that drama and intrigue permeating this story, I couldn’t ask for a better cover to highlight than this great Jeff Spokes variant. It’s basically the answer to, “What if James Bond was set in the DCU.” (Or, “What if Checkmate was a very sexy HBO show?”) Robust sexiness aside, I also love that everyone gets a chance to show off some personality, whether that’s Batman in action, Blue Beetle playing detective, or whatever Booster Gold is doing. But while this cover seems pretty simple and straightforward (and again, quite sexy), this is a Tom King-penned story after all, and so you know there’s also so many different layers and subtext at play here. All of that together infuses a mostly great image with so much more emotionality, energy, and all-around richness.
Variant cover by Steve McNiven
Way back in 2010, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven launched Nemesis. The four-issue story basically answered the question, “What if Batman was the Joker?” And, as it turns out, the answer involved a lot of murder and wholesale terrorism. Now, Millar joins forces with artist Jorge Jiménez for another story of his evil Dark Knight with Nemesis Reloaded. Here, we get to delve more into Nemesis’ background, and explore what makes the man tick (aside from a penchant for bloody chaos and white suits). And while McNiven isn’t on art duties this go around, it is his variant cover that perhaps best sets the stage for this all-new story. Whether that’s embracing the Joker inspiration reference straight on with that bloody grin, or the sense of life in this otherwise dead-looking eyes, this piece feels like a snapshot of the human behind Nemesis mask. (Even if said humanity is, at best, questionable and/or highly theoretical.) But having that bit of “person-ness” displayed here tells us this story could be as revelatory as it is unabashedly violent.
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