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.
Cover by Bruno Redondo
What a momentous occasion for Nightwing fans everywhere as the latest volume has reached its massively impressive 100th issue. And, sure, there’s been other great creators that have got them to this point (Yanick Paquette, Dan Jurgens, Tim Seeley, Javier Fernandez, Bernard Chang, etc.), but this just feels like an extra special moment for the current creative team of Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo. Because everything this book has accomplished has been great, but the last 20 or so issues have felt like a kind of renaissance or resurgence for what’s made Dick Grayson so vitally important as the “heart” of the DCU. And that’s especially true as we enter the Dawn of DC, with Nightwing perhaps positioned as the socio-emotional bridge for what’s about to come next. And that’s why I couldn’t think of a better cover than Redondo’s own main. (However, some shoutouts are due, like this glorious Jamal Campbell piece and extra adorable Travis Moore variant.) Because, sure, other people may seem more noble, glorious, etc., but there’s a reason Nightwing is front and center in it all: no matter how big the universe gets, or what happens in it, heroes like Dick Grayson bring it all together.
Cover by Mark Brooks
I won’t say Charles Xavier is a perfect man. He’s definitely done things over the years that have complicated his aspirations and image as mutankind’s heart and soul. And I think that’s been even more true amid the era of Krakoa: Xavier is now, perhaps than ever before, ready to get his hands dirty in order to foster peace and prosperity for his people. But all chickens must eventually come home to roost, and Immortal X-Men #10 is apparently when the good professor discovers that “one man’s dream is another’s nightmare.” I wouldn’t expect him to get all of his comeuppance, but if this Mark Brooks cover is any indication, we’re going to see Xavier experience some dire consequences amid this title’s ongoing shakeup of the Quiet Council. (More like the Screaming Council, amirite?!) Do I necessarily enjoy the suffering stamped across his face? No, and that’s sort of the point. This moment of dread and absolute terror just proves how effective this book is in delving into characters and finding new truths and understandings. The fact that it’s so unsettling means whatever happens inside is bound to be truly powerful.
Cover by Skottie Young
If you’ve followed the career of Skottie Young for long enough, you know he tends to get pretty weird and wild whenever possible. And that feels doubly true for I Hate Fairyland, which has served as his playground for mashing the cute and crazy together in glorious measure. Case in point: the latest series, which is currently at issue #3, is described as being “as messy, complicated, and disturbing as ever.” And that’s certainly a perfect description for the third issue’s cover, but I think it also misses something essential about Young’s work. Namely, there’s both a sense of intensity and measure going on here — something that both plunges its fingers into your brain while inviting you to stick around and really mull things over. It’s as gross as it is almost thoughtful, and it makes for pieces like this that feel significant without having that sense of being overhyped or even overwrought. It’s art for the kooky and sophisticated, and you can’t ask for a better combo.
Cover by John Le
The last issue of Giga (that’d be #4, FYI) came out in June 2021 — which may as well be 100 years with the way time works these days. And yet anyone who read that first “run” won’t bat an eye at having waited even twice that amount considering the pure potential of this poignant tale of mega-sized mechs and the future of humanity itself. Writer Alex Paknadel crafted the structure for a compelling sci-fi world, and artist John Le brought it all to life with vivid color and emotionality. And issue #5 looks to be a solid continuation, as “the slumbering gods will wake, rending metal and flesh.” Don’t let all that ominous business fool you, though — if you need a reason to get back on board (or for the first time even), you can find it in Le’s cover. There’s the kind of ominous energy promised in the solicitation, sort of like if Jack Kirby drew something inspired by the Bhagavad Gita. But there’s also a kind of warmth and serenity to this massive creature, and it’s hard not to get caught up in feeling tiny and insignificant in the face of it all. If this new chapter delivers on any of those ideas and energies, it’ll be well worth the wait indeed.
Cover by Zulema Scotto Lavina
When I first saw the cover to Hexware #1, I was both blown away and a little confused. The book — described as The Magic Order meets Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep — certainly kicked things off with a cover that portrayed its unique sci-fi influence/aesthetics, vivid intensity, and general oddball sensibilities. And yet I don’t think the book did enough to maybe portray what that all truly meant and some of its larger implications. Luckily, the cover to issue #2 seems to do away with some of that. Not that we know exactly what issue #2 will hold — more about our “heroine” Which-Where, buying souls, and her battles with the underworld — but series artist Zulema Scotto Lavina gives us just a little nugget, a meager glean of some of the narrative action at play. And with that, some of the ideas and energies of this book feel all the more powerful and abundant — we’re seeing the scope of it all in this truly powerful moment of conflict (that’s as compelling as it is mostly threatening). It’s not a lot, but it does so much to demonstrate the angles and boundaries of this story, which should get anyone on board who may have skipped #1.
Variant cover by Corin Howell
If you haven’t been paying attention to the Barbaric series yet, what’s it like living on Planet Depressingly Lonely? Across several stories so far, creators Michael Moreci and Nathan Gooden (among other collaborators) have proven that there’s quite a story to be told involving an unlikely barbarian hero and his bloodthirsty talking axe. And the latest title in the promising Barbaric Universe looks poised to maintain this bloody momentum, as Soren and Steel have to tackle an old foe from Owen’s long and violent past. Sure, there’s heaps of ways you could’ve previewed this story with the debut cover — Gooden’s own main cover, for instance, feels like a pretty solid way to prep readers. The same goes with this physically assaultive piece from Maria Wolf. Yet I think the way to go has to be this variant from Corin Howell. Sure, it makes this delightfully dirty series feel a little more glorious — and some of the cutesy monsters also play up more of a silly sensibility (when the book’s humor’s often a touch more depraved). I just think it places the spotlight where it needs to be, making this book feel novel and fresh and not just more of the same — even if that would be just as awesome. Plus, a little levity can be a good thing considering this series’ tendency to drop readers instantly into the mayhem.
Cover by Howard Porter
I’m of two minds when it comes to Bane. I’ve read stuff like Knightfall, and so I know what he’s truly capable of. Yet I also have vivid memories of Bane’s depiction as a large idiot in Batman & Robin. Luckily, I don’t have to really choose which side to explore thanks to Batman: One Bad Day – Bane #1. Here, the creative team of Joshua Williamson, Howard Porter, and Tomeu Morey give us the “Old Man Bane” treatment, as the masked ne’er-do-well now works as a sad old pro wrestler beating up a fake Batman. But when he’s faced with the promise of acquiring Venom for the first time in decades, Bane sets up a journey that references a lifetime of bloody memories. And this cover is a perfect encapsulation of that very idea. Is the bat-filled Venom a little too on the nose? Perhaps, but it’s still a solid image. But what really works here is the details. Like the way the blood washes off his hands like so much lost potential. Or even the way his muscles seem to strain under all the tension and emotion. It’s a snapshot of Bane not as a big dummy or bigger bad but instead a man stuck in a grapple between his wants and abilities and becoming something else entirely. It’s deeply real struggle, and something this image captures better than many other Bane depictions.
Variant cover by Jonah Lobe
There’s a lot to be excited for about this latest issue of Hulk. (Even as many fans are still bummed out about the book wrapping up after issue #14 later this year.) There’s talk of a “planet-busting” game called God Ball; Hulk’s continued reign as the deity of an alien world; and some hijinks with potentially murderous “other Hulks.” And yet the thing I’m most jazzed about is this variant cover from Jonah Lobe. Sure, over the years, we’ve seen all parts of Hulk’s anatomy; the Al Ewing-penned run, especially, gave us more than enough body horror-centric insights into what makes Big Green tick. Yet Lobe’s more “anatomically correct” take just feels different. It’s both realistic and yet never diminishes the fantasy of a gamma-powered super mutant. I can also hear how Hulk’s weirdly-tinted bones might move, and the way his muscles might shift and relocate as they, say, throw a house-sized boulder 12 miles. It’s a level of detail and depth that’s unsettling and welcoming — something that contextualizes all this made-up magic in some pretty significant ways. And the fact that he may have half his body exposed and still be up smashing stuff only adds to the experience.
Cover by Declan Shalvey
I’ve said a few times, both in conversation with folks and other write-ups, that Old Dog is a karate chop to the brain. As series writer/artist Declan Shalvey confirmed himself, it plays around with our sense of time and place in a way that’s deeply affective. It messes with your sensibilities like few other series, and that resulting sense of chaos shows you just how deep and nuanced this spy thriller is from cover to cover. But I also want to emphasize that even without such “trickery,” Shalvey knows how to bring the emotion just through his own depictions/art. The cover to issue #3 is a pretty great example of that: as our “hero” Jack Lynch returns to Russia to “protect an old handler from his early CIA days,” we get a pretty standard shot of what has to be like 50% of the Russian countryside. But there’s so much more here than a snowy backdrop. Whether that’s the lone figure in red (good or bad, they’ve got to be tough); the old-school Soviet Bloc architecture; and/or how Lynch looks alone without feeling sad/depressive, the piece grips you in some really nuanced and lethal ways. It’s a little sad but also romantic, and unsettling but nonetheless peaceful. It’s what you want in a book: something that reads you while you’re reading it.
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