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Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

Chris shares his favorite covers from this week’s new comics.

Most comic book fans have a pretty good idea what they’re going to buy every week when they visit 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. 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.

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King in Black #3

Cover by Ryan Stegman, J.P. Mayer, and Frank Martin

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

I don’t have any definitive proof, but there just has to be some kind of wager going at Marvel about just how terrifying each artist can make Knull. And while there’s been some massive competition, this latest cover for King in Black feels like a big step forward in terms of sheer terror potential. Because in the other titles for this series, there’s been plenty of depictions of Knull, say, staring menacingly, or even crushing our planet like so much dust. But this is the clearest cover of him 1) fighting and possibly beating Thor, 2) the sheer size of his mouth and razor-like teeth, and 3) that maybe he’s experienced some kind of battle damage or fatigue, which somehow makes him all the more scary. Whoever wins this contest, we all lose on a good night’s rest.

Future State: The Next Batman #2

Cover by José Ladrönn

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

If you read only one Future State title, let it be The Next Batman. Not because it’s necessarily the best (I really love Green Lantern), but because it feels the most indicative of the larger themes and motifs of the event. Which is to say, the battle against tyranny through willpower and an endless resolute, the power of the future (both good and bad), and the importance of legacies and history. This cover, especially, encapsulates all of that brilliantly — the robust sense of grit across the entire piece, the way it seems to perpetually rain in Gotham, Batman’s stance, and even the shading of the bullseye itself. It seems to connect past and present so perfectly while putting Batman (the de facto choice for representing rebellious heroes in this world) in a literal “spotlight.” Good job, folks.

Once & Future #15

Cover by Dan Mora

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

Mind you, I’m a few issues behind on Once & Future, but that’s more indicative of me than the actual quality of this series. And as great as it always is — Kieron Gillen’s story is daring but also hugely familiar and comforting — the covers have always been another high spot. Case in point: the cover for #15, which seems to include some key essentials (ancient sword, the presence of magic, the right amount of gore/blood, and something terrifying and/or disconcerting, in this case birds). What makes these covers so great is they present a dynamic view of the series at large as well as the specific “chapter” of the story, previewing things in a way that tells you what you need to know without spoiling or even oversimplifying things. Really makes me want to catch up right away.

Future State: Catwoman #1

Cover by Liam Sharp

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

OK, here’s another pick from Future State based on the fact that I’ve already read the issue. And like Green Lantern, I enjoyed the first issue of Catwoman because it places our titular heroine in a new and dynamic situation. I won’t entirely spoil what that is, but let’s say Catwoman is fully fighting on the side of the angels, albeit using the same cat burglary skills she’s honed over a massive career. The end result is sort of like a thriller or Ocean’s Eleven, and the cover itself does an exceptional job of hyping up that very storyline. You’ve got the sheer size of futuristic Gotham and a speeding bullet train — all while Catwoman manages the situation with her perpetual grace and prowess. The future is here, and it has some extra sharp claws, folks.

Iron Fist: Heart of the Dragon #1

Cover by Billy Tan

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

OK, I get that superhero comics are fully of seriously misinformed costume decisions. For instance, despite being one of DC’s most powerful magic users, Zatanna’s half-suit feels both ineffective and dehumanizing. But Iron Fist’s classic costume has always felt especially silly: you want to show off your sick tattoo, but you’re exposing enough skin to let even someone with the worst aim have a fair shot at disemboweling you. Even with those reasonable complaints, Danny Rand’s appearance on Heart of the Dragon is nonetheless cool, and he portrays an intensity and animalistic energy that’s not always as abundant within the character (but that is clearly still there). I guess at the end of the day if you can create a dragon thing out of sheer life force or whatever you can rock the deepest V possible.

I Breathed A Body #1

Cover by Andy MacDonald

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

Writer Zac Thompson has been killing it in one great series, Lonely Receiver, and now he’s got another eagerly anticipated title in I Breathed A Body. Described as “The Social Network meets Hellraiser,” it’s about a social media manager, Anne Stewart, who is thrust into some bizarre situation that serves as a terrifying exploration of “social media, big tech, and influencer culture.” If that weren’t enough to hook you, series artist Andy MacDonald goes extra big with the debut cover. Are there some clear vibes connected back to the aforementioned Hellraiser? For sure. But also, there’s even a dash of whimsy and magic amid all that really, really detailed body horror, which makes for something as beautiful as it is unsettling. But that’s maybe the whole wonderful shtick of this series and Thompson in general: try as you may, you just can’t ever look away.

Crimson Flower #1

Cover by Matt Lesniewski

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

Matt Kindt is another writer where I’d read anything from him, even if that meant a 1,000-page comic where he insults my mother. (Sorry, Lady Face!) But I’m glad his latest project, Crimson Flower, doesn’t involve any such harsh words — that I’m aware of, at least — and instead involves “Russian folk tales, trained assassins, and government conspiracies.” And like any great creator, Kindt has brought along an equally talented artist in Matt Lesniewski. It’s Lesniewski’s cover, then, that serves as a dynamite preview, depicting Frozen if it were made in the 1940s and also served as some kind of movie either pro or against communism. Either way, there’s plenty to be excited about, and this cover has me thinking Crimson Flower could be a sleeper hit for sure.

Abbott: 1973 #1

Variant Cover by Jenny Frison

Judging by the Cover

If you didn’t read the first Abbot series, shame on you. It had everything you could want: magic and demons, a kick-ass lead, an exploration of race relations and female empowerment, and the baddest thing of all, great journalism. Abbott:1973, then, looks to continue the trend, following our titular hero as she once again struggles with old foes as the city of Detroit looks to elect its first black mayor. What I love about Jenny Frison’s variant cover is that it distills a lot of that story into a simple image: Abbott balancing the realms of otherworldly magic and her work as a chronicler of truth, a perfect encapsulation of this truly dynamic character. Please be sure to read 1973 or this time I’ll have to yell at you.

Future State: Immortal Wonder Woman #1

Cover by Jen Bartel

Judging by the Cover – 01/20/21 new releases

There’s a lot going right for Immortal Wonder Woman before most folks have read word one. It’s co-written by Becky Cloonan, it’s got some clear vibes in common with another dystopian Diana Prince story (the awesome Wonder Woman: Dead Earth), and — without spoiling too much again — Darkseid’s involved somehow. But none of that matters as Jen Bartel provides the art, and she could draw asparagus and I’d be totally dazed. Case in point: her excellent cover for issue #1, which isn’t exactly groundbreaking in terms of scope and presentation but nonetheless is amazing. Because as her work tends to do, Bartel shows the essence of the creators depicted — in this case, the unbridled grace and power of Wonder Woman as she faces down every imaginable challenge. Be scared, baddies of the DCU.

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