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Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 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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Thor #12

Cover by Olivier Coipel

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

If you’ve ben reading Thor, you’ll know things have been getting hugely personal for some time. The introduction of the actual Donald Blake (the former secret identity of Thor himself) has created a storyline rich with interpersonal drama. And as Blake comes toe-to-toe with Valkyrie (aka his former lover, Jane Foster), the “Prey” storyline reaches all-new heights of emotionality and tension. And this cover reflects all of that brilliantly: whether it’s their snarling fight poses, the way the ground itself has been tossed asunder from their resulting clash, or that Blake is using a scalpel (he’s a doctor, after all), this screams a deep and ancient kind of rage and betrayal. Clash of the Titans ain’t got nothing on this, basically.

Batman/Catwoman #3

Cover by Clay Mann

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

If you’re old enough you may remember the Mask of the Phantasm movie. It was basically a chance to A) expand the canon and story of the excellent Batman: The Animated Series and B) introduce a new villain (that’d be the titular The Phantasm) with a complicated connection to Bruce Wayne. And so it only makes this cover to Batman/Catwoman #3 all the more exciting as Batman’s other complicated relationship, Catwoman, goes head-to-head with the masked baddie. So not only is this just a bloody cool image, captured mid-blow with a profound intensity, but it has so many deep emotional layers and expertly enhances and extends this little nugget of the Batman canon. Yay complicated romantic entanglements!

Black Widow #5

Cover by Adam Hughes

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

Spider-Man moves around like his namesake arachnoid. And Thor almost always looks like a Viking chieftain (on acid, from another galaxy). But aside from her electro-stinger dealies, Black Widow doesn’t share a lot of obvious connections with that spider. That’s because her blend of espionage and superheroics is a bit more nuanced and complicated, and Natasha’s ongoing development continually complicates her existence beyond the really specific confines of being a “black widow.” So that makes the cover to issue #5 just a cool excuse to play with that spider imagery, stripping away some of the narrative oomph of this series to show Nat doing what she does best: dope spy stuff. Also, you’ve got to love that sense of perspective.

Future State: Nightwing #2

Cover by Yasmine Putri

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

There’s a reason it’s Batman and then Robin: the Dark Knight leads the way and the Boy Wonder just gets to back him up. And no one knows that better than Tim Grayson, who has spent a career trying to step out of Batman’s shadow and stand as his own man/hero. Luckily, Future State gives him just such a chance. As the veteran of the team with the young-ish Tim Fox, Nightwing/Grayson takes center stage on this cover while the man called The Next Batman exudes the energy of a clear sidekick. Sure, this is Grayson’s book, but it’s also that he’s the hero because he’s willing to grab the spotlight — not for fame or anything, but his own desire to be self-sufficient and to do some real good. He’s transcended some of those self-imposed limitations, and seeing him shine as a proper guardian of Gotham and his “family” is a big deal for long-time fans.

Young Hellboy: The Hidden Land #1

Cover by Matt Smith

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

Hellboy is a great series in that there’s just so many venues and heroes to focus on, and the new one-shots and stories just keep coming to help us better understand this rich and dynamic fictional universe. So it was only a matter of time before we’d focus on the very early days of Hellboy, when he was an actual boy and just starting on his globe-trotting adventure to fight monsters. This first such story has HB stranded on an island, and the whole thing feels like a sweet pulp novel from the 1940s mixed with some real Johnny Quest vibes. Sure, we may have an idea what happens and how HB will likely make it out totally fine, but here’s hoping this story continues to fill in all these wonderful cracks.

Abbott 1973 #2

Cover by Taj Tenfold

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

If you haven’t started reading Abbott 1973 by now, please take the time to berate yourself for a few minutes. Once that’s over, just peep this cover to issue #2 to help further clarify why you need this book posthaste. That’s because it mostly perfectly encapsulates both the overarching story and, more specifically, what’s going on with the 1973 “chapter.” Which is to say, Elena Abbott faces down some deeply weird paranormal threat with little more than her wit and endless grit (and maybe also a small gun just in case). It’s a great story that blurs the line between horror, fantasy, spy thriller, and really a badass spin on All the President’s Men. Really, start reading this book or you’re just going to feel worse by the time I preview issue #3.

The Immortal Hulk: Flatline #1

Cover by Declan Shalvey

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

The thing about having a green rage monster as the “hero” of a book is that you can play with a lot of people’s sensibilities. Depending upon how Hulk is depicted (level of humanity, color, interplay of muscles and veins, etc.), creators can make the reader question just what kind of protagonist The Hulk proves to be at any given moment. And in the case of Flatline, writer/artist Declan Shalvey has done something that feels both deeply human and decidedly un-human at the same dang time. Add in that this is a story exploring “the heart of gamma [radiation],” and it promises to be both gripping as it is also terrifying. Hulk smash… your ability to compartmentalize different motions and sentiments.

Future State: The Next Batman #4

Cover by José Ladrönn

Judging by the Cover – 02/17/21 new releases

Perhaps you’re one of those folks who was unsure about what having a new Batman (Tim Fox) might do to both the story and larger canon. Even if I think you were wrong to worry — Fox has been an intriguing addition to the rich Bat universe — there’s nothing wrong with a least a little hesitation. At least until this cover debuts, that is. Even after just a short time Batmanning (that’s what it’s called, yeah?), Fox clearly feels the weight of it all. And amid all the machinery of his superheroics “empire,” he stops to contemplate the heft of the crown he’s found himself wearing. Will he put it on to fight another day? Or has all of it just become too much? It’s exactly the kind of thing we’d expect from a true and proper Batman story, and it connects Fox brilliantly with the larger canon he deserves to be included within.

Hollow Heart #1

Variant Cover by Jen Hickman

Judging by the Cover

Valentine’s Day may already be over, but there’s still time for one more grand love story. Hollow Heart is described as a “queer monster love story,” and features El (former human, now a “jumble of organs in a bio-suit”) meeting and falling for Mateo, a “mechanice” who just may offer El the relief he needs (and then some, I’d assume). If we’re looking to get an idea of the series’ feel, we could turn to the main cover (from Paul Tucker), which captures both the monster movie vibes and sense of romanticism. Yet it’s Jen Hickman’s variant that feels like a more telling choice. Because not only is El’s mask feature an actual heart, the koi inside feel like a perfect visual representation of what it is to fall in love. Which is to say, weird and totally beautiful in all the absolute best and worst was possible.

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