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.
The Swamp Thing #8
Cover by Mike Perkins
Regular readers of this column — you’re out there, yeah? — may recall that I said something recently to the effect of, “Sometimes bashing readers over the head with an analogy/metaphor can be a good thing.” If the message is important enough, or it just looks damn good, then subtlety is a pointless art. In the case of The Swamp Thing issue #8, it’s mostly certainly a case of this “phenomenon,” as artist Mike Perkins has delivered a deeply beautiful image that encapsulates Swamp Thing’s connection to nature and the natural world. But “Swamp Thing as a tree yeah yeah” is also so much deeper, and the cover really nails the agony that Swamp Thing experiences as the avatar of The Green, which fits nicely with the larger narrative thread of the character (we are terrible to the world and it results in truly profound suffering) as well as this specific storyline featuring the Suicide Squad. There’s so much beauty, and at it’s core there is also great rage and pain — even if that’s obvious, the effect will nonetheless take your entire breath away.
New Mutants #22
Cover by Martin Simmonds
There was a time, in the early days of the recent launches of New Mutants and X-Force and the like, where I’d feature those covers basically every week. It’s not that they haven’t continued to be good some two years in — it’s just that you expect a certain level of quality and artistic engagement after so long. But even this cover to issue #22 of New Mutants made me pause and let out even the tiniest “Oh,” which in this very specific line of work is an accomplishments of sorts. The Shadow King has become the latest big-bad for the Wild Hunt, and he presents a nice bit of nostalgia and old-school villainy amid the new world that is Krakoa. The implication here is pretty clear, and Shadow King has always been about wide-scale manipulation and playing X-Men and any associated gangs of do-gooders not unlike a child’s toy. But I also love that this looks and feels like some piece of abstract art meets a 19th century portrait, and in that space you get another layer to the Shadow King’s relationship and interactions in this ongoing story. It feels like Martin Simmonds is creating this dynamic piece, and that slightly meta quality is effective in reminding us the real power and scope of Shadow King himself.
Arkham City: The Order of the World #1
Cover by Sam Wolfe Connelly
Among the many weird and wild tales in the Bat canon, you have to give a special nod to the deeply amazing Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth. The book, the brain-child of writer Grant Morrison and artist Dave McKean, follows Batman as he stops a riot at Arkham, only to be faced with a bizarre, highly psychological tale that both deconstructed the mythos of these characters while also cementing certain fundamental truths to the larger canon. I mention that because Arkham City: The Order of the World has the same kind of vibe on its own cover. Maybe it’s the slightly similar font; the inhuman quality to the characters, or even just the fact that it’s two Arkham books and that’s how my silly brain works — regardless there’s a connection here for sure. The story itself isn’t too dissimilar, and its tale of the so-called Arkhamites (superpowered outcasts, seemingly) feels like it’s very much in the spirit of the original. (And if anyone could provide a “sequel,” it’s writer Dan Watters.) Regardless of what actually happens in the book, the connections are there, and if this book is 1/10th as good, then we should all be so lucky.
Eternals: Celestia #1
Cover by Esad Ribic
If you’re not up to date on the happenings with Eternals, I don’t want to spoil much. But let’s say that, perhaps as a response to the forthcoming film, writer Kieron Gillen has been given, across the main title and some recent one-shots, the go ahead to make some “renovations” to their larger mythos/story. But what I do want to talk about instead, though, is the continually great work of artist Esad Ribic, who is killing it across covers and interiors alike. Case in point: the cover to Eternals: Celestia #1, which focuses on Ajak and Makkari as they “pick up the pieces and try to find a road forward” following aforementioned revelations. Is this cover a great analogy for the connection between Eternals and the Celestials? Yes, and it’s a metaphor that’s only become all the more compelling and interesting. Does it also serve as another kind of analogy, this one about the scope of the world and how we’re all seemingly wrapped up in a struggle for context and control among increasingly bigger people and institutions? Sure sure. But is it also a beautiful image that makes you simply awe (perhaps slack-jawed?) at the power of a great visual? Of course! Eternals are so many things at once, and this series and its art proves that ten-fold.
Soul Plumber #1
Cover by John McCrea
A “soul plumber” is simultaneously exactly what you’d expect it to be and also so much more. The basic story, without going too deep or possibly spoiling too much, finds a Edgar, a “disgraced former seminary school student,” building a machine to “deliver souls from the thrall of Satan” — only to botch that and get wrapped up in some seemingly alien threat. (You know, that old chestnut of a tale!) It’s the kind of fare you might expect with horror-centric offerings from DC, which is to say, a little bit weird, a mess of silly, and some real terror on the side. But what I love the most is the cover, because it tells/shows you absolutely everything you need to know and also nothing at all that’s helpful. Like, why does the machine look like a metal detector, and is that why things go awry? Or, who is the dude in the fact, and is the tiny kid in the priest’s collar not Edgar? And is that sewer water or, like, a mess of souls in an ectoplasmic stream? I think whatever the answers are, we can expect some entertaining Halloween weirdness (this book’s penned by the team behind The Last Podcast On The Left). Anything more than that is just
water under the bridge souls in the stanky sewers.
Dark Ages #2
Cover by Iban Coello
If you haven’t read the first issue of Dark Ages, stop what you’re doing and resolve that posthaste. If you’re reading this next sentence, I assume it’s after you’ve read #1 and I thank you for your continued patronage of Judging by the Cover. I don’t make requests like this lightly, and Dark Ages is among those rare event-centric stories that delivers not only a solid hook (technology is effetively dead, y’all) but does so with ample wit and prowess. But more than all of that, the series feels like one of those entries that says, “Hey, you don’t need to got bogged down with canon and all that; here’s a dope story that is really awesome and also may you remind you of your childhood love of comics.” (That’s pretty long-winded but you get the point.) The covers are a huge part of that message/ability — they’re very specific to the story (i.e, the bulky Iron Man that maybe runs on steam?) and yet exude the same kind of sleekness, nerdiness, and dash of cool that exemplified only the best parts of ’90s comics. It doesn’t so much bridge the gap but try and recreate some of those same energies with a distinctly modern, far more controlled and self-aware approach. You’d have to live in the actual Dark Ages if you missed this one.
Chicken Devil #1
Cover by Hayden Sherman
If you show me this cover, and that someone signed off on a book called Chicken Devil, you instantly have my full attention bordering on a micro-obsession. But then you dig a little deeper — as if you hadn’t already pre-ordered this, amirite?! — and it’s a potentially compelling book. Once more without spoiling too much, a man who owns a hot chicken restaurant has to battle the mob to protect his family and aforementioned extra tasty business. The resulting cover has everything you need to inform and enhance that story that’s already been compared to a kind of Breaking Bad (albeit with a different kind of pollo involved). It’s the blown-out eye on the weird chicken suit; the way our hero, Mitchell Moss, holds the gun; and even the slightly silly text used — all of it together screams, “This is going to be one heck of a ride.” Now, if each issue could also come with some kind of chicken sample or something, that’d be extra swell.
Pyrate Queen #2
Cover by Tamra Bonvillain and Adam Pollina
I’m not much of a pirate fan; not even Pirates of the Caribbean could get me interested in what was basically bank robbers in frilly jackets likely covered in sea-sickness. Yet after the early run of the ongoing Marauders series, in which Kate Pryde becomes a badass pirate queen, it’s hard to ignore the appeal of these sea-faring scoundrels. Then, if there’s a new-ish pirate series written by Peter Milligan, especially one about a pregnant pirate seeking bloody revenge, then I’ll cast of with ‘ya, me hardies. (I apologize deeply for the preceding sentence.) A lot of what has me stoked is this cover from Tamra Bonvillain and Adam Pollina, which does an exceptional job in depicting the “heroine,” Monday Ryan. Is there loads of blood and gore and pirate madness? Oh yeah! But is it also somehow more earnest without being overwhelming or somehow hackneyed? Yes! It’s mostly everything I’d want in a pirate-centric story — partially because it also feels a bit like Kill Bill on the Seven Seas. But anything to make pirates cool!
Dirtbag Rapture #1
Cover by Kendall Goode
Again, if you’ve got the right kind of title, you can hook me in an instant. In the case of Dirtbag Rapture, it makes me think of some lost Cormac McCarthy novel, and that’s generally a good thing. (Especially if said title is from writer Christopher Sebela, who penned the excellent Crowded.) Then, add in the fact that this story is about a girl who has a near-death experience and becomes a kind of “transporter to the deceased,” and you now have the fullest of my attention. But if anyone out there needed further proof of this book’s potential, you need only gaze upon the cover by Kendall Goode. It’s got a real Love and Rockets vibe, with a dash of ’60s psychedelic’s and sprinkles of American Splendor to boot. It screams “ironic detachment” meets kooky spiritual magic, and if that’s not the most apt description of our society right now, then I don’t know what is. The fact that we also get a story about demons and a slacker becoming involved in the world feels like a genuine bonus, and I’m deeply enamored with this particular kind of dirtbag.
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