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Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 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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Fantastic Four #37

Cover by Terry Dodson

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

There’s a few important benchmarks every October. The first is, usually sometime in the very first week, when stores everywhere fill their aisles with candy. There’s also the actual Halloween on the 31st, and while some folks think that’s the only time to commemorate, they’re plain wrong. But my favorite moment is usually right around now when comics publishers start with the extra spooky issues. DC and Marvel already have a few treats floating out there, but now things feel officially official with Fantastic Four #37. Everyone’s most beloved comics family (that isn’t Batman and co. – zing!) are the perfect choice for a little playful trick or treating. So, who has the best costume? Reed’s eliminated because “stretchy tool with goatee” isn’t a thing. And so has Johnny, because he’s basically revealing himself by wearing his superhero suit . But while you’d think it’s not Ben for those very same reasons, and because Skeleton Sue is so amazing, Thing the Hamburglar is simply the best of both worlds and a true master class in proper superhero Halloween. Spooky times, indeed!

Superman: Son of Kal-El #4

Cover by John Timms

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

This week, the comics news cycle, and by extension a not insignificant portion of the “normal” world’s news coverage, has been dominated by one image. Yes, the new Superman, Jon Kent, is bisexual, and that kind of inclusion is always something to applaud, even if you’re a bone-headed state senator who could use a fact checker. But that revelation doesn’t come until November’s issue #5, and there’s still plenty of story to tell and great imagery attached in issue #4. Specifically, the cover of this issue, which is really the first time Superman (Clark Kent — should we call him Papa Superman?) has departed and left Jon as the planet’s pajama-wearing defender of good and justice. At the same time, Jon is dealing with same big-time foes that threaten his friends and family, and that’s one of the most vulnerable spots if you’re any kind of person of steel. All of that has resulted in this gorgeous cover, which expertly encapsulates not only the threats but the feeling of (teenage-tinged) rage and helplessness that Jon experiences. It’s also a powerful reminder of the true impact of great imagery, and Superman and family’s entire canon is filled with examples much like this. It hurts to say, but Superman is a powerful media presence, and no matter what happens in this dense canon, it always makes you stop and wonder.

The United States of Captain America #5

Cover by Gerald Parel

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

And speaking of do-gooders who look good in blue, we arrive at issue #5 of The United States of Captain America. The grand finale promises a whole lot of over-sized action and drama as we get to see the Captains Network join forces while Bucky once more “faces his complicated feelings about taking up the Captain America mantle.” What’s amazing about this cover — aside from most of it — isn’t just the message that it sends (we’re all a little Captain America, and through virtue and action, we can make our world a better place). It’s that this belief actually resonates with people across the spectrum of cultures and identities, and being Cap often means just standing up for something good and decent. The series has been great thus far in balancing effective storytelling with this overarching message, and the cover to issue #5 feels like the best encapsulation of what it’s done to expand and enhance the narrative and canon of Cap. Whatever happens next, the story told here could have some huge ramifications on a whole cast of great characters. Or, it could just be a great reminder of why this character matters so much to everyone single one of us. Either way, we’ve still got something cool.

Batman/Catwoman #8

Cover by Clay Mann

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

I’ll admit I haven’t paid much attention to this series since issue #1. Which is ironic — and also slightly terrible — since Tom King’s first run at Bat and Cat is pure comics gold. While I do plan on jumping into the series proper at some point, this cover to issue #8 is a perfect example of why we run Judging by the Cover every week. (And not just so I can have things to do.) It’s the sort of cover that stops you in your tracks, and ignites those inner nerd flames that keep us all reading year after year. It’s perhaps everything I’d want in a Batman costume: the added leg holster (someone never skips leg day, amirite?!); the weird arm sleeves that I hope serve a tactical purpose; the blue electronic eyes; and, of course, that extra rigid cape. Whatever’s been happening until now, one thing is for sure: this Bats is straight killing it — just hopefully not his shot at a committed relationship.

Gunslinger Spawn #1

Variant Cover by Todd McFarlane

Judging by the Cover

With Spawn Universe, Todd McFarlane shook up the hero’s universe by launching some of the first new titles in 30-ish years. Now, after kicking things off in a fairly big way with King Spawn, McFarlane and company gift us… Gunslinger Spawn. At face value, it’s hard to tell if this is going to be cool or not. The whole name doesn’t help things, that’s for sure; it makes me think of Spawn meets Yosemite Sam for some reason. But the book also promises a handful of stories, and asks whether Spawn’s “200-year-old past [could] come back to haunt him as he navigates the strange world of 2021?” The best evidence, though, is this variant cover from McFarlane himself, which answers the question of whether this series is silly or awesome with, “Yes.” Because for all the grit and dope weaponry, there’s also that giant, pseudo-stove pipe hat. And for all the detail and depth, he’s also smoking and/or spitting through his mask somehow? But then this dichotomy has always served Spawn well, and if it’s going to define Gunslinger Spawn, this could all work out nicely.

Night of the Ghoul #1

Cover by Francesco Francavilla

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

This past week, our own Dave Brooke raved about Clear, the first title in Scott Snyder’s giant-sized deal with ComiXology. But if you thought his books would all be compelling sci-fi, just wait till you get your hands on Night of the Ghoul #1. As the name might have already suggested, this one is distinctly horror, and features a story that intercuts “between the present-day narrative and the story of a lost horror film.” And you know the duo of Snyder and artist Francesco Francavilla can deliver given their collabo during the extra moody, totally dope Batman: The Black Mirror. For now, your only guarantee is debut cover, which expertly utilizes a few key horror pillars (unsuspecting victim, giant spider, dead bodies that may be statues, and giant pools of blood). However, while it doesn’t reference the storyline’s time/reality-jumping specifically, it does still feel slightly timeless in its overall scope and feel, and it’s hard to tell what’s even real or what may be a bloody nightmare. Plus, Francavilla’s work hits that sweet spot between detail and a kind of detail-less ambiguity, and that makes for a unique aesthetic that’s all the more compelling. Are you ready to be totes scared, dear readers?

Nightwing #85

Cover by Brundo Redondo

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

As a rule, a cover is a great chance to let your titular hero/heroine shine a little (inevitably before they’re trounced a little within the book itself.) Except, this is Nightwing we’re talking about (and Nightwing as written by Tom Taylor), and so it’s more than acceptable to make him look a little uncool. The reasoning behind that is Dick Grayson is comics’ goodest boy, and he can look totally awkward and uncomfortable compared to Babs/Batgirl and still be a shining example of herodom. But it’s more than just “Nightwing looks like he’s about to land in a pool of old expired cottage cheese”; Babs’ coolness is actually taking center stage here, and it plays on the important happenings/events in both issues #84 and #85. So, in the regard, Nightwing is once again relegated (ever so briefly) to sidekick status, and thus this cover is a gem of comedy and storytelling. It’s also a great way to expand “Fear State” beyond “Boo, horror everywhere,” and to really build on that always wonderful dynamic between Batgirl and Nightwing. We love you endlessly, Richard John Grayson.

The Death of Doctor Strange #2

Cover by Kaare Andrews

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

Calling a book The Death of Doctor Strange is sort of telegraphing it all, yeah? Do we see the “death” of the titular Sorcerer Supreme in issue #1? Sure do! But is there so much more here story-wise, especially as we enter into issue #2 and the situation of a deceased Strange is complicated by “multiple invasions from other dimensions”? Sure thang! The point is, death is only the beginning, really, and there’s so many more interesting tidbits and developments to talk about. For instance, this truly amazing cover to issue #2, which really brings home the whole “Strange is dead” storyline by showing his funeral. (Or is it?! Muahaha!) Only, it’s sort of a strange image despite how awesome it is. Couldn’t anyone of these characters — save for maybe Black Widow — just lift this on their own? Like, I get the point of duty and honor, but why not let everyone take a load off as opposed to awkwardly having to not use their immense super-strength in tandem at the funeral of a beloved friend/coworker. That bit aside, though, I also like that the Cloak of Levitation looks like it’s wrapped around Strange’s casket like some desperate, wailing widow. Or that you have to incinerate a deceased Sorcerer Supreme in what looks like a supernova or something. Who knew a funeral could be so funny and/or whimsical?

Time Before Time #6

Cover by Declan Shalvey

Judging by the Cover – 10/20/21 new releases

Despite loving the first few issues, I also kind of dropped off on Time Before Time with little explanation/fanfare. It’s not for a lack of quality or whatnot; even amid the countless titles addressing or referencing time travel, this book has a great feel and a genuinely interesting spin or take on that physics-defying act. But if I wanted to catch up, now is seemingly the perfect time as issue #6 is a standalone (from writer-artist Declan Shalvey), which gives us slackers an extra month before we seemingly start a new arc in issue #7 (hopefully, of course). This standalone deals with a “Syndicate deserter hiding out in the year 1994,” and I can only assume that is said turncoat being eviscerated on the cover. Or it’s the Syndicate hunter, Oscar Gomez, and that would make for a straight bonkers tale, too. Either way, I’m genuinely excited for this book’s spin on 1994, and I hope there’s some flannel and/or grunge references. But whatever actually takes place, I’m sure this book will continue to build its world, and whatever’s to come within it, with genuine depth, wit, and a little weirdness.

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