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.
Dark Knights of Steel #1
Cover by Yasmine Putri
After what feels like the longest time, the debut issue of Dark Knights of Steel has arrived. If you’re totally unfamiliar with it — what’s it like under that cozy rock of yours? — it’s basically a medieval re-telling of the DCU, focusing on a “world [that] will be forever changed when a spaceship crash-lands from a doomed planet.” On the one hand, the concept seems a little silly (even for DC) and could become a hokey mess. At the same time, though, you’ve got Tom Taylor as writer, and he made Injustice: Gods Among Us (a comic based around a video game) into something truly compelling. If there’s anything to sell you before jumping into issue #1 proper, it’s the excellent cover from series artist Yasmine Putri. You’ve got the Dark Knight, Harley Quinn seemingly as a proper jester, swords and armor galore, and plenty of high fantasy romance and elegance. Even if the story isn’t as groundbreaking as it promises, the visuals alone should be a delight.
X-Men: Legends #8
Cover by Billy Tan
In the August 19, 2020 edition of this very feature, I remarked at the historical significance of the Wolverine-Omega Red rivalry. In fact, I even went as far as to say it beat out similar beefs with Daken or Sabretooth. Now, over a year later, we all get to once more enjoy their blood feud thanks to X-Men: Legends #8. With a story from Larry Hama, and art from Billy Tan, we get what’s being called “their earliest bouts in continuity.” The battle takes place as Wolverine looks to rescue Jubilee and Hino-Chan from Lady Deathstrike/the Jie Jie — only to come face to face with Omega Red. As the cover so wonderfully depicts, it’s quite the confrontation, both a world-class beatdown and yet with the faint energy of two siblings duking it out in the back of some station wagon. Since this story is being shoed into canon in such a way, it retroactively does a great job in defining the very core of the bloody and brutal Wolverine-Omega Red dynamic. I look forward to a time in fall 2022 when we can once more revisit comics’ greatest feud (that isn’t Batman/Joker or me and Cyclops).
Human Target #1
Cover by Greg Smallwood
And speaking of eagerly-anticipated covers from DC books written by dudes named Tom, we have issue #1 of The Human Target. If you now the story of Christopher Chance — a for-hire bodyguard who dresses up like his client to save their lives — apparently this “hard-boiled, gritty story” is about to change all that. The story — without spoiling too much, of course — sees Chance trying to solve his own murder (a surprisingly popular trope in detective-centric procedurals) after a botched assassination involving a big-time DCU villain. There’s a lot going right from the book right out of the gate, like how it’s being released via the Black Label imprint, and writer Tom King’s past history with “reintroducing” second-tier characters to dazzling results (please see Adam Strange and Mister Miracle). But really, it’s this great cover from series artist Greg Smallwood, who has done a really dynamic job in A) expertly hinting at the story with great playfulness and subtlety while B) giving us the perfect preview of the slightly retro aesthetic/feel of the book. If King’s involved, it’s clear this will be another slightly silly, emotionally devastating tale exploring the beating heart of an underrated hero. Add in Chance’s ongoing “identity crisis,” and that seemingly everyone in the DCU is out to get him, and this one could be huge across the board. Guess they really nailed it, eh?
The Death of Doctor Strange: The Avengers #1
Cover by Steve Skroce
The story of the
“death” death of Doctor Strange continues with this tie-in, which sees the Avengers battling a “rampaging Juggernaut-like monster…wrecking all of Manhattan.” If you’ve been paying attention to the larger story, it’s been generally entertaining, and bringing in the Avengers (especially as they’re reportedly “weakened” without the full force of Doctor Strange) is going to add nicely to the overarching story. But let’s just focus on the cover by Steve Skroce; if this is all the tie-in has to offer to the story, then it’s clearly more than enough. He’s done a bang up of putting the Avengers in a real place of tension and possible danger, and the depiction of Cap especially really sells the whole thing for me. Sure, I’m not jazzed about Iron Man seemingly have muscle lines or whatever, but then that’s how he looked in the ’90s cartoon and everybody seems to love that show enough for their own reasons. The fact that we don’t see the “Juggernaut-like monster” more is both hugely telling and also a great tease for what’s to actually come. Either way, maybe more Avengers should die if it means great covers like this one.
My Bad #1
Cover by Peter Krause
OK, maybe I’m alone on this, but superhero spoofs are a little tired at this point. I mean, it’s like there’s only so many stories you can tell before it feels like you’re just poking holes in something simply because it’s beloved and popular. But if you’re the creative team behind books like Irredeemable and Second Coming, then you’ll at least garner my interest through the very first issue. In My Bad, writers Bryce Ingman and Mark Russell, alongside artist Peter Krause, focus on Gravel City, which is populated by folks like The Accelerator, Emperor King, and The Chandelier. If that description alone made you roll your eyes out of your head, that’s OK because the book promises endless sarcasm, something they’re going to need with a hero like, ugh, The Accelerator. Still, just peep the cover to issue #1, and it’s clear that the creative team are wearing their complete sarcasm armor. With bits of familiar superhero lore (a Hulk figure, a blue alien, etc.), mixed with things like a possibly dumb monkey and a butler-Colonel Sanders hybrid, I think this book could be irreverent enough to actually make for meaningful satire. If nothing else, I just hope it answers the question of how The Chandelier actually manages to see things.
Cover by Maurizio Rosenzweig
I loved the first issue of Frontiersman. (And not just because it’s written by Patrick Kindlon, of the amazing bands Drug Church and Self Defense Family.) It proved to be a socially conscious tale right away, exploring ideas of environmentalism and personal responsibility from panel #1. And that’s on top of a well-developed world that slowly revealed itself — not to mention having an environmentally savvy lead hero who dressed up like a mix between Paul Bunyan and Davy Crockett. I’m equally excited to see what happens in issue #2, and based solely on the cover, things are about to get even wackier pronto. The solicitation promises that as Frontiersman sits atop a tree (read issue #1 to understand why!) he’s attacked by an “old foe…and he’s a cosmic menace to boot!” The idea of having a cosmic-level foe this early is both genius and silly, and speaks volumes to why I think this series is going to be a great new entry that expertly celebrates and subverts superhero titles/culture. Also, you can never go wrong if your cover features 1) a symbiote-like monster/baddie and 2) karate chipping an eye monster (?) (!)
Fox and Hare #1
Cover by Stacey Lee
Sometimes I think you have to name a book/series before you develop it if you’re going to be truly successful. I can’t say for certain that’s the case with Fox and Hare, but there’s no denying the title itself is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of getting me hyped for another new Vault Comics title. The story itself has heaps of potential, too, with a black market coder named Aurora running foul against a futuristic super-corporation and having to enlist the services of the titular mercenary duo. But what has me most jazzed is this cover from series artist Stacey Lee, which looks and feels like the bonkers love-child of both an anime and some mid-’90s Saturday morning cartoon. I love the different but complimentary color schemes of Fox and Hare, the fact they their body language/posing tells you everything you need to know about them, and the near-future vibes of this mega-city called Mazu Bay. Maybe it’s not going to be some hugely groundbreaking series, but this one checks all the boxes for “fun and entertaining thrill ride.”
Ranger Stranger #1
Cover by Tyler Jensen
If you ever watched Yogi Bear and thought, “Why how come the bears just don’t eat Park Ranger Smith,” then boy howdy do I have the comic for you. Ranger Stranger is the weird, unsettling brain-child of writer Matt Battagalia and writer-artist Tyler Jensen, and follows the happenings within Hackaneck National Park, where “everything — from the wildflowers to the homicidal deer to the park official — wants to murder you.” Murderous wildlife ain’t anything new, but the look of this book (described as “Bob Ross-ian”) is what makes it all the more creepy. It’s like if the paintings in your grandparent’s house all of a sudden started dripping blood, and that mix of cute and creepy has always been the perfect delivery advice. (See films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit and cartoons like Adventure Time.) The whole thing is perfect for the tail-end of Halloween, but it could be properly scary as the weather gets nice (at least in my home of Arizona) and we all move outside more… to be eaten by woodchucks. Plus, there’s a proper website, and if that level of thoughtful immersion doesn’t work for you, re-calibrate your heart machine, chief.
Soul Plumber #2
Cover by John McCrea
Last month, DC unveiled the debut issue of Soul Plumber, in which a “disgraced seminary school student” (one Edgar Wiggins) tries to build an exorcism machine. (And, as issue #2 hints, said plan has gone predictably awry and Wiggins is left to contend with a “homicidal inter-dimensional being.”) It was hard to believe that you could get any more scary/unnerving/stomach-churning then that the cover to #1, which saw young Mr. Wiggins wading through a sewer of deceased souls/gross poo water. Yet here we are with the cover to #2, which see Wiggins and his unfortunate looking ally doing battle with what appears to be several dismembered bodies pieced together like some bloody Frankenstein’s Monster from hell. I have little doubt that the “Soul Scythe” or even a Holy Bible will do much good, and the only question — beyond how this will impact Wiggins’ faith — is just how gory and super weird is this all going to get? Oh, and a small follow-up question if possible: why doesn’t the woman in the back just run for her life?!
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