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(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

Comic Books

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover – 2021 Wrap-up

The very best of a very good year for comics.

I (mostly) did the math the other day, and I’ve done this feature every week for two consecutive years. (Except for the break I took this week — blame it on too much eggnog.) That’s a lot of comics to explore, and art and storytelling to contextualize. It’s not always been so easy or convenient, but the feature is mostly worth it to provide a different kind of comics coverage.

So, in the name of furthering the scope of Judging (and possibly making up for that missed week), here’s some of my favorite covers of 2021. While there’s not my usual level of analysis and biting wit, it’s a chance to enjoy these covers one more time, and to explore the heart of this feature: letting great comics-centric art exist in a different space for celebration and understanding. That’s why this series matters, and why I’m glad to be the one at the helm of this wacky ship.

Listen to the latest episode of our weekly comics podcast!

I’ll be seeing you again on Monday, January 3.

– Chris Coplan, AIPT Comics Editor

Eternals #1 (Released 1/6/21)

Cover by Esad Ribic

Judging by the Cover

I can’t think of a better way to both encapsulate the entirety of the Eternals canon/story and also hint at the feats of this latest “chapter.”

Sweet Downfall #1 (Released 1/27/21)

Cover by Stefano Cardoselli

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I didn’t know it, but I needed more lovestruck crash test dummies turned assassins in my life. That, and robots with a real John Lennon aesthetic.

Future State: The Next Batman #4 (Released 2/16/21)

Cover by José Ladrönn

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

The idea of launching a new Batman title can be an especially daunting challenge. What this cover did, though, was respect that legacy and build an exciting new “room” in the grand manor of Batman and his family.

Breathers #5 (Released 3/17/21)

Cover by Justin Madson

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I never actually went back to read this ensemble story about some wacky, virus-driven dystopia. However, I’ve gone back to visit the cover a few times because 1) it remains so deeply eerie and 2) it continues to feel painfully relevant amid year two of COVID.

Action Comics #1029 (Released 3/23/21)

Cover by Phil Hester and Eric Gapstur

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

There was a ton of hype around the new Superman, Jonathan Kent. But even though this specific cover didn’t ignite nearly the same media storm, it’s a powerful image and a great way to extend the Superman legacy into the future.

X-Force #19 (Released 4/21/21)

Cover by Joshua Cassara

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

Jean Grey’s issues with her power and overall mental state have been essential to X-Men stories for decades. This image really captured all of that robust history while building something totally new in the Era of Krakoa.

Redshift #1 (Released 5/26/21)

Cover by Amancay Nahuelpan

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

For as many questions as this series answers — yes we’ll make it to Mars, and yes plaid/flannel will always be cool — it leaves just as many questions unanswered (i.e., there’s space chickens?!)

The Nice House On The Lake #1 (Released 6/1/21)

Cover by Alvaro Martinez Bueno

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I can’t recall a more hyped series (that also delivered) in all of 2021. This cover maybe didn’t capture the story proper, but it did hint at the great horror and tension played out within its pages.

Project Patron #3 (Released 6/16/21)

Cover by David Talaski

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

The whole story is about how we as a society build stories of heroes. It’s a little blunt, but it’s such a great way to express that idea with such lethal efficiency.

Skybound X #1 (Released 7/7/21)

Cover by Ryan Ottley

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

This cover tickled the same part of my brain when, as a child, I saw some amazing new piece of pop culture. It defied all logic and reasoning and just made ye olde jaw drop all the way to the ground floor.

Moon Knight #1(Released 7/21/21)

Variant Cover by Mike Mayhew

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I was a tad hesitant about this new Moon Knight series. However, this image assured me, at least partially, that the creative team truly understood the assignment and we’d be getting a proper Moon Knight story (i.e., one where he’s totally unrelenting).

Spirits of Vengeance: Spirit Rider #1 (Released 8/4/21)

Cover by Takashi Okazaki

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

The whole Spirit Rider story was great for new characters and representation in general. The cover was that flaming cherry on the sundae, and it screamed insanity with every color burst and slick angle.

Defenders #1 (Released 8/11/21)

Cover by Javier Rodriguez

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

Even if you don’t have an inherent connection to the Defenders team or canon, this cover managed to capture the nostalgia vibes, the weirdness of the core team, and the hijinks to come.

God Of Tremors #1 (Released 8/18/21)

Cover by Piotr Kowalski

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I loved this literary spin on slow-moving horror comics so very, very much. But before the story ever wormed its way into the brain, the cover hinted at something all the more sinister and subtle. Take that, Midsommar.

Primordial #1 (Released 9/15/21)

Cover by Andrea Sorrentino

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I’ll buy anything written by Jeff Lemire. And that goes double with art by Andrea Sorrentino. This cover brilliantly hinted at the unsettling historical madness without ever spoiling a single thing.

Kang the Conqueror #2 (Released 9/15/21)

Cover by Michael del Mundo

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

I loved this image for everything it offered up regarding Kang’s whole thing as a time traveler — without ever having to say an actual word. It’s such a perfect image to introduce or reorientate reader’s to Marvel’s resident timeline hopper.

The Golem Walks Among Us #2 (Released 9/29/21)

Cover by Peter Bergting

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

Golems have always been hugely fascinating stand-ins for revenge and general ideas of humanity. Peter Bergting’s art on this cover, though, takes that up a notch, and the infusion of darker, more supernatural elements is both a more profound metaphor and a great addition to the Mignolaverse.

No One Left To Fight II #1 (Released 10/13/21)

Cover by Fico Ossio

Judging by the Cover

I love that this cover manages to distill every important piece of pop culture to a ’90s kid, from Street Fighter to Dragon Ball Z. And it did so without ever losing its wit and originality, either.

DC vs. Vampires #1 (Released 10/26/21)

Cover by Otto Schmidt

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

A few things: 1) few people draw Batman like Otto Schmidt; 2) I love this take on vamps; and 3) I’m not even mad that Green Arrow isn’t using some sweet trick arrows.

One-Star Squadron #1 (Released 12/7/21)

Cover by Steve Lieber

(A Very Special) Judging by the Cover - 2021 Wrap-up

The actual story is a great exploration of the pomp and circumstance of superhero comics, how to make almost anything funny, and even the ups and downs of the gig economy. The cover does hint at all that, but mostly it just swings for the fences of pure ridiculousness.

Nightwing #87 (Released 12/21/21)

Variant Cover by Jamal Campbell

Judging by the Cover

I admit it: I’m a sucker for anything with a dog. At the same time, though, this is such a perfect cover to help you understand Nightwing, especially as he’s portrayed in this great series penned by Tom Taylor. Haley/Bitewing, I love you dearly.

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