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.
Black Widow #13
Cover by Adam Hughes
There’s a lot of great reasons that we named Kelly Thompson one of the best writers of 2021. Over the 12 or so issues of Black Widow, she’s done some truly amazing things with the character — showing different sides of her as both a person and a super-spy. The whole story involving her time in Madripoor has been especially great, and it’s been a chance to delve deeper into Natasha Romanoff’s most hidden emotions and that which she fears and tries to hide the most. But what’s also helped this series be so dang great is the art, and that always starts with the main covers. Case in point: another top-notch piece from Adam Hughes, who displays the crux of the series and the story specifically (read, a wounded Natasha trying to deal with big things challenging her to her very core) with such gorgeous efficiency. Even at her seemingly lowest, Romanoff is ready to fight, and whoever or whatever is on the other end of that sword is both a skilled warrior and likely in for an epic beating. That’s sort of the character to a tee: watching her fight to become a better or more well-rounded person is thrilling, and we can align our own trials and tribulations with her efforts.
Detective Comics #1047
Cover by Irvin Rodriguez
I’ll admit, with all the other stuff going on in the Batman lineup as of late (the main Batman title, Batman: Urban Legends, Batman: the Imposter, Future State stuff, etc.), I haven’t really paid much mind to the iconic Detective Comics series as of late. Luckily, a new year means a new start (sort of kinda) as a writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Ivan Reis launch the 12-part weekly storyline called “The Tower.” Without revealing too much, it focuses around Arkham Tower, Gotham City’s post-Arkham Asylum attempt to help the “criminally inclined” as opposed to locking them up in some damp old dungeon. It’s bound to be an interesting idea, and should further some of the juicier threads in the Bat Family’s stories in recent years (i.e., police reform, the new role of superheroes, etc.) But for now, I’m jazzed about this cove from Irvin Rodriguez for a couple reasons: 1) it looks so vibrant and dramatic; 2) I love the emphasis on more of the Bat Family beyond the Dark Knight himself; and 3) it makes me think of DC stuff on the CW, and that’s mostly, generally speaking, a good thing (for me, at least). It feels like a bright new day and also a huge mystery to tackle, and that’s always a good place for these kinds of books.
Darkhold: Omega #1
Cover by Chris Bachalo and Joe Bennett
I’ll admit it: Darkhold had me interested from day one, but then it sort of lost me almost immediately. The whole premise is amazing: a bunch of superheroes find the evil codex called the Darkhold, and they try and battle the dread elder god Chthon — only for things to go terribly awry (I won’t spoil what happened and to whom exactly). It sort of felt like the Marvel version of Evil Dead, and if Marvel nailed zombies so well, how could they blow what’s basically a mix of Deadites and Cthulu? Well, at least as far as this writer is concerned, some of the titles/story chapters thus far haven’t been quite as appealing, and it’s kind of felt like a story that doesn’t meet all of its grander potential. But based on this cover to Darkhold: Omega #1, I’ll have to give it another try. Total Deadite vibes with a mix of the fungus monsters from The Last of Us? Check. A prominent role and/or placement for the always interesting Scarlet Witch? Double check. Heroes transformed into terrible monsters that will inevitably lead to great consequences and/or high emotional stakes? A solid triple check! Maybe this title can’t win me over, but it’s got some of that spark I first hoped for with this entire event, and that just might be enough.
One-Star Squadron #2
Cover by Steve Lieber and Dave Stewart
I was a really big fan of the first issue of One-Star Squadron. I may have remarked somewhere recently that silly superhero stories aren’t really my bag, but that this one really does a damn fine job in balancing the shtick (C-list superheroes use an app to fight crime, say what?!) with some emotionally poignant storytelling (it’s about the ups and downs of our modern gig economy as much as it is exploring the very nature of superheroes and their commitment). Aside from the story by Mark Russell, a huge part of that success has been the work of series artist Steve Lieber (with an assist from colorist/artist Dave Stewart). The cover to issue #2 feels like the most amazing sort of encapsulation of this title, a brilliant gag about ruining a child’s birthday party and the sheer majesty of superheroes in general (even as they do crush little Billy or Susie’s dreams). It’s that power of playing two very different images off of one another, and letting the reader see the overlap as well as the sheer cognitive dissonance between it all. It’s a powerful image that speaks to the heart of this very series: we need heroes, but they’re just as much in need of our help and support. It’s such a great idea, and something that moves from the cover to the story proper with such grace and power. Also, the more Red Tornado appearances in the world, the better things start to feel.
Monkey Meat #1
Cover by Juni Ba
You may know artist-writer Juni Ba from Djeliya, a series by TKO Studios in which he explored West African folklore. Now, he’s got another kind of story to tell with his own anthology series, Monkey Meat. Without spoiling too much, or even trying to recreate the same magic of the totally amazing press materials for this book, it’s about a very specific manufacturing company that has its own island, and each issue tells a different story in the resulting “magical hyper-capitalist hellscape.” I love the first cover (even if I don’t know the story proper) given that it feels like the best answer to, “What happens when a company that clearly sells canned monkey meat sets up its own reality-bending municipality in the middle of international waters?” Because the answer is not only weird, bloody, and deeply worrying, but also sort of fun, like an indie comics version of Cuphead (or a more focused and thought-provoking spin on, like, Monkeybone). Regardless, I have high hopes for this book, and Ba’s brand of art and storytelling is both thoughtful enough and yet still totes bonkers to really make an impact. Maybe we’ll go ape for this series together?
The Fourth Man #1
Cover by Mike Deodato
If you’ve read this feature enough — you little weirdo — then you know I often make comparisons to movie posters. Because, and this isn’t always the case, the best comics covers and the best movie posters often share the same attributes. For instance, that same kind of cinematic quality or magic that elevates the aesthetic. Or, the slightly retro/nostalgic quality that connects these stories to a kind of shared past. It’s even that the same kind of art style just brings all the right story elements into greater focus. All of that feels especially true for The Fourth Man, from writer Jeff McComsey and artists Mike Deodato and Lee Loughridge. The so-called “dark comedy mystery thriller” follows two detectives cracking the case of three dead bodies that may or may not be connected and “have to do with a pair of dueling car dealerships.” As if that alone wasn’t a big-time hook, the cover makes that the focus to stunning effectiveness, showing a level of comedy and noir that feels like the weird and wonderful love-child of Breaking Bad and True Detective. Maybe it won’t break the mold for its chosen genre(S), but given the talent attached, and the perfect “introductory” cover, The Fourth Man already feels like a great addition to the larger canon.
Cowboy Bebop #1
Variant Cover by Yishan Li
Recently, the much-beloved Cowboy Bepop became a live-action series via Netflix. And, much like the beloved anime, it was a truly rousing succ… just kidding, it’s a genuine stinker that got canceled immediately. (OK, maybe its purpose and value are a bit more complicated than all that.) But luckily, comic books are once again here to save the day, as Titan Books launches its own series just in time to wash the taste out of everyone’s collective mouth. There’s a lot going right for this series already, like a dynamite creative team (writer Dan Watters and artist Lamar Mathurin), or the promise of an all-new story involving a gangster and a “vest which gives the wearer unlimited luck.” But for now, the best proof that this could be a saving grace is the cover art — specifically, this variant cover from Yishan Li. Mainly because it captures the vibe and look of the anime itself, and yet it does so in a way that also feels really fresh and now — something the Netflix series should have done all along. Also, it doesn’t help that the dog is totally cute, and that’s a bonus in just about every conceivable way.
Apache Delivery Service #1
Variant Cover by Laurence Campbell and Dave Stewart
Any book written by Matt Kindt and with art from Tyler Jenkins instantly has my full attention and robust curiosity. But then you delve a little into Apache Delivery Service, and boy oh boy, is there so much to eagerly anticipate. The story follows two men looking for gold in Vietnam, and what they find (outside of their intended riches) is bloodthirsty witches, a crazed serial killer, and corpses galore. (And that’s not even covering the paranoia and psychic damage they’ll also have to address, folks.) Given all of that, I felt especially compelled to pick this variant cover by Laurence Campbell (with Dave Stewart on colors). I can’t tell for sure what the book itself will look like — well, I could but let’s pretend for the sake of my overall argument that’s not an option — but I think Campbell’s work more than encapsulates the larger themes and various motifs within this story. A dash of horror; some bright colors and great line work; and the Vietnam War imagery done with such bravado — all of it together makes me feel a robust sense of terror before panel one. I both get the story’s larger emotional core and can’t wait to see how things actually unfold. Kindt and Jenkins’ names may be the bright neon light drawing you in, but it’s this cover that will keep you from ever looking away.
Nocterra: Blacktop Bill Special #1
Variant Cover by Joseph Schmalke
Nocterra has been a weird series thus far. Originally, the whole storyline — mad adventures in a world plagued by perpetual night! — didn’t appeal to me given the inherent, let’s say, hokiness of it all. But starting with issue #1, the creative team — including Scott Snyder and Tony S. Daniel — built a great story packed with relatable characters, some truly compelling world-building, and heaps of emotionality. But perhaps their greatest success — aside from, to mention it once more, the sheer humanity engrained in this story — is the story’s big bad, one Blacktop Bill. His resulting “special” lets us actually understand the man behind the creepy smile and what’s either a great bodysuit or some kind of demonic transformation. We’ve got some great previews in terms of variant covers, including Daniels’ spot-on, series-appropriate piece; this particularly metal cover from Tiago Da Silva; and this deeply unsettling, potentially spoiler-ific piece by Marco Turini. But ultimately, the nod goes to the variant from Joseph Schmalke — not because it’s any more terrifying that the others, but because the colors and weaponry/armor and that slightly different smile provide some new insight into Bill. While that insight is still mostly, “Oh, god, he’s going to murder us all!,” it’s also more nuanced and subtle than that, with some layers behind it all. Now, then, it’s up to the story to deliver and make Bill an even more horrifying villain.
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