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Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases
Image Comics

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

Chris shares his favorite covers from this week’s new comics.

Most comic book fans have a solid idea about what they’re going to buy every week as they descend upon 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, funny, scary, etc. 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. This is Judging by the Cover.

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Action Comics #1040

Cover by Daniel Sampere

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

I was just talking to a friend about the “Warworld Saga” unfolding in the pages of Action Comics. He’s a big Superman fan, and this whole story is just reigniting his love of comics (and rightfully so). But I did make the comment that Mongul is “the sprained knee of supervillains,” which was intended partially as a joke but is also sort of true. (My proof? This GIF that proves Mongul’s robust inferiority as any kind of “sustained” threat.) But my buddy may be right when he called me “the sprained knee of life,” as Mongul is really flourishing as the big bad of this storyline, as evidenced most recently by this awesome cover to #1040. I’d say that stuff like this is just to nab readers’ eyeballs, but the way Mongul’s been depicted so far, I could easily see him finally coming out on top of his mental and physical warfare with the Man of Steel. You win this one, Sami Jarroush.

Ghost Rider #1

Variant Cover by Lucio Parrillo

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

Ladies and germs, Marvel’s true bad boy, Johnny Blaze, returns to comics with an all-new series from writer Benjamin Percy and artist Cory Smith. This time around, Mr. Blaze has an idyllic life — loving family, a great job as a mechanic, etc. — only to find himself struggling with hellish nightmares. It’s going to be quite the madcap adventure when Blaze lets Ghost Rider out to play, and Marvel is kicking it all off in proper fashion with a slew of variant covers (in addition to Kael Ngu’s already great main cover). There’s this molten-hot cover from Gabriele Dell’Otto. Or this dash of old-school-style goodness from Salvador Larroca. And even this piece from Jung-Geun Yoon, which makes me think of Prometheus (and that’s mostly a good thing!) But the clear winner is the variant from Lucio Parrillo, if only for its sheer awesomeness. Is this little moment actually going to happen? Only one way to find out: buckle in and take the ride, folks!

The Department of Truth #16

Variant Cover by Alison Sampson

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

It’s been a minute since we’ve featured a cover from The Department of Truth. The conspiracy-centric tale from creators James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds is always great, and it was only a matter of time before some cover stuck out again. And now that likelihood had doubled, nay tripled, as artist Alison Sampson joins for a guest arc that’s described as a “mind-altering dive into designer hallucinogens, MKUltra, and Lee Harvey Oswald’s true motivations…” And while that means we’ll have to contend living with shattered minds, it also means that Simpson has provided some truly great art, including this cover. Is it as inherently brain-melting as some of the other variants (like this one and this one)? Maybe not. But it’s also a head trip visually while expanding brilliantly on the core aesthetic and mission statement of this singular series. It could be an ad for old-timey cigarettes, or a warning of some terrible brain-stealing underground terrorist group. Either way, things are about to get totes trippy.

Supermassive #1

Cover by Igor Monti and Francesco Manna

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

Forget whatever’s about to happen to the Justice League. (OK, don’t as it’s important and likely to be good.) But Image Comics has a clear candidate for the crossover event of the year with Supermassive. The kooky brain-child of a slew of talent (Kyle Higgins, Mat Groom, Ryan Parrott, Francesco Manna, Igor Monti, etc.), the story brings together Inferno Red Girl, Rogue Sun, and Radiant Black in what’s basically the beginning of Image’s proper superhero universe. So just what will happen as their worlds are slammed together in this epic one-shot? Well, based on some of the variant covers, there’ll be dope motorcycles involved, or lots of flying. But what makes Igor and Manna’s main cover such a standout is that it stripes a lot of that down “business” and lets us see the pure majesty of these three heroes coming together. Like a massive explosion of anime and old-school Power Rangers, it doesn’t so much tickle the brain as it blasts it with a wave of alien magic energy. And this is only the cover!

Aquamen #1

Cover by Travis Moore

Judging by the Cover

Sure, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom isn’t slated to come out until December of this year. But that’s more than enough time to launch a new kind of Aquaman title — Aquamen! As you might have guessed, the story (from the creative team of writers Brandon Thomas and Chuck Brown and artist Sami Basri) focuses on two water-based heroes, Arthur Curry and Jackson Hyde. Together, the pair must crack a case involving Atlantean sleeper cells and some massive global conspiracy. And there’s no better way to celebrate this story’s debut than with an initial cover (from Travis Moore) that looks like the sleekest movie poster ever. There’s lots of heroes looking both hugely powerful and vaguely romantic; the menace of a proper bad guy with Black Manta; and even a little playfulness with Aquababy/child. If they just slapped this up at my nearest cinema, I’d clearly go see Lost Kingdom in a heartbeat. But in the meantime I’m going to read this comic book and enjoy the heck out of it.

Dark Ages #5

Cover by Iban Coello

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

I was a little late to the party, but I only saw Venom: Let There Be Carnage over Christmas. And while I liked the whole flick, I really loved Carnage — he was a great villain thanks to a dash of comedy, Woody Harrelson’s performance, and the fact that this monster always looks slimy. Like, the worst thing about Carnage — and that’s say a metric tonne — is that he’s physically imposing as well as just slightly stomach-churning. And that trend continues with Dark Ages #5, in which Carnage is… well, I don’t know, actually. I’m a little behind on this story, but based on the cover (that is what we do around here, after all) he’s both merged with Venom and trying to absorb Deadpool while also violently fighting them. And, really, that fits the crimson Symbiote to a tee, and it’s just another chance to show how much power his appearance and general physicality has in making him such an effective bad guy. Seriously, someone give the guy a towel (if you can dare to get that close).

Orphan and the Five Beasts #4

Cover by James Stokoe

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

It’s been a few months since issue #3 of Orphan and the Five Beasts. And it’s been almost a year since issue #2. What’s all that mean? That writing and drawing a series like this is a challenge, and we should cut James Stokoe some slack. Because even if we have to wait another year until issue #5 debuts (assuming this isn’t the actual end and it’s all a giant tease), it’s more than worth it for this weird and wild story that’s basically “part Five Deadly Venoms and part surreal grindhouse.” Case in point: the cover to issue #4 is among the most gory and gorgeous images from this entire story (and that’s saying heaps), as Stokoe captures his core aesthetic and influences in one utterly brilliant image. It’s both meant to unsettle and somehow inspire, and Stokoe’s work in building this world and the story within it has been a masterclass in great body horror, proper character development/interplay, and how to celebrate things (like martial arts films) while making something new. Please let there be more!

Step by Bloody Step #1

Cover by Matias Bergara

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

You may have already seen some of your favorite creators talking about this series on Twitter, and rightfully so. The creative team of Si Spurrier, Matias Bergara, and Matheus Lopes have hit a veritable grand slam, and this one of the most beautiful, stirring, and poignant books I’ve read in a long time (and maybe ever). This text-free tale does deeply amazing things in terms of narrative and character and world-building, and it’s a treat to spend an hour (or four) just starring away and letting the world grow in your head. Now, maybe you’re still unsure of all that hype, especially given the main cover is, um, mostly underwhelming. But don’t be fooled at all, as the cover actually sets the stage for the story with sheer brilliance. It’s a minimalist entry into the wonder and beauty to come, and a teaser for its influences, overall look, and the pure heart at the very center of this story. If you never believe me again, I promise this cover and the resulting issue will have you swooning like a fool. It’s comics magic, and we should all wish for more books like this in the world.

We Ride Titans #2

Cover by Sebastián Piriz

Judging by the Cover – 02/23/22 new releases

I mostly thought that We Ride Titans would be another recent entry into the sudden explosion of kaiju-centric comic books. But while it does deliver and then some in regards to giant robots fighting massive monsters, it’s so much more than that, and the book tackles romance and family relationships in such a novel and compelling way. Can you tell as much from the main cover to the series’ second issue? Maybe not, though it does hint at some important story threads and interactions between main characters. And that’s sort of what makes this such a great book so far: it creates a story that you want to follow, and by keeping things tight and cohesive, it makes the reader engage with the story in order to uncover all the rich layers and general subtext and nuances. Once you’ve done a little work, though, the book more than rewards your efforts. Plus, you still get to see dope kaiju fights, and that’s like eating a sundae with heaps of candy on top.

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