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.
The Nice House on the Lake #9
Cover by Alvaro Martinez Bueno
It’s sort of hard to believe we’re already nine books into The Nice House on the Lake. If you’re like me, even if you’re mostly up to date, some small part of your brain is still reeling from the initial events in the story, and how this all feels like such a truly powerful take on deeply human horror. But not all of that has been the story from James Tynion IV, and just as much credit goes to artist Alvaro Martinez Bueno, whose interiors and covers have fostered the tension and beauty at the very menacing heart of this book. Case in point: the cover to issue #9. That highly stylized yet nonetheless imperfect style; the horror and the mundanity smashing into one another so very loudly; and the sense of extreme proximity this image facilitates — all of it together creates this truly visceral experience that’s heightened once you actually manage to crack the cover. It’s hard to avoid the covers in this series, but this one especially feels like a singular example of Martinez Bueno’s skills as a master manipulator of humanity and reality itself. I’d say read at your caution, but you’re going to regardless.
Cover by Marc Aspinall
I’ve commented a few times on this book, despite not having read it yet. (If it helps, I hear about its overall amazing accomplishments/tendencies with the frequency usually reserved for some Batman book.) But while I’m out of the loop into the story’s development — likely wonderful and wild given the bibliography of Phillip Kennedy Johnson — I’ve been a more than apt student with the actual covers. Specifically, I’ve maintained a really deep love for the increasingly interesting cover choices of artists like Marc Aspinall, who this month has opted to pay terrifying homage to Queen II (aka the album cover that would be brought to life in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” music video). I mean, it’s not all horrifying, as the character’s face did make me chuckle quite heartily. Or, that proves I’m actually a bad person, and thus the cover achieves perhaps its larger, unseen goal of exemplifying what’s really monstrous in this world. Either way, that combination of pop culture landmarks and emotional duality is deeply effective, and shows why the art for this book has been such a blast to follow. Talk about “no escape from reality,” amirite?!
The Scorched #6
Cover by Björn Barends
I saw Todd McFarlane during a weekend panel at my local comic/pop culture convention, Phoenix Fan Fusion. Among some other tidbits — a Spawn movie is coming; McFarlane operates on spite to maintain his record for “longest-running creator-owned superhero comic book” — he mentioned his writing schedule. More specifically, he had to leave the con right away to finish writing Spawn #330. Now, I understand that the rest of the Spawn “universe” books, including The Scorched, don’t operate on the same schedule, and McFarlane gives his “staff” ample time (at least, that’s what I hope.) But if you work with someone that busy, and who needs to work with such razor-thin margins, it likely means you’re working in a slightly expedited manner — or at least a pace that’s as frenetic as McFarlane himself. And if that is indeed the case, it only makes the work of artist Björn Barends all the more impressive as he delivers another truly gorgeous cover for The Scorched. Issue #6’s cover, especially, is already a series highlight, and feels both brutally direct and deceptively more complicated in furthering this extra wild corner of the Spawn-verse. You don’t need more from a comic then “undead knight battles squishy demons,” but this level of depth and detail makes this all the more scrumptious visual snack.
The Phalanx #1
Cover by Jonathan Luna
Jonathan Luna has been a mainstay at Image Comics for some time, and his books (including The Sword and Alex + Ada) have helped define the publisher’s aesthetic and output starting in the 2010s. Now, Luna gets to show the depth of his Image-centric appreciation with The Phalanx, a one-shot superhero homage as part of the publisher’s ongoing 30th anniversary celebration. The story, about a mercenary named Spur joining forces with a “famous superhero team,” is previewed by this truly excellent cover. Does it feel like a great (albeit slightly updated) entry into Image’s canon of over-the-top superhero titles? Sure does. But more than that, Luna does something really novel by fostering more personality than some other Image titles he’s celebrating. (Not to mention, there’s some actual diversity here compared to, say, Wildcats.) I can practically feel the Magneto-esque character in the front is actually some Type A, overly anxious micro-manager. Or, Blue Eyes in the back is just so cool that it practically hurts his very hear and soul. Even if I’m wrong, the point remains: it’s a powerful, deeply effective homage to a great publisher, and the reason why Image still reigns supreme.
The Closet #1
Variant Cover by Michael Avon Oeming
It may be Images’ big 30th anniversary, but they’re not spending the whole year commemorating the past. There’s been some truly amazing new books out, and another seemingly obvious addition to that list is the three-part The Closet from writer James Tynion IV and artist Gavin Fullerton (Bags). The book follows a man who moves his family cross-country to escape some baggage — only to find his young son, Jamie, has become a target for some nasty monsters lurking in the closet. The team behind this “existential familial horror” rolled out some great covers in honor of issue #1. That includes this cute-but-creepy piece from Chris Uminga; this dash of psychedelic madness from Joseph Schmalke; a somehow more terrifying take on Coraline from Ivan Tao; and this, um, delightfully absurd option from Nuno Pereira. But the tip o’the hat has to to go to the variant from Michael Avon Oeming. Not only is that cover direct in its presentation of an iconic horror image, but that titled door is a subtle but powerful way to play with your sense of reality and overall perceptions. Good luck sleeping after this title debuts.
Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1
Variant Cover by Chris Burnham
On June 7, after months of build and hype galore, DC will finally unveil the Dark Crisis event. But before that, a slew of creators — including Brandon Thomas, Leila Del Duca, Dan Jurgens, Stephanie Phillips, and event mastermind Joshua Williamson, among many others — have joined forces for Justice League: Road to Dark Crisis #1. Here, we get to see “a world without a Justice League” while the creators finish setting the stage for the hell to come with Dark Crisis proper. So, while DC didn’t really go all out with cover options — there’s this pretty standard cover from Alejandro Sánchez and this somewhat elegant piece from Rafael Sarmento — this variant by Chris Burnham is an utterly excellent choice. We not only get the reality-blurring Pariah reading the DCU’s literal past, but there’s just so much personality abounding here (even if that personality involves stacking your long boxes like some degenerate fiend). It’s a small gesture, but it feels like DC is at least partially aware of their history with these big, universe-re-writing events, and by showing a little self-awareness and ample humor, maybe this one will excel where some others failed (coughCountdowncough). Things ahead may be dark, but they’re not entirely bleak, folks.
Ghost Rider #3
Cover by Kael Ngu
Unless you’re old enough, and/or spent a lot of long, lonely Friday nights watching bad movies, you may not get the reference on the cover to Ghost Rider #3. It’s 1986’s Maximum Overdrive, in which a gaggle of strangers — including one Emilio Estevez — are terrorized by sentient trucks (that had been affected by a comet-induced radiation storm). Only Kael Ngu’s taken the whole concept to another level entirely, and what was a slightly hokey gimmick is made all the more ferocious and unsettling, as if the demonic truck will keep driving right off the page to eat you right there on your couch or your other preferred comic reading spot. It’s the same creepy-but-cheesy energies that permeate the story proper, as Johnny Blaze deals with the twin-headed threat of the FBI and a “nightmarish trucker.” That’s just one reason why this series is already hugely promising so early on: all of it together feels like a joyous celebration of good-bad horror, vintage comics, and ’80s-style aggression.
New Think #1
Cover by Rahzzah
I may have said this this before — or possibly never to another living soul — but metaphors are doozy. If you’re too on the nose, you’re basically assaulting your reader with a hardcover book where every page reads, “I think you’re an idiot.” But if you’re not deliberate enough, the meaning gets lost entirely. In the case of New Think, I think this five-issue, “Black Mirror-style anthology” has done a good enough job. The entire series “examines the rapid proliferation of technology” as well as how technocrats have made our culture desperate to “present the present as something…futuristic.” So, turning the Garden of Eden into a vessel for a commentary on the harmful influence of an Apple-style company is just brunt enough to land with some oomph without cracking your sternum (that’s actually your interest and level of immersion). Could they have overdone it with, like, a snake that looked like Steve Jobs? Sure, and it would have been funny for .5 seconds at best. But is the whole Apple-to-apple comparison also still a little derivative? Absolutely, even if it’s done in such a visually pleasing/compelling way. The end result is a good enough example of these visual metaphors, and something worth reading — at least until the book chokes us with more overt analogies and criticisms.
Cyberpunk 2077: Blackout #1
Cover by Roberto Ricci
I didn’t play that much of Cyberpunk 2077, but I did read all the reviews to uncover its biggest problem. No, it’s not all those dang bugs; it’s the whole look and feel of the book. For something that seemed to be all about that William Gibson-inspired cyberpunk aesthetic, it all just looked to sleek and sexy in its ramshackle approach to sci-fi to feel like it could properly honor the genre. Color and weirdness are cool and all that, but the game felt like it was just trying too hard to be true cyberpunk (or its idea of what that meant). Which is why I am excited for Cyberpunk 2077: Blackout #1, from writer Bartosz Sztybor and artist Roberto Ricci. It’s the cover to #1 that demonstrates to me that the duo may have a sturdier understanding of what makes for a less flashy take on cyberpunk. Like, the sheer bleakness that you can feel radiate off the page. Or, the “splashes” of undiscernible cultural influences. Even the mix of new-school and old-world that fosters a sense of tension throughout the page. It all makes for something that feels more interested in using the “genre” as a tool for storytelling as opposed to some excuse to have cybernetic arms and guns with irksome A.I. assistants. Not that those kinds of things aren’t still kind of cool, though.
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