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.
Superman: Space Age #1
Cover by Michael Allred
If you couldn’t tell by my recent interview, I am officially jazzed about Superman: Space Age. After years of not really getting the Man of Steel (I get it, though — he’s a multifaceted Boy Scout), the collabo between Mark Russell and Michael Allred really hit home. It helps that it’s a story steeped in history, with a Superman who hasn’t figured it all out and is trying to react and respond to an ever-shifting socio-political landscape. It also helps that it’s just so dang pretty to look at, as evidenced alone by Allred’s debut cover. He’s managed to both capture the power and significance of Superman while also portraying him as a bit unsettled and even confused — the perfect mixture of sentiments and emotions for a hero trying to find his place in the world. The rest of the book feels just as epic, but this cover especially speaks volumes. Also, did anyone think for a second Supes was actually crushing our little blue-and-green home?
Variant Cover by Kael Ngu
The mere mention of Gambit is enough to get me interested. He’s a Cajun thief who throws exploding playing cards, and he’s spent his whole career wooing folks, being an understated badass, and generally serving as an effective supporting character. (Also, he was the best Horseman for a hot minute.) But now we get to see Remy LeBeau take the spotlight for himself, in a brand-new series from the legendary writer Chris Claremont that sees the, er, “Ragin’ Cajun” adventure with a younger Storm in a pre-X-Men saga. And what better way to start the era of Gambit then with a slew of cover options? Sure, there’s the sweet main cover from the equally iconic Alex Sinclair and Whilce Portacio. Or, this slice of old-school goodness from Larry Houston, or the similar, ’90s cartoon-esque piece from Salvador Larroca. But for this fella’s money, you can’t go wrong with this Kael Ngu variant. It may not seemingly have anything to do with the story itself, but never before has the badass essence of Gambit been so readily displayed in one near-perfect image. With love, eat your hats, Cyclops fans.
ORCS!: The Curse #2
Cover by Christine Larsen
If you didn’t read the first Orcs, artist-writer Christine Larsen delivered a mostly whimsical but nonetheless “dark” tale of a group of mischievous orcs who had adventures across a mythical landscape. For the follow-up series, grand adventure once more ensues when the orcs try to throw a dance party only to get involved with unleashing a dark and ancient curse. Based on the cover to the second issue of the aptly-titled The Curse, it’s hard to tell what’s a curse and what’s not just, like, a really dope acid trip gone moderately awry, and I think that’s maybe the point. The design and overall aesthetics of both books has been about balancing ideas — the creepy and the cute, the dark and playful, etc. — and this latest cover really doubles down on that (even if it does initially seem to be a psychedelic emotional nightmare). You’ve got to give it to Larsen: she knows how to make orcs more than mere fantasy fodder.
The Hollows #1
Cover by Sam Kieth
If you’re a long-time fan of writer-artist Sam Kieth, you’ll recognize The Hollows. If you’re a newbie, however, there’s two things you need to know: this is supposedly a new story from Kieth (and writer Chris Ryall) after the original The Hollows was published about a decade ago with IDW and 2) you’re not ready for this. The story itself involves formerly human “husks” stalking a “dystopian near-future Japan,” where a young girl and her “pet” get tangled up with a “discredited scientist” and the story madness begins in full. Still think you can handle that? Just peep Kieth’s cover, which in a career of vivid and unsettling imagery (see The Maxx), feels like a true accomplishment. Maybe it’s all that vivid detail in the wing suit; the Tintin-esque vibes of the young girl; and whatever that creature is eating or spewing out of its face hole — it’s Kieth’s trademark weirdness with an added edge of playfulness and intensity. Even if you still feel wildly unprepared, do yourself a favor and pick this up regardless.
Detective Comics #1062
Variant Cover by Lee Bermejo
It’s a new era on Detective Comics, and the sheer talent attached would stupefy more than if they did a shot-for-shot remake of Batman Forever. Writer Ram V. and artist Rafael Albuquerque take over the main story (with writer Simon Spurrier and artist Dani on the backup), and the pair hit the ground running for a much-lauded run with the “Gotham Nocturne” arc. Sure, the other covers — like Evan Cagle’s main piece and this In-Hyuk Lee variant — do a much more effective job at hinting at the arc’s gothic undertones and usage and/or references to music/opera. But the nod has to go to this excellent Lee Bermejo variant. For one, it still screams “gothic” energies (I mean, he’s hanging with gargoyles and bats amid the pre/post-sunset skyline). But more than that, I love the kind of DIY, slightly ramshackle approach to the Batsuit — it feels like Phantom of the Opera meets Castlevania meets The Batman (if that’s not redundant). It’s got the right vibes to compliment the story, and it’s a stark enough image to help ring in an era that could be a shot in the arm for this title.
Star Wars: Obi-Wan #3
Cover by Phil Noto
If you’re Obi-Wan Kenobi, there’s problem more than a few horror stories you could bust out. And that’s exactly what this Christopher Cantwell-penned series is all about — letting the world’s most handsome Jedi share his life and how he became the complicated, hermit-inclined man most of us will always know him to be. (No matter what the Disney+ series may have done.) But of all the stories we can hear, it seems like issue #3 could be extra heartbreaking, as Obi-Wan recounts the Battle of Abrion Bridge, or one of his most painful and bloody memories with vaguely menacing references about “lasting consequences.” When I peep this cover from Phil Noto, I see not just a kind of confidence (and maybe a dash of hubris?) but also a sense of quiet desperation and a minor disconnect with the moment. It’s the look of a man who knows what’s about to happen (at least on some level), and he’s trying to put on a good face for everyone else. Sure, a lot of my reading comes from hindsight, but the point is this is no mere pre-battle pose, but a cover that dissects the state of Obi-Wan with both depth and a ruthless efficiency.
Radiant Black #16
Cover by Marcelo Costa
Here’s where I’d say, “If you’re not reading Radiant Black,” only I have a pretty solid feeling that enough people are, and rightfully so. It’s a really interesting take on both superhero comics and tokusatsu-adjacent media, and all that bright and shiny action is just as vital as both the sturdy character development and the overall world-building. The book is so good it’s even done a really great job with the so-called “villains,” those individuals who’ve basically bought Radiant Black-esque powers for their own needs (knocking off banks, funding research, etc.) The so-called “EpicFront empire” look cool as hell on this Marcelo Costa cover — so much so that they feel both more badass and somehow more developed than even the actual titular hero (kinda). But even if that’s not entirely the case, it demonstrates both a greater sense of detail and an attention to true world-building that makes this whole title feel extra special. It’s mostly a tiny thing, but having villains that are cool and menacing and also genuine individuals elevates them as mere throwaways, and that’s a thing not every series can admit to facilitating.
I Hate This Place #3
Cover by Artyom Topilin and Lee Loughridge
There’s so many things at play that help make this still-young series feel really fresh and vibrant. For one, the name alone is great, and speaks volumes about its overall attitudes and emphasis on irony and humor. Then there’s also the fact it involves a lesbian couple as the protagonists, something that doesn’t happen enough in most fiction but horror to boot. But I think the thing that most makes it stand out — and that’s even ignoring the great kinds of horror portrayed in issues #1 and 2 — is that the creators spin in other genres of fiction to spice things up. Take, for instance, the cover to issue #3, which nicely previews how this chapter includes Gabby and Trudy calling on “famous ghost hunter Dante Howitzer” (amazing name, BTW) to help with their, uh, lil’ ghost problem. It made me think of some weird remake of Jurassic Park, not to mention a late ’80s action film and maybe a lost episode of the Adam West-starring Batman (it’s the letters, mostly.) The fact that this series can do that and pull it off so effectively proves why it’s so dang entertaining.
Bloodborne: The Lady of the Lanterns #1
Variant Cover by Piotr Kowalski
I get that this is mostly a comics-centric feature, but I want to talk about video games for a second. While I haven’t tackled a new title since pre-COVID, watching let’s play videos of Bloodborne have been an extra joyous treat. Not only is it basically body horror galore, but I don’t have to actually play, and thus my sanity remains intact. But now I get to bypass all the terrible commentary of VideoGameDude69 and read a brand-new Bloodborne comic. Not only that, but it features returning artist Piotr Kowalski paired with horror kingpin Cullen Bunn, as the pair explore both the hunters and “normal” families within the boundaries of Yharnam. Kowalski’s own variant cover captures the same kind of magic of watching someone else play, but his particular aesthetic has a dash of old-school gaming nostalgia; a tinge or two manga; and a clear emphasis on grit and depth to balance all that body horror intensity. It feels perfectly suited for celebrating games and comics alike, and that balancing act is more satisfying than blasting any fiend with a magic blunderbuss.
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