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.
Variant Cover by David Talaski
Since Bruno Redondo and Tom Taylor took over way back in issue #78, there’s been a sudden uptick in the total number of “cutesy” Nightwing covers. That includes plenty of adorable and appropriately “risqué” choices; heck, this issue alone has a variant cover that sees Dick Grayson going full on suns-out-guns-and-buns-out. But, as I’ve mentioned before, these covers work, and they lend a charm and playfulness to a series that already has heaps of fun with the character. But this issue’s a little more serious — we’re gearing up to revisit Heartless as that brand-new baddie is finally set to to some big, heart-related things — and thus the choice of cover should be a little more serious. (Sorry, totes swole Nightwing.) But not too serious, of course, and this playful variant from David Talaski feels like it was ripped from almost any day in the life of Nightwing. And if the fact that he also hadn’t picked a plain bagel (the breakfast of real champions), the whole cover also has a “this was painted in the late Victorian era alt reality where superheroes actually existed” kind of vibe. Evildoers (and pigeons) beware — Nightwing is on the prowl!
Cover by Dean White and Joshua Cassara
I’ve talked a lot of crap about ’90s comics before — and I won’t apologize or stop. As someone who came of age when they thought it was a good idea to do ish like this, I just don’t get a lot of the very specific kind of exaggerated tendencies of that era. (Read: pecs the size of a small Howitzer, and enough pockets to choke a giraffe.) But if you’re going to maybe play with some of those ’90s-esque energies, I think this cover for the landmark issue of X-Force is the right sort of path forward (or is that backward? Ha!) With so much going on in the issue — Deadpool debuts! There’s fallout from the Hellfire Gala! Kraven the Hunter’s involved?! — Dean White and Joshua Cassara have done a phenomenal job of balancing it all. Whether that’s the extra kooky, doubly meta contributions of the Merc with a Mouth; the wonderfully begrudging appearance from everyone’s favorite surly uncle, Wolverine; or whatever’s happening with Domino/Black Tom/Omega Red, it all feels like some of the zany ’90s work but grounded with a bit more actual grit and a dash or two of nuance. The end result is a proper homage that’s not too obvious, and that’s just how we should all reminisce about the ’90s.
Barbaric: Axe to Grind #1
Variant Cover by Aaron Campbell
If you never read Barbaric, I almost pity you. It’s a bloody and charming (and extra bloody) tale of a cursed barbarian named Owen and his talking Axe (and eventually the magical Soren) who right wrongs in the world by separating baddies from their pesky craniums making all those dumb decisions. It’s weird and dark — and did I mention bloody? — but it’s also sort of uplifting as well, with Owen trying to do good in a world where that’s increasingly rare and complicated. With this second arc, Team Axe have to deal with Gladius, an old foe of Owen who is wreaking havoc on the land. Now, I could have chosen any of the kickass covers options to celebrate the occasion, like Nathan Gooden’s extra slick main cover; this sweet Conan-esque piece from Darick Robertson; or even this piece from Dani that makes me think of both zombies and 300. But ultimately, the nod had to go to Aaron Campbell for this truly barbaric piece. Does it perhaps lean a little more grim and serious than the actual book? For sure, even though, as I may have mentioned, things do get very bloody extra fast. If anything, this cover works because it primes the mind for a certain kind of insanity to come, and even if the book also makes you LOL, you’re moderately ready for something to cut you practically in twain.
20th Century Men #1
Cover by S. Morian
If you’re in my line of work (read: obsessively thinking about comics covers), sometimes you get to sit with a piece for weeks before you write about it. That’s been the case for 20th Century Men, which for the last couple months had occupied a special place in my imagination. If you can’t guess from the combat-centric cover, the series promises to follow a suite of characters — like a “superpowered American president” and a “Soviet ‘iron’ hero” — in a story mixing “history, politics, and comic book mythology into something totally new.” But all I’ve thought about is this one image, and it feels like it’s already burned a permeant spot in my comics-centric brain. I love the sense of grit and the unflinching approach to violence; the homegrown sci-fi aspects and that dash of cyberpunk-ian edge; the subtle callbacks to other series (I’m feeling Akira and The Manhattan Projects); and just the way I can ultimately experience a lot of this rich universe in one singular, powerful image. A lot of comics covers are great and intriguing, but this one’s captured something different, and it feels like it could be a thing we talk about for some time. Myself, I’m just glad that more of you out there now have to live with this image.
Heart Eyes #1
Variant Cover by Jenny Frison
And speaking of a series I’ve heard or thought about a lot recently, Heart Eyes is the latest from writer Dennis Hopeless, artist Victor Ibáñez, letter Simon Bowland, and colorist Addison Duke. It’s your standard love story — if humanity had been consumed by “sanity-eating monsters” and the last vestiges of our species “hide in the cracks of a broken world.” Based on the main cover from Ibáñez, it sort of feels like Little Shop of Horrors mixed with Romeo and Juliet and Dead Alive — which is the combination to my very heart. And other covers like this variant from Michael Dialynas or this other variant from Albert Monteys — really play up the Ghost World-ian vibes I get from the series. Yet I opted instead for the variant from Jenny Frison because it does what those other covers just can’t: go extra hard into the surreal teenage fantasy vibes. This cover is like a cover of Teen Beat from a hell dimension, or romance novels penned by Cthulhu — either way, I love and adore it the same. Love itself is pretty weird and dark sometimes, and I’m happy for a book that really plays with those notions to tell a vital story.
Promethee 13:13 #2
Cover by Jock
If you’re going to end the world, you can’t have assembled a better team. Promethee 13:13 is the brain-child of writer Andy Diggle and artist Shawn Martinbrough, who have united to tell a story about what people are willing to do to protect those they love as the End Times occur. As of issue #2, it’s a multi-faceted story taking place both in space (as we follow the crew of the Atlantis on a potentially doomed mission) as well as Earth (following a woman named Darla dealing with a group of naughty folks taking people prisoner). And if that star power wasn’t already more than capable, Jock rounds out issue #2 with this absolute beast of a cover. If the apocalypse weren’t scary enough, he focuses on the whole space angle, expertly showing how deeply terrifying the rest of the universe truly is without forgetting to include some level of peace and even serenity. Those emotions together can really jumpstart a lot of tension and storytelling magic, and the cover provides such a powerful screenshot that whatever the story accomplishes, it’s bound to grip readers with ample fear and beauty. In space, no one can hear you gasp in quiet perplexity.
Cover by Gary Frank
Does anyone else remember that fight scene in the first Avengers film, where Thor pins the Hulk to the floor of the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier with the power of Mjolnir? I hate that bit. Because, and I’m pulling from the CollegeHumor school of thought here, there’s so many people worthy of carrying the world’s greatest hammer. Hulk, for instance, is a guy who channels a literal rage monster into trying to save the world. Is this latest Hulk — let’s call him The Mighty Starship Hulk — any less worthy of wielding Mjolnir? No — and if anything, I’d argue that turning yourself into a living philosophical rocket ship is just more proof of Bruce’s worthiness (even if his aspirations and end goals are maybe a little wonky at best). All of that is my roundabout way of saying that, as we come to the grand finale of the “Banner of War” event/storyline, I’m clearly thinking a lot of about the Hulk-Thor rivalry, and this excellent cover only stokes those feelings with a cleanness and overall efficiency. I beat even you, dear reader, could wield Mjolnir if you just tried hard enough.
Batman: One Bad Day – The Riddler #1
Variant Cover by Jim Lee
By now, the collaboration between Tom King and Mitch Gerads has resulted in some truly transcendent comics work, including Strange Adventures and Mister Miracle. For their latest project, the pair are exploring The Riddler, that curious little bugger who is either Batman’s greatest cerebral rival or basically a walking joke. This time around, though, Gerads and King have opted for the former, as Riddler sets off a massive battle of the wits by killing a random citizen. It’s that storyline that has resulted in some great covers — including this excellent cover from Brian Bolland that has some real Frank Gorshin vibes — but the nod ultimately has to go to this extra slick piece from Jim Lee. Sure, the “villain beats Batman” visual metaphor/analogy is a little played, but the whole Riddler ghost-bots thing is a nice addition. More than that, though, I love the look on Mr. Nygma’s face: there’s a pained devastation there, and that kind of emotion and vulnerability is why Riddler is such a greater counter to the Dark Knight. Whatever does happen in this book, this cover alone proves it’ll be a good day, and not a bad one, for fans of more thoughtful takes on the Bat Canon.
Crossover #1 3D Special
Cover by Dee Cunniffe, Geoff Shaw, and John J. Hill
Say what you will about Crossover, but it’s certainly been extra eager in its approach to bashing down the walls of comic storytelling and fiction at-large with its mega metatextual approach. But now, the creative team at-large have knocked it out of the park and into Alpha Centauri by reissuing the very first issue — in 3D. That’s right, now you can read the dynamic first chapter — as well as a brand-new story from writer Donny Cates and guest artist Megan Hutchinson-Cates — as if the whole thing is exploding directly across your face. On the one hand, free 3D glasses in a comic book does make for a hella cool idea. Even if, I might add, the idea of 3D comics doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. (Because the world is bright and loud enough without my friends, the comic books, also trying to assault me.) If anything, I reckon I’ll just read this issue sans the glasses — it should make for a slightly jarring, moderately uneven experience, which sort of works perfectly for this very specific story. Now, Crossover team, call me when you break into the Fifth Dimension or whatever.
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