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.
Gunslinger Spawn #11
Cover by Puppeteer Lee
If you take a peep at this latest cover from Gunslinger Spawn, you may think you’re staring down the barrel of another of my world-famous rants about ’90s comics. And, yes, this design does scream peak ’90s energy — even the artist, a so-called Puppeteer Lee — has a moniker that would only be acceptable circa 1997. But I think this cover here transcends such chronological simplicity; it’s distinctly Spawn in nature. Which is to say, it feels like an homage to late ’80s black metal; cheesy westerns; a pinch or two of distinctly Image aesthetics also from mid-1994; and a hodgepodge of other ideas and influences of the geeky and doubly geek variety. No one creator has cultivated this aesthetic like Todd McFarlane, and even if he’s not actually on art duty, it’s covers like this that prove his ideas and energy will live on no matter where Spawn and his ilk travel. Also, I don’t know what’s more scary here: the demon mouth in the horse’s chest area or the fact that the animal looks so dang ripped.
Damage Control #1
Cover by Carlos Pacheco and Rachelle Rosenberg
In my many years of reading and writing about comics, I’ve never seen a book featuring the worlds “From the creator of TV’s The Goldbergs.” (And I’ve seen a lot of weird, comics-centric stuff in my day, including whatever is going on here.) I’m not against the idea either; the crossover between comics and TV is pretty sturdy (if not somehow still complicated and nuanced), and that holds doubly true if it’s a fairly entertaining creator like Adam F. Goldberg and his wacky family comedy. There’s a lot to love about this cover, and hopefully the way it hints at and sets up this latest iteration of Marvel’s glorified team of super-janitors. Like, the not-so-subtle nod to The Usual Suspects; the perfectly sized Nightcrawler; whatever is occurring between Moon Knight and Quicksilver; and that She-Hulk seems hugely unbothered on a number of levels — it all feels like silly comics shtick that’s actually done right. If we’re going to tell a really silly, slightly stupid story like this, only someone with TV experience can really capture that in a way that’s both subtle and also somewhat over-the-top. I can almost hear the laugh tracking just staring at the cover.
Minor Threats #1
Cover by Scott Hepburn
And speaking of non-traditional creators of slightly wacky comics, we come to a long anticipated book from Dark Horse Comics. Minor Threats is the brain-child of writers Patton Oswalt and Jordan Blum, two Hollywood types who are, conveniently enough, no strangers to writing comics. But they’re still known for their work in TV and comedy, and thus this book looks like it’s going to be of the same camp as Damage Control: lots of humor (of the nerdy variety) and a non-traditional approach to storytelling and worldbuilding. But don’t just think that Minor Threats is just going to be more silly shtick; it’s got a lot of potential. I mean, the story alone — ragtag squad of supervillains join forces to beat one of their own and prevent an overeager superhero team from crimping their style — is already creative enough. Then, we add in a proper comics vet like Scott Hepburn (Flash, Nova, Detective Comics, etc.) to handle the art. And handle it he has, as the cover alone balances the quaint and silly with the weird and wonderful. (Makes me think of an indie take on The Invisibles or Doom Patrol — or is that already The Umbrella Academy?) Again, this cover is another solid piece of evidence why so-called non-industry greats should take a crack at making comics magic.
The Lonesome Hunters #3
Cover by Tyler Crook
I’m pretty sure I’ve covered the previous two covers of Tyler Crooks’ great solo comic debut. (You check, though, as I’ve got better things to do.) And how could you ever blame me for being this compelled? Ignore the book itself — a thoughtful and poignant examination of legacies and unlikely friendships — and just focus on the covers alone. The other two were damn solid, and here Crook really steps things up. And what better timing, as the pair of Lupe and Howard are set for a huge confrontation with an “ancient creature” that just might have answers for our intrepid duo. Crook’s work here does a splendid job of balancing the many ideas at the heart of this book. There’s a depth and grit here that’s offset by the unmistakable sense that things are also very wrong here. Or, the way that light and dark interact, and how it fosters both a sense of hope and intimacy as well as, once more, being downright unsettling. Crook knows this book and it’s larger vibe and mission so well, and the covers feel like a powerful encapsulation of the important work he’s trying to do. Just be sure to read the book proper and not spend all your time taking in the cover.
Cover by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor
If you like fairy tale-esque stories and a heaping helping of psychedelics, you’re in the right place. The actual series is called Lesser Evils, and it explores a world featuring, among other fantastical tidbits, a “golem with benefits, a spiraling genie, a demon who feeds on bad vibes.” The titular Emmett of episode one is the aforementioned golem, who is summoned into the art studio of Lydia during a, um, post-breakup experimentation with some kind of natural earth magic? Nevermind all that (except don’t, because it all sounds so amazing), and just enjoy a true preview of this story with the cover from Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor. In a book this packed with supernatural wonder and oddities, I think this deeply beautiful cover is a solid choice. Maybe it doesn’t have that same hook as the solicitation, but it’s got a kind of joy and playfulness to the aesthetic that I hope is at least somewhat reflected in the book itself — hopefully to ground and maybe even round-out some of that outright gimmickry involved. And even if it doesn’t, this cover still checks all the boxes (attractiveness, sense of wonder, how much curiosity it fosters, etc.) for a solid comic. Also, golems rule.
Meta: Metalinguistic Crimes Division #1
Cover by Brao
If there’s anything I love as much as dunking on ’90s comics and/or Cyclops, it’s talking about metatextual stuff. And so if you call your book Meta, you know I’m going to be more interested than ::something relevant and deeply meta::. Without spooling too much, it’s basically about a writer and her brother who get sucked into one of her comics after her boyfriend is killed — and there’s also a group of “meta-crimes” detectives/police involved. That’s enough to make my head already start spinning, but then we go and have this cover. Whether it’s the looks on the character’s faces, or the sense that this piece is half-finished for a very distinct reason, I really love the overall inventiveness and the overt sense of creative exploration. (I also love that it gives off some very subtle Seinfeld vibes, and that only makes me think it’s another tasty touch of meta goodness.) Is talking about a book like this also another layer to its meta storytelling? Or is just the mere acknowledgement of that idea also somehow meta? I’m going to go lay down while you ponder that mystery and this excellent cover.
Detective Comics #1063
Variant Cover by Yoshitaka Amano
It only took a few issues, but the duo of Ram V. and Rafael Albuquerque made a very weird Batman story. (And they couldn’t have done it without equally bonkers backups from Si Spurrier and Dani.) In fact, it’s just their second issue of the “Gotham Nocturne” story, as Batman finds himself amidst a kind of “gothic opera” as he butts head (or is that heads?) with Harvey Dent to explore the very heady question of if and why Gotham needs the Caped Crusader in the first place. It’s not a place Batman always winds up, but this sort of existential, slightly left of center story always generates some great character development. (I’m thinking like the Denny O’Neil-penned “Prey” story from the ’90s version of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight.) So, why Evan Cagle’s main cover is appropriately gorgeous, I think this variant from Yoshitaka Amano is much better fight. Is it gorgeous and yet also a little unsettling? Sure sure. Does it perhaps involve several layers of meaning? I’d surely hope so — even if a direct interpretation would be amazing. And does it cast Batman in some strange light for us to explore his inner workings? Word. Now, just imagine how crazy things might get in just a few more issues.
A Calculated Man #3
Cover by Alberto Alburquerque
OK, let me be the first to say that math is stupid. Sure, it’s valuable to, like, figure out the speed of jet planes or balance your checkbook, but in comics it doesn’t always make for the most appealing hook. Except, of course, we’re talking about A Calculated Man, from Paul Tobin and Alberto Alburquerque. It’s about a super math genius who, after working for the mob, decides to go clean — at which point he uses his totes amazing calculator skills to fend off said mob. It’s sort of feels like Good Will Hunting meets The Transporter, and that’s a book/movie/film/etc. I’d pay handsomely to see. But in the meantime, I’ll just settle for this pretty amazing cover to issue #3. I wouldn’t have guessed that a story about a math assassin would be so playful, but here we are with the numbers as set pieces and the creative teams’ names turned into little equations. That slight shift toward the “silly” makes me wonder just how this book plays out, and that could translate into picking this up down the road. Because if we’re going to do a book like this, a cover like this proves that the creative team have done the math and just might be in on the joke themselves.
Rogues’ Gallery #2
Cover by Erica Henderson
I know this is Judging by the Cover, but I have to momentarily turn it into Judging by I Already Read The First Issue a Few Times. That’s because I really tried to like the debut, which set the stage for a gang super-fans to rob the home of an actress in a show about their favorite comic — only for things to go predictably wrong. Yet despite that deeply solid premise, the first issue just doesn’t land, and it feels a bit uneven in the pacing and setup of it all. But I’m going to keep on with the book based almost exclusively from this second issue cover by Erica Henderson. I love so many things about it: the way it hints at the violence-as-filtered-through-our-digital age; the slight homage to pop art (again, commenting on and playing with our shared sense of time); and just the mish-mash and comparison of glamour with overt societal violence. All together, this cover feels like a perfect encapsulation of what the hook/plot had promised, and a sign that perhaps things can get going now that we’re done with the “introduction.” Time will tell if any of this is true, but it’s a solid enough start and more proof just why impactful covers can be so valuable.
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