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.
Cover by Kendrick Lim
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “Putting a hat on hat.” It’s a totally unnecessary addition to a thing that’s already working on its own. That’s basically what this cover should be — you don’t need much to really make Carnage terrifying or intimidating. I mean, if you have a cover like this one here, you’re basically a shoe-in for “creature most likely to haunt mankind’s collective nightmares.” But since this issue is all about pushing the boundaries for an already mostly boundary-free Carnage, it makes sense that they’d do something like this. Effectively turning Carnage into a Viking lord of Hel is one kind of intense and visceral in and of itself. But to then go and basically have him humbling Malekith (who I thought for a second was the insanely better choice of Knull) somehow turns the amp up a few notches. The idea of Carnage having weapons that aren’t his own bodily goo seems odd, but this cover works because it stays true to some element of the character while enhancing the overall tension and drama. Happy ongoing 30th anniversary, Carnage; here’s to another terrifying three decades.
Variant Cover by Daniel Warren Johnson
If you caught our recent interview, artist Ryan Stegman readily embraced Vanish as a kind of extra loud celebration of ’90s comics. (He basically said it’s in the DNA of him and writer/collaborator Donny Cates, and it’s good to see they recognize the wild energies they’re channeling here.) And so, when it came time to nab some variant covers, it only made sense that they’d perhaps have the same mad ’90s energy as Stegman’s own main cover. That includes this great Greg Capullo cover, which really makes me think of the that PlayStation classic Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, and this Franck Uzan piece, which has the right sort of angst and nihilism depicted for the whole decade. And yet despite those, I had to give the nod to the excellent variant from Daniel Warren Johnson. Does it have some of that ’90s energy? For sure 00 that cross screams, “Lowkey interest in BDSM and religion like it’s still 1994.” But for the most part, it also feels like an ’80s metal album cover mixed with some mid-2000s My Chemical Romance vibes. And the end result still works perfectly, playing up some new ideas and aesthetic themes while still remaining very true to book’s core visual identity. Plus, capes like that are dope regardless of the era.
Cover by Bruno Redondo
Here’s how my brain works: if you’re gonna do the goofy gag, do the goofy gag all the dang way. So, in a truly perfect example, there’s Nightwing, which is all about (among many other things) Dick Grayson and his connection to the superhero world and how he’s basically the heart and soul of the DCU. And what better way to emphasize than than by having the cover of issue #96 reference and satire the iconic “logo” of The Brady Bunch. But here’s where the whole goofy gag comes in: it’s not enough to just do it, but does every character align with their corresponding original? Dick, for instance, is in the same spot as Marsha Brady — aside from the fact that Dick’s maybe bit more brooding, those two have decidedly similar energies. However, Batman is in the spot as Mike Brady — and that only works because they’re both the de facto dad. The rest are either pretty good matches — Jason Todd is basically the sometimes ignored Cindy Brady — or way off (why is Bitewing Carol Brady; and why are the Batgirls stuck sharing a panel?) But the cover still gets an A+ for effort for even making the comparison. And also for effectively saying you can be a great family even if you’ve tried to kill other members at one point or another.
20th Century Men #2
Cover by S. Morian
You may recall recently that, after weeks of having to wait and stew, I got to gush extra hard about the debut cover of 20th Century Men. And what a dang beaut of a cover it was — not only did it look like the most badass piece of alt-history propaganda, but it actually fit perfectly with the larger vibe of the book (which isn’t so much propaganda but a sleek-looking examination of how bloody terrible war and the latter of the 20th century proved to be). So, is the second cover from series artist S. Morian a worthy follow-up? Yes and no. Does it have the same kind of “punch you in the jaw with the arm of a soviet mech” kind of impact? Maybe not, and that’s something only a debut can ever truly capture. But does it still feel like a powerful visual message and encapsulation of the book itself? Heck yea. Whether it’s the flowers that somehow seem off, or the way the chopper-flying machines are depicted, this cover still feels like a powerful entry for this second chapter, and the perfect sort of storytelling device to go along with the narrative proper. Look at it this way: if the giant robot is the third best thing on your cover, you’re doing something right.
Cover by Morgan Beem
Sometimes indie comics do this thing where stories are basically, “What if it’s X, but with superpowers/superheroes?!” And, yes, to an extent, Crashing does fall victim to this trope a little bit; it’s basically “E.R. meets Powers.” But the book does a few things to help make it one of those sometimes uncommon titles that transcend the gimmicky confines to do something much more vital. The first is the addition of addiction into the storyline; Rose, the “main” doctor at the hospital, is on a kind of Nurse Jackie thing with substance abuse that really adds some new depth and subtext to the series. And the other is the art from cover/story artist Morgan Beem. The debut cover seems to check a few important bullets on the ol’ checklist: a sense of sitcom-y drama; just enough superpowers without feeling overwhelming; great, super expressive humanity and emotionality; a dash of politics; and a proper balance of color and visual cleanliness. It’s not overpowering or even massively eye-grabbing — it just sort of nails the assignment with grace, and that’s more than enough of a big-time accomplishment.
Azza The Barbed #1
Cover by Rio Burton
I get that these days, we have enough fantasy epics in comics to cover the floor of your average football stadium. But Azza The Barbed feels special regardless. Maybe it’s the whole story, which is supposedly about girl set to inherent some magic powers only to wind up covered in nasty barbs and exiled by her family. But maybe, in further playing up those supreme Disney princess vibes, the art itself (from Rio Burton) really pops here. Because the cover doesn’t just introduce us to this world but it does so in a few interesting ways. It’s the way we seem to mix aesthetics, cultural references, and all around settings. (Does anyone else get Avatar with Mulan here?) It’s the coloring and the tone, which feel both playful and nonetheless pretty deliberate and serious. But mostly it’s the look of Azza herself, who seems both distraught and yet resigned to her fate as a magical outcast. All of the pieces work exceptionally well together, and we get something that feels just novel enough to merit a halfway involved reading. The mark of these fantasy titles is that bravo and commitment, and this cover demonstrates Azza‘s got just enough of both.
Edge of Spider-Verse #4
Cover by Josemaria Casanovas
When the first issue of Edge of Spider-Verse debuted a few months back, I was pretty overjoyed. Not because I’m a big Spider-Man fan (I’m average height), but that it would be a novel chance to get extra weird, and if Peter Parker ain’t struggling, then measured weirdness is a great place for his whole canon. But even I didn’t think we could get something like this just four issues in. Because, yes, we have Spider-Ham, who feels like the LeBron James of weird shit in the Spider-Verse. But then that’s rounded out with Sun-Spider, who is a generally cool new addition to the ‘Verse and a great bit of representation. (Seriously, if you have a problem with web-shooter crutches, I want you to reevaluate this whole comics fandom thing.) And then, in a move that’s left field for a cover that’s all about left turns, we get Spider-Mobile, a toy I used to own and the answer to the question, “Can we make something that doesn’t make even the remotest bit of sense with this character?” All together, it’s a great instance of why I think this whole title is so needed and why getting a little kooky is always a great thing.
DC vs. Vampires: All-Out War #3
Cover by Alan Quah
Bane’s a weird character. In the books, he’s always been a bona fide badass, the sort of nemesis that’ll snap your spine and then, like, beat a henchman at chess while listening to Vivaldi. But outside of comics, his portrayals have always been a little off. Whether that’s something promising that was executed poorly (The Dark Knight Rises) or generally bad (Batman & Robin), the talkies just haven’t really known what to do with the masked genius and physical monster. (Even though it’s sillier than other versions, the Bane in the Harley Quinn cartoon is a national treasure.) So, in case you forgot just how badass Bane truly is, the cover to DC vs. Vampires: All-Out War #3 reminds you with a moment ripped out of World War Z if it had been made in the universe where all cheesy action flicks are actually great cinema. No one in the DCU would jump out of a window while fist-fighting 30 vamps and be able to muster that face of both anger and minor annoyance. It’s a snapshot of Bane’s true potential, and proof positive it doesn’t take much to show the heights of this character. Take notes, Hollywood.
Harley Quinn 30th Anniversary Special #1
Variant Cover by Amanda Conner
I hope you’re ready for one of the best times of the year: over-sized anniversary specials at DC! After some truly great ones in recent years for Batman, the Joker, and more, we arrive at the 30th anniversary of Harley Quinn, DC’s greatest redemption story and a singular source of violence, madness, heart, and assorted hijinks for some three decades. And in honor of Ms. Quinn’s big day, DC has once more rolled out the black-and-red carpet to celebrate. So, which cover among the many stands out as the best way to commemorate all things Harley? It was almost this piece from Brian Level and Jay Leisten, which shows either the best or worst birthday party ever. And it was just as nearly this slice of old-school goodness from Stanley Lau. Same for this different slice of meta madness from Adam Hughes; this little bit of hyena-starring cuteness from Frank Cho; and this little spin on traditional pin-ups from Sabine Rich. Ultimately, though, and as you may have already guessed, the winner by a nose was this Amanda Conner variant. Because there’s nothing like a little humility, humor, and self-awareness as we all get older. Plus, you got to love the cover that includes both a scared woodland creature and exploding cake. Happy 30th, Harley!
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