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.
Justice Society of America #1
Variant cover by Joe Quinones
Geoff Johns has written a ton amid his tenure with DC. But the series that I think stands out above the rest is his run on Justice Society of America, which honored the nostalgia inherent to the team/title and also brought about a bright new era. Now it seems like Johns (alongside an art team featuring Mikel Janin and Scott Kolins) is ready for his second act with another JSA series. This one, however, sees the creators mucking around with the very team’s structure, in a time-hopping tale that will have folks questioning just what makes the JSA so vital. And if you’re going to try and hint at all of that in a cover, you can’t do much better than this Joe Quinones piece. It’s clear that Quinones knows thing or two about depicting retro heroes, and his style does such a perfect job of exploring that sense of legacy while also playing around with its larger confines. Add in that sweet gold foil job, and this feels like an artifact of yesteryear and some mystery item from the future. This is past and present and future all blended up, and it’s pretty great.
Damn Them All #2
Variant cover by Tula Lotay
I don’t have to say much else about Damn Them All. I mean, I’ve been pretty open about how it has both style and razzle dazzle as well as heaps of substance. It’s like so many other books we’ve seen before (Hellblazer mostly) and yet it builds its own world with such nuance and grace that it provides new insights into ideas of magic and the otherworldly. But now the question remains if it can pivot, as all good series must, as it moves from the rush of its debut into that oh-so vital second issue. And from solicitations alone, a freakishly relevant tale about “a gibbering madness infecting the population” of Britain has tons of potentiasl. But it’s this variant cover from Tula Lotay that really assures me that issue #2 is going to be that big step this book needs. Because not only is there more John Constanine-ian swagger here, but the colors and the line work and the shading here all push the added layers of intensity and depth that have made this series stand out so much already. That, and it feels so open-ended still, and I think that little uncertainty matches the book’s scope and pacing so far. I’ve said it before, but damn you all if you’re not at least interested in this book.
Cover byDaniel Hillyard and Rico Renzi
In their past collaborations (that’d be Plastic and Vinyl), creators Daniel Hillyard and Doug Wagner have developed something of a formula. Find your resident weird to follow (like a serial killer with a unique sense of morality), add in lots of blood and other weird people and circumstances, and see what happens. This time around, Plush follows a young man who is forced to attend a furry convention — and then he witnesses an act of group cannibalism that sets of what is sure to be a zany adventure. (Here, zany is shorthand for horrific and psychically damaging.) And while I have my optimism that this book won’t be remotely formulaic or overly comparable to their last books, I think the proof is this cover from Hillyard and Rico Renzi. Because, yes, I have both a solid idea of what’s going on here and am also nearly lost in a haze of bloody uncertainty and fear. But I think it also proves that there’s something about the “universe” of Hillyard and Wagner that’s built in such a way that the team can create something hugely fresh and still illicit bits of Vinyl and Plush in the best ways. Regardless, prepare to have your brain poked with hot skewers.
Planet Hulk: Worldbreaker #1
Variant cover by Leinil Yu
You may be saying, “Hey, we’ve already got a super old Hulk in the from of the Maestro.” And to that I’d respond, “If you don’t think we need even more ancient green rage monsters in popular culture, I don’t know what to tell you.” But this tale, which takes place 1,000 years in the future on Sakaar, presents us with two possible versions of the Green Scar persona: the Sakaarson (aka the prophesized hero) or the Worldbreaker (that one’s pretty obvious, yeah?) And the thing I like about this Leinil Yu variant cover is that I really can’t tell which one we got. Sure, “gathered around small children” Hulk would indicate a mostly good Green Scar, but then there’s something about this extra brutal hulk that has me thinking he’s about to break a whole world. Seriously, we’ve seen some utterly gnarly Hulks over the year (the entirety of the Al Ewing-Joe Bennett run of Immortal Hulk comes to mind), but this one feels just subtle enough to really get into your head. And if I’m already this delightfully torn just from the cover, imagine what the book itself could do?
Cover by Germán García
I think writer Christopher Cantwell knows how to torture his protagonists. Be it in Blue Flame or his excellent Iron Man run, he’s happy to throw all sorts of things (pain, monsters, etc.) at his heroes to see how they truly tick. And I think that’s doubly true of Briar‘s debut issue: he pulled a girl from her safe, happy life and thrust her headlong into a dark and violent world she could’ve never imagined. And what we’ve seen from that debut issue is pretty compelling stuff — and made all the more profound thanks to the visuals of series artist Germán García. Take, for instance, García’s own cover to issue #2: there is a balance of both the beautiful and pristine with the ugly and abrasive; and in that space there’s something that feels deeply transcendent. It’s the perfect sort of visual tone for Cantwell’s narrative tendencies (to rip apart your heroes and understand them with pristine clarity). Even in one “snapshot,” as it were, there’s so much being rendered from these characters already.
Star Trek: Lower Decks #3
Cover by Chris Fenoglio
In theory, I totally understand what I’m seeing in this cover to issue #3 of Star Trek: Lower Decks. It’s a vampire flying from a space cruiser/ship, and at least one other character is maybe a vampire or vampire aficionado. But that doesn’t begin to tackle any of my questions. Like, have there always been vamps in the Star Trek universe? Why is he flying through space, and can all vampires do that? Is this the sort of thing that happens on Lower Decks with some frequency, and is it not the kind of thing you’d holler at your boy Jean-Luc Picard about (or, at the very least, Will Riker). And, to an extent, I think having these and about 137 other dire questions would prove that this book is putting in work to nab new readers/eyeballs. But I’d also argue that no questions ever need to be answered, and the rush of nerdy joy and rage I experience with this cover is the very reason why we read comics and seek out new and interesting ideas. But, seriously, is this a Dracula-style vamp or more a True Blood-esque vampire we’re dealing with?
Cover by Federico Vicentini
And speaking of vampires, we’ve reached that seemingly natural phase in the evening of the X-Terminators. If you’re not keen on this book (for shame!), it’s basically Grindhouse meets Bad Moms (kind of?), as Dazzler, Jubilee, and Boom-Boom are kidnapped during a girls night out and forced to survive “elaborate death traps.” Maybe vampires in the Marvel Universe aren’t seemingly the most worthy threat; they often come off as a little weak and underwhelming (and it’s all maybe part of some large pyramid scheme, if we’re to believe the latest Moon Knight series). But if this “glefully stupid” series accomplishes nothing else (and I feel like it totally has thus far), it’s able to pluck these specific kinds of vamps into their little corner and make them both a bloody terror and joyous cannon fodder (at least on this cover). And therein lies the skill and charm of this book: it’s dumb and silly and yet it never once scrimps on the real violence and all that resulting humanity. ‘Cause even butt jokes and vampire punks is true art, folks.
Wildstorm 30th Anniversary Special #1
Variant cover by Bryan Hitch
Here’s where you may expect me to go on a mid-sized rant about ’90s comics. Because in that grand realm/bibliography, few things were as quintessentially ’90s as Wildstorm. Yet I’m not here to pontificate, and instead I’m quite jazzed for the release of this giant-sized 30th anniversary issue. Not only is it star-studedd — there’s contributions from Dan Abnett, Greg Pak, Matthew Rosenberg, Will Conrad, Meghan Fitzmartin, and many more — but first-ever reprintings of stories from the WildStorm: A Celebration of 25 Years hardcover. But even more than that, I’m just jazzed to the absolute stratosphere about some of the covers available, chief of which is this epic variant from Bryan Hitch. Because I don’t think most other covers could as succinctly capture what made Wildstorm so unique and magical — which is to say, the mix of sheer absurdity, comics silliness, tinge of badass vibes, and whatever is going on with Midnighter in general. That, and it feels both approachable to a modern audience while maintaining those vibes and aesthetics that made the ’90s what it is. Happy 30 years!
Dead Mall #2
Cover by David Stoll
I’m having a hard time reading Dead Mall. On the one hand, it feels very much like ’80s teen horror flick, with kids trying to survive the horrors of a long shuttered mall. But then it uses verbiage like “sprawling, transformative cosmic horror,” which makes me think it’s more dark and bloody (so maybe The Thing over, say, Lost Boys, yeah?) And then, if all that weren’t complicated enough, we get this cover to issue #2. Yes, the bloody finger in a mouth makes it prime for some truly solid body horror action. But the vaguely ’80s commercial vibes make me laugh. (That could also be that I had a weird and lonely childhood.) And, sure, I could just leave it that this series tows the line between the cerebral and the silly, as all truly worthwhile pieces of horror ought to. Yet there’s something about that sense of indecisiveness — exemplified best by this cover that becomes all the more effective the longer you stare — that just feels all the more exciting and compelling. And the fact I haven’t made a reference to Dawn of the Dead yet should tell you all something.
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