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 Laura Braga
If you’ve kept up with the ongoing saga in Batman, you’ll know it’s been a bonkers one. Here, though, we reach the end of the arc about Failsafe, and we see what happens when you pit the World’s Greatest Detective versus The Machine Meant To Counter The World’s Greatest Detective. It’s a big ending that has some actual ramifications for the whole Bat Family. But given all that, why did I instead opt for this doubly cheery, holiday-appropriate variant cover from Laura Braga? Is it the slick choice of suit for Bruce Wayne? The weird chose of presents everyone received/gifted? The fact that this makes gift-giving (maybe a White Elephant?!) canon for the family? Yes to all of that but mostly the idea that we can’t have Failsafe without this scene. Which is to say, this is the robust nougat of humanity at Batman’s true center, and it’s why he’s had to fight Failsafe with such vigor. It’s not just about killing the Dark Knight, but snuffing out everything he’s built. Tis the season for a poignant emotional reminder.
Ghost Rider #9
Cover by Björn Barends
I remarked recently — either last week or 100 months ago — that Jason Aaron is a master of balancing great nerdy lip service with poignant storytelling. As it turns out, Benjamin Percy is equally talented, and his run on Ghost Rider has presented several such pristine moments of said balancing act. Case in point: the new-ish baddie named Exhaust, which is (creepy, brain-scrambling spoilers) Johnny Blaze’s exorcised tumor. And when it comes to depicting such a, um, unique lifeform, Percy gets an assist from cover artist Björn Barends, whose done a ton of Spawn covers and provides the same kind of strange demonic/organic madness. It’s hard to pick what I like most about Exhaust: that he has tusks/teeth that are little exhaust pipes or that you could seemingly unscrew the top of his skull like a gas cap. Either way, it’s the sort of perfectly intense nerd magic that makes for great fun and a proper addition to another compelling chapter in this latest tale of Blaze’s wild life story.
Do a Powerbomb #7
Cover by Mike Spicer and Daniel Warren Johnson
It’s a sad time for me — and not just because I can’t find those chocolate-dipped Ritz crackers anymore. It’s the end of perhaps my favorite series of the last couple years, Do a Powerbomb. I’ve spent the last seven or so months talking about this nerdy love letter to wrestling from writer-artist Daniel Warren Johnson, who has used every issue to craft a love letter to family and an exploration of grief (that, again, also involves dope piledrivers). And I can’t think of a much better image to help kick off the finale than the cover to issue #7. Because after seemingly getting what they want (winning the big tourney and having the chance to resurrect their wife/mother), Lona Steelrose and Cobrasun have to face some extra big challenges. Is it specifically their former foes, or is this more a metaphor for how emotional truth and wellbeing is a continuous struggle? I mean, likely both, but that doesn’t stop this from being a hugely powerful cover, and it’s so deeply uplifting to see the family stick together through the odds. This book is a sleeper hold for the heart, ’cause I’m tapping out, folks.
Nocterra: Val Special #1
Variant cover by Tony S. Daniel
This year, Spawn celebrates his 30th anniversary, and Image Comics is commemorating accordingly. The publisher has tapped a suite of artists to include the undead anti-hero across 50 or titles. On the one hand, I get that it’s just another slightly hokey marketing gimmick, especially when Spawn appears on some seemingly odd choices of covers (I’m thinking of something like Eight Billion Genies, which almost crosses the line from acceptable cheese to the needlessly cutesy). But I think the whole shtick works when it’s this cover to a Nocterra spin-off, which our heroine Val does some soul searching post-“Pedal to the Metal” arc. Tony S. Daniel, who did this cover and art from the series proper, knows that Spawn’s whole vibe is a perfect fit for this universe — tell me you couldn’t see him trapising out of the eternal darkness? More than that, it feels like a balance between these two diverse worlds, and done in a way to pay homage and still respect this title (and what it’s trying to accomplish). The only thing it’s really missing is a little cameo from the Violator.
All Against All #1
Cover by Caspar Wijngaard
I’m a little disappointed in the cover for All Against All. Not because it’s not good — series artist Caspar Wijngaard has unleased another damn fine piece that brims with color and depth and unbridled emotions. It’s more that this cover makes the book’s seemingly total lack of giant mechs a non-issue– and that’s odd considering both Wijngaard and writer Alex Paknadel both have experience with depicting great mechs in Home Sick Pilots and Giga, respectively. (Though there is mention of “organic exosuits,” FYI.) But what it lacks in aforementioned giant robots, it more than makes up for in depicting the seemingly last survivor of humanity as he contends with life in an “artificial jungle” against the heinous machinations of his alien captors, the Operators. Wijngaard’s choices for a more “abstract” set of imagery, where color and angles and great shading do a lot of the heavy lifting story-wise, both maintains the mystery here while telling us everything we need to know emotionally and aesthetically. The fact that this cover feels both uplifting and menacing at the same dang time should tell you lots. Even without mechs, of course.
The Blue Flame #10
Variant cover by Yoshi Yoshitani
After nearly a year, the story of Blue Flame is about to come to an end. To some extent, Christopher Cantwell and Adam Gorham’s deeply human tale about superheroes has been slightly overshadowed by Cantwell’s own working dissecting another hero, Iron Man. But if you’ve somehow slept on this book, the fact that it’s 10 issues should convince you there’s time to consume this bad boy and let its insights about addiction, humanity, and storytelling wash over you in a most glorious way. And I can’t really think of a better cover to both celebrate the series’ end and perhaps convince any stragglers that they need to read this pronto than a variant from Yoshi Yoshitani. Because it does a lot of things in one simple image: evoke images of the savior (sort of a motif in the book’s dissection of heroes); feels both sweet and slightly cartoon-y (to play off how deeply depressive things can be); and further play up imagery of rebirth/death and endings in a really subtle but effective manner. I get you may not want to catch up on 10 issues, but if it’s this story, you’ll welcome what the effort will invite into your life. Appreciation and heartache, that’s what.
It’s Only Teenage Wasteland #1
Cover by Jacoby Salcedo
If your solicitation compares itself to books like The Nice House on the Lake and What’s the Furthest Place From Here?, then you’re either in great company or brazen enough to actually believe it — and that’s a book I must read regardless. Luckily, writer Curt Pires has a solid pedigree, and it seems like this book — teens throw a party behind parents’ back only to be “thrust into a situation and future they could have never possibly prepared for” — is right in his wheelhouse. But what truly seals the deal is the art team (series/cover artist Jacoby Salcedo and colorist Mark Dale), and more specifically the cover to issue #1. Is it the best ’90s Britpop album cover I’ve ever seen? A truly bizarre spin-off or sequel to Kids? Maybe even an R-rated teen movie from both Judd Apatow and Nicolas Roeg? The answer to all of those is a resounding yes, and a singular example of why this book already feels so special. That, witty acts of vandalism are always a big hit.
Immortal X-Men #9
Cover by Mark Brooks
If you’re anything like me, you might have an interesting relationship with Mr. Sinister. I grew up with the world’s weirdest geneticist on the ’90s X-Men cartoon — and even for that that era he was an especially kooky mix of being undeniably evil and threatening while having that unplaceable sense of charisma (like an evil, monstrous Tim Curry or something). And since the Age of Krakoa kicked off, Sinister has only become more complicated, a fact that remains even more true as we make our way through the “Sins of Sinister” crossover event. All of which brings us to the cover of Immortal X-Men #9, in which we see a badass Sinister rocking guns the size of a small child squares off with Thee Katherine Pryde. The very image — which clearly references a very ’90s comics aesthetic — does a lot to make us recontextualize Sinister. Not only that, but it’s a layer that makes sense given the character’s “journey” even as it’s still quite a shock to see and make sense of in the story’s grander scheme. It’s a cool, unsettling, and genuinely deliberate image, and it speaks volumes about the character regardless of how you “know” him.
Poison Ivy #7
Cover by Jessica Fong
Here’s proof that the Poison Ivy series is good: DC went and extended it from just six issues to a 12-issue run. And creators G. Willow Wilson, Atagun Ilhan, and Arif Prianto aren’t messing around as the book enters its second arc. And oh what an arc it’s sure to be, as we get to see the one thing we never thought we would: Poison Ivy straight selling out! Sure, here shift to corporate crony for Big Fracking is likely part of some massive, multi-step master plan, but the resulting image (the excellent cover from Jessica Fong) is nevertheless especially epic. It’s practically drenched in irony and sarcasm, and the sort of singular moment that truly demonstrates why this book has done so well. Which is to say, place Poison Ivy in some intriguing situations and show us some great insights and effective character development through her, let’s say, less than expected responses/behaviors. It’s moments like this that show us her true powers are being dark, unflinching, and totally compelling. Now, let’s bump this run to maybe 16 or 20 issues, yeah?
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