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Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

Chris shares his favorite covers from this week’s new comics.

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.

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Batman / Spawn #1

Variant cover by Todd McFarlane

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

Seemingly after months of waiting, we’ve arrived at the most eagerly anticipated clash of titans since peanut butter and jelly. Yes, the pair of Batman and Spawn have met before, but this new series from Todd McFarlane and Greg Capullo is supposed to be a bona fide heavy-hitter. And that rings extra true as the two are pitted against one another in a battle spanning most of the Eastern Seaboard. So, in honor of “The Battle of Most Emo Superhero,” DC has rolled out a veritable catalog of covers. That includes this super-slick Sean Murphy piece; an extra soaking wet piece from Jason Fabok; and this gothic fantasy from J. Scott Campbell. But the honor, of course, has to go to one of McFarlane’s own variant covers. Specifically, this bad boy, which sort of feels very quaint in its approach while retaining some energies of early ’80s Batman titles. That, and it makes me think the Batarangs are magically charged by Spawn, and this battle royale will turn into a team-up much faster than intended. Because it turns out the real friends were the ones we tried to decapitate the whole time.

Invincible Iron Man #1

Variant cover by Declan Shalvey

Judging by the Cover

And speaking of new books with a veritable smorgasbord of cover options, we’re at a new era for Iron Man with a brand-new series. Invincible Iron Man follows the Christopher Cantwell-penned run, as Gerry Duggan slips into the writer’s chair for a story of excess and glory. Psych — Tony Stark’s lost it all and now “must fight for his life and find out what it really means to hit rock bottom.” But he hasn’t lost the ability to look sweet on a some great covers, and that’s worth all the riches and flying Lamborghinis in the world. Especially when its variants like this slick action shot from Marco Checchetto; a little vintage badassery from Pepe Larraz; and the pose of all poses from John Romita Jr. But once again, one cover gets the nod, and this time it’s the variant from Declan Shalvey. Not only because it’s an “X-Treme” variant, but because this slightly ramshackle approach to Iron Man’s armor seems like it’s perfect for the scope of this series. That, and it makes me think of the Gizmosuit from DuckTales. (But mixed, with, like Soviet vibes and clips from a ’90s breakdancing tape.) If he’s got to suffer, he may as well look extra fly doing so.

A Vicious Circle #1

Cover by Lee Bermejo

Judging by the Cover

I don’t want to lean too heavily into hyperbole, but A Vicious Circle may be one of the most gorgeous books I’ve ever seen. Artist Lee Bermejo — who recently knocked it out of the park with Batman: Dear Detective — has reached a new career high. As the story — which involves two bitter rivals forced to tumble through time as part of their never-ending blood feud — moves through various time hops, Bermejo expertly shifts his tone and style. So whether he’s depicting a seemingly picturesque 1950s, or the neon-heavy cyberpunk future, he forges such deeply powerful and compelling worlds that are equally gritty and gorgeous. But don’t take my word for it entirely; just peep the cover to the debut issue. It sort of has everything you’d ever want or need to know: intrigue (dinosaurs and cross burnings); robust tension and humanity; and an aesthetic that’s both super dark and also unapologetically bonkers. There’s lots of great and beautiful books released this year, but few have the unwavering depth and prowess. And if I’m wrong, you can send me back to the Cretaceous era.

Art Brut #1

Variant cover by Alex Eckman-Lawn

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

Sometimes great art gets a second chance. We told you recently of Art Brut, a collaboration between W. Maxwell Prince and Martin Morazzo (aka, the duo behind the insane Ice Cream Man) that started out life as The Electric Sublime. And while that book got a decent enough bit of attention, it’s since found new life with Image Comics, as the creators provide a “remastered” version complete with fresh covers and some “Silver Age” back-up stories. But all you need to know is that if you loved Ice Cream Man, this book about an insane art aficionado and his mannequin friend literally jumping into paintings is the same kind of utterly insane and hugely gorgeous magic. But more than that, it’s got a real fun approach to fine art and its larger role and value in society, as evidenced by this great variant cover from Alex Eckman-Lawn. Because, yes, it’s a sweet slice of body horror and a recontextualization of something so pristine as the Mona Lisa. But there’s so many layers and things to ponder, and it really gets you considering why we need art and to what end in society. That, and it’s a solid lesson that the human body is a terrifying place indeed.

They’re All Terrible #1

Cover by Ramon Villalobos

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

If you’re like me, you’re a little confused about Bad Idea Comics. They started up a couple years ago — only to seemingly close in record-breaking fashion. And yet for some time now, they’ve been release quite a few books. (We’ve tried to get a straight answer and will continue to do so until we crack this particular nut.) But whatever the case, we’re at least glad they were around long enough to release They’re All Terrible. The book itself is a little short on details, other than the fact it’s from Matt Kindt and Ramon Villalobos and is clearly in the “fantasy” category. But who needs pesky information when you have this epic debut cover. It’s not exactly subtle, but somehow they’ve still made an axe to the face an utterly transcendent sight to behold. And there’s even a kind of psychedelic quality, as if we’re somehow intended to question just how real this is all truly is. And beyond all that, it feels like a huge statement from Bad Idea themselves, as if to say, “No, you can’t stop us, no matter what happens.” And if it delivers results like this, may they remain alive-undead for some time to come.

Leonide the Vampyr: A Christmas for Crows #1

Cover by Rachele Aragno

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

And speaking of large blunt items slamming into your face, it would seem that Christmas is almost upon us. I for one am still just getting over Halloween, but luckily there’s a project like Leonide the Vampyr: A Christmas for Crows to help me bridge the gap, as it were. Here, we reconvene with the titular vampyr, as Leonide “once again casts her spell over unsuspecting audiences.” And, sure, a story of a vampire celebrating Xmas does mostly write itself, but there’s lots of little things to love as demonstrated by the cover from series artist Rachele Aragno. Like the way Aragno’s style feels really connected to that of writer/Hellboy mastermind Mike Mignola, but yet with a more breezy charm and accessibility. Or, how it feels like the best ’90s Nickelodeon title sequence ever, or even like a proper Addams FamilyDark Shadows crossover. And even the text just invokes both Halloween and Xmas in some intriguing ways. Before we know it’ll be New Year’s, and so let’s try and enjoy the snapshots of yuletide joy and weirdness while we can.

Danger Street #1

Variant cover by Steve Rude

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

OK, here’s how it normally goes: I make some point and then point you into the cover itself to try and support said argument or maybe distract you from my inherently flawed logic. But this time I want you to scroll accordingly and spend a few minutes just enjoying this Steve Rude variant for Danger Street. And by enjoy, I mean appreciate the art as well as the fact that you have very little idea what’s going on — and you may love it that way. That’s sort of how this book, from writer Tom King, artist Jorge Fornés, and colorist Dave Stewart, sort of works. There’s lots of layers and interwoven metaphors, and while it focuses on Starman, Metamorpho, and Warlord trying to join the Justice League, there’s subplots about a gang of hooligans in the desert, Jack “The Creeper” Ryder hosting his own alt-right talk show, and Manhunter himself. You can rest assured that with King at the helm, it’s going to be another powerful story, but in the meantime you’ll just have to enjoy being lost in this cover. If nothing else, though, this Rude piece not only recreates that disorientating sensibility but also captures his ability to blur periods/timelines as to throw so much at you that you’re instantly bashed into an agreeable stupor. Ain’t comics grand?!

Nature’s Labyrinth #2

Cover by Filya Bratukhin

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

Some books you have to give a chance. I saw the cover to Nature’s Labyrinth #1 back in early November, and while it was mostly compelling enough, I ended up moving on. (Despite this being a cover from Filya Bratukhin, whose work on things like Agent of W.O.R.L.D.E. I’ve absolutely adored.) But now, like the characters in this story exploring about “an ever-changing landscape,” we’ve left the beach and headed into the jungle. And amid all the nasty bugs and lush vegetation, we’ve uncovered yet another amazing cover from Bratukhin. It’s not just that there’s more going on with this second cover — though it sure helps. But like other Bratukhin covers, this one rewards you for delving into the background like you’re looking for a microscopic Where’s Waldo? It’s the subtle details and profound line work — you can practically feel this trees growing and living; the way the colors and light interplay so subtly and yet so perfectly; and how this space feels both comforting and inviting and even familiar while also being utterly foreboding and alien. It’s a powerful snapshot of the smallness and bigness of life, and if it doesn’t give you pause for a few minutes, you may want to just head back to the beach for a bit.

Deadpool #2

Cover by Martín Cóccolo and Neeraj Menon

Judging by the Cover – 12/14/22 new releases

The solicitation is why this new Deadpool series is already pretty dang charming. Wordplay? How about “Can Doc Ock block a cocked glock”? (Or even, “will he be filleted and slayed by Wade’s blades?”) And a sense of of momentum and potential impending doom? With just 24 hours to send Otto to Satan’s grotto — hey I did it, too! — there’s definitely some huge stakes at play. But more than even all of that, I just love this cover from Martín Cóccolo and Neeraj Menon. It’s the way the logo/title is reflect even in the arm of our nefarious doctor; the second, slightly less impressive reflection of Wade on another arm; the super solid Bugs Bunny reference (and added wordplay!); and all the great detail work that abounds this cover — like, you can practically see the individual hairs on Doc Ock’s face. All of it together isn’t just impressive and entertaining but proof of what’s really made this series so great just two issues in: you can have both great and inventive art and also be totally dumb and make stupid puns. If anything, the two work so well together that the cover has achieved that rare balance of the silly and the serious that all great Deadpool stories can and should maintain. One more for the road: Shock the doc before the end of the clock.

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