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Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 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 #131

Variant cover by David Nakayama

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

What happens when you survive the thing that was meant to be your final reckoning? Well, Batman’s about to find out as we move away from the end of the excellent arc with Failsafe into “The Bat-Man of Gotham” story. Here, Gotham City is at the mercy of perhaps its darkest hour, with no Batman available to smash the baddies and right the wrongs. Instead, we’ll be taking what appears to be more a philosophical approach as we explore what comes next for both Batman and Bruce Wayne. And with all of that tension hanging in the air, I couldn’t think of a better cover to spotlight than this excellent David Nakayama piece. I love the way we get a simpler, streamlined Batsuit — as if we’re delving into some elemental truths about the Dark Knight. Or, the way he’s got the cape positioned here — it’s like armor and a childhood blanket, and it expertly shows how vulnerable our hero is right now. (Plus, that big, bold utility belt is just always cool.) For a title that’s been about expertly deconstructing Batman so far, this feels like the perfect visual representation with plenty to offer all on its own.

Scarlet Witch #1

Variant cover by Jesus Saiz

Judging by the Cover

Do I think it’s a little odd that we’re finally getting a Scarlet Witch solo series right now? Sure. It would’ve made heaps more sense when WandaVision happened, or even when she was the big bad in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. And yet here we are, and despite those timing issues, we’re in for something truly epic from the creative team of Steve Orlando, Sara Pichelli, and Matt Wilson, who are letting a newly-centered Wanda Maximoff use her immense powers to help others facing their own profound crises. Most of the covers attached to this debut issue do a great job of highlighting Wanda’s “journey” to this bright new chapter. Like, this Adam Hughes “classic” variant, which captures an essential tension and emotionality of the character (albeit a little exaggerated, yeah?) Or, this Elena Casagrande piece, which blends bits of the comics and MCU Wanda for something simple but effective. And yet the final nod goes to this Jesus Saiz variant. Here, we get a very Zen, very demonic Wanda (in a deeply gorgeous piece) — and that kind of dichotomy feels perfect for this “version” of the Scarlet Witch. It’s as if there’s a real power in recognizing your darkest tendencies while you try and do some good, and that feels like the best encapsulation of this dynamic heroine. That, and the wings totes suit her.

The Approach #3

Cover by Jeremy Haun

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

Blame it on even more (albeit early) holiday madness, but somehow The Approach just flew under my radar when it debuted in mid-October. And that’s truly disappointing given the overall pedigree of this book. From the creative team — Jeremy Haun (The Red Mother), Jason A. Hurley (The Beauty), and Jesus Hervás (The Empty Man) — to the premise — two air traffic controllers grapple with a nasty blizzard and a crashed plane that was missing for 30-ish years — there’s a lot here to love. But the past is the past, and hopping aboard for issue #3 is still early enough to get in on the ground floor. Especially when said ground floor features exceptional covers like this from Haun himself. It’s the perfect snapshot of why this series seems so grand on paper: Haun’s slick art style and general vibes; the sense of timelessness (an understated function of truly great horror); the robust references and homages (this has some huge The Thing vibes); and just the attitude and sense of coolness that every pixel practically radiates. It’s both classic and yet nonetheless new and shiny — the fact that I didn’t even mention Megan Hutchison’s Snakes on a Plane-referencing cover is more proof of that.

Star Trek #3

Cover by Ramon Rosanas

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

Oh, wow, another Star Trek cover just weeks after I LOLed at the one for Star Trek: Lower Decks #3. This time around, though, there’s no jokes or overly dramatic space vampires — instead, it sees the USS Theseus experiencing some technical troubles in a story that “will determine the very fate of the universe.” And, if you’re any kind of Star Trek expert (or, like me, and you just happened to look at some of the other variant covers), you’ll know this threat has at least something to do with Q. And that character and his race of space gods has always been interesting. Because if you have almost all the power and knowledge in the known universe, you clearly use it by ::checks notes:: endlessly pissing off Jean-Luc Picard. But as this cover suggests, maybe there’s something all the more horrific to Q (the Q?), and we could get a huge existential bit of space horror in this issue/story. And even if that only extends to this excellent cover from Ramon Rosanas, it sets a perfectly disturbing tone and plays up the impact of what happens on the Theseus. Even if we won’t get something like this when we just as easily could.

It’s Only Teenage Wasteland #2

Cover by Jacoby Salcedo

Judging by the Cover

The debut issue of It’s Only Teenage Wasteland was super charming. It set up the whole premise — kids at a party are thrust into the early stages of the apocalypse — without ever taking away from exploring the dramatic, high-tension world of life as a teen/young person. And as we get into the proper meat of this story — our teen “heroes” making their way through the End Times to set up a base and figure out their new lives — we get this great little preview of sorts with the cover to issue #2. Did it make me think of some weird version of the Clerks cartoon? Yeah, for just a sec — and that connection feels good in building this world’s tone (weird and irreverent, yeah?) But beyond that, I just love the sheer humanity and layers of emotion displayed here — how much stays the exact same for people even as literally everything else changes. It feels both really depressing and kind of uplifting, and that sweet spot is part of what made the debut issue feel so poignant. You can be scary and silly, serious and bizarre at the same time — only if you continually put the people of your story first. I can’t wait for what more dystopian vibes this book brings.

Mosely #1

Variant cover by Jorge Corona and Sarah Stern

Judging by the Cover

In late November, we brought you a preview for Mosely. The new series (from BOOM! Studios) comes with a heaping helping of hype. Not only in it’s A-list creative team — Farmhand creator Rob Guillory and artist Sam Lotfi (Last Stop on the Red Line) — but that’s it been mostly described as a “satirical sci-fi blockbuster perfect for fans of God Country and Ghost Cage.” And the art we saw over a month supported that robust promise, but certainly having more to consider and enjoy it all has only made us all the more hyped. Take, for instance, this variant cover Jorge Corona and Sarah Stern. Does it have the massive sci-fi vibes? If you think smashed robot parts and whatnot counts, then heck yes. A dash or two pure bad-assery? Thr man’s carrying a hammer shaped like a dang fist. And what of the satirical nature? Maybe that’s not as obvious but Corona’s whole style feels suited for both spoofing and celebrating the larger confines of sci-fi. All of that together makes for a promising start to a promising series, and proof that you can have your cake and eat it too. Seriously, if you didn’t giggle at “hammer fist,” something’s broken inside.

Dark Knights of Steel #9

Variant cover by Lucio Parrillo

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

I get that some people have found themselves a little, let’s say, disillusioned with Dark Knights of Steel. The series started out strong in late 2021, but by the time issue #6 dropped in April 2022, delays had become apparent. Now, some eight or nine months later, and we’re just getting issue #9. And, sure, it’s at a pivotal time in the story — we’re promised a “deadly and dramatic turn” in the early days for the battle of the Three Kingdoms — but these delays take some serious wind out of readers’ sails. And while we’ll have to wait till late March 2023 for issue #10, I’d tell readers to hold on tight regardless. Because what other series is delivering art like this exceptional Lucio Parrillo variant cover? It feels like a great preview of what’s made this series do dang compelling, which is to say the high fantasy and overall elegance mixed with the essential DC storytelling warmth and overall cheesy (in the best way possible, of course). The end result is hopefully a reminder of, while snags are annoying, this series has been delivering something singular in it scope and intentions, and it’s clearly a thing we ought to be paying attention to. Plus, it just means you don’t have to buy yet another book every single month, yeah?

X-Force #36

Cover by Dean White and Joshua Cassara

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

Lots of weird and wonderful things have come out amid the Krakoan era. Magic flowers that have kicked off an international pharmaceutical war, for instance. Or all the kooky inventions of Forge in the last couple of years. But not every idea has always been so golden. On paper at least, a character like The Man with the Peacock Tattoo isn’t exactly terrifying. (And I say that as someone who, as a child, was chased by an angry peacock during a summer trip to Busch Gardens.) And yet as this cover from Dean White and Joshua Cassara expertly demonstrates, what’s so great about this era is less the descriptions and more the execution of it all. Whether it’s the choice of knife (is that a scalpel or a butter knife?!); the pristine white suit; and/or his face (that “mask” is like the love child of The Toxic Avenger and a rotting watermelon), The Man is terrifying for the tiny decisions and/or details and the larger, more grandiose connotations they contain. And the fact that everyone’s stuck in the web of his lush plumage just shows that you can be a real terror by embracing the weird and unconventional. Seems like the perfect sort of overarching banner concept for Krakoa if you ask me.

Roachmill #3

Cover by Rich Hedden

Judging by the Cover – 01/04/23 new releases

Back in June 2022, we told you about the “return” of Roachmill. After creating the series way back in the late ’80s/early ’90s, Rich Hedden and Tom McWeeney are re-releasing their extra twisted tale of a mutated exterminator saving 30th century New York from mega gross super-insects. Issue #1 of the relaunch came in November (and No. 2 debuted just about a week ago or so), and there’s been some solid enough buzz for this distinctly ’90s affair. But in case you needed to be further sold about why this title deserved a second life, just peep this cover to issue #3. I think it perfectly captures why this series is great in general as well as why it feels extra perfect for our modern era. The mix of the humor and the utterly bizarre (what’s up with those mutant cat bug things?!); the vaguely dystopian vibes — that are still somehow familiar and approachable; and the proper focus on the truly human elements (mutant exterminator aside, that’s some deeply universal angry and suffering on the page). For a relic of a really weird time, it’s amazing just how much this cover screams “truly relatable.” Should we be worried at all?

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