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Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 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: One Bad Day – Catwoman #1

Variant cover by Jessica Fong

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

The Bad Day titles from DC continue to be something of a gift. Because across titles for the likes of Riddler, Mr. Freeze, and Penguin, we get some really great deep dives into the larger pathos of Batman’s biggest baddies. And now we turn our attention to Catwoman, who is perhaps the most interesting given her absolute moral uncertainty. Sure, she’ll steal anything that’s not tied down, but she’ll sometimes even save the day too (and also still steal s--t). But with this story — from the absolute A-list team of G. Willow Wilson and Jamie McKelvie — some of the moral uncertainty is pushed aside for a more “direct” tale of Catwoman. Namely, when something she stole is sold for less than its original value, Selena opts to steal it back. And why would she do that sort of weird, vaguely obsessive thing? Well, this variant cover from Jessica Fong might offer an explanation: She’s a bit obsessive and conflicted. There may be two sides of Ms. Kyle, but they both feel an inexplainable connection to the shinies they pilfer. As if they’re locked in some pursuit for value and meaning, and they have to try and find it shimmery charms. It’s a big but subtle sort of character reveal, and just a teaser of what’s likely to come in the story proper.

Sins of Sinister #1

Variant cover by Felipe Massafera

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

And speaking of delving into characters’ larger motivations, we’ve arrived at a big point for Marvel’s most mad scientist with Sins of Sinister. This “universe-melting X-event” sees the aforementioned Sinister enact his master plan after so much time spent plotting and waiting. And said plan is likely to be a doozy, as the solicitations describe this event as taking place “in a horror timeline that makes Age of Apocalypse look like the X-Men Swimsuit Special.” And while that description alone is likely to be enough to move some books, I’d also bring your attention to this amazing variant cover from artist Felipe Massafera. Because while trying to encapsulate what happens when Sinister finally goes full evil is no enviable task, Massafera really excels here with this cover. Whether it’s the ’80s-esque aesthetic and tone (that’s a good time for bonkers X-Men tales); the way classic characters and imagery have been distorted and perverted; and/or just those absolutely dead eyes of Sinister himself, there’s some subtle but deeply effective horror taking place here. Look at it this way: if a jacked up Lockheed is the least terrifying component on a page, you’ve done something really right.

Darkwing Duck #1

Variant cover by Gabriele Dell’Otto

Judging by the Cover

A few weeks back, we got to speak with writer Amanda Deibert about the all-new Darkwing Duck series from Dynamite Comics. One of the things that stuck with me from said chat is how this book is both an homage to the beloved cartoon and a kind of expansion of this universe for a brave new era. I think there’s proof of that in the sheer number of variant covers that Dynamite has rolled out to celebrate the book’s debut. Like, this great Alan Quah cover which shows the breadth of St. Canard and its many wacky residents. Or, this extra cool spotlight on one of comics’ most underrated caps (from Mirka Andolfo). And even this slice of neo-noir coolness from Cat Staggs. But the ultimate nod has to go Gabriele Dell’Otto’s own variant. Is it the ’40s pulp vibe? You know it — it just feels so undeniably dark and sexy (for a story about a duck). But is it also the sort of pseudo-realistic take on Darkwing? Also yes, because we all want to see an actual duck fight crime. But more than anything, it’s just the rich details that foster a sense of power and mystery. Even if the series proper isn’t like that, it’s a nice preview of what’s partially to come and a reminder that there’s so much potential in the realm of Darkwing Duck.

Archie Vs the World #1

Cover by Jed Dougherty

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

Truth be told, I’ve never really found anything all that appealing about the world of Archie Comics. I mean, if I wanted to read about an awkward weirdo fumbling through life, I’d just keep a journal. And beyond that, it feels like they’ve been doing the same thing with Archie and the gang for 100 years, and it’s just never really clicked. Which is why I’m excited that they’re going for broke and launching the whole dang gang headlong into the end times! Described as “equal parts Mad Max: Fury Road and The Fist of the North Star,” the one-shot sees Archie wandering a dystopian hellscape as some kind of warrior fighting for good and hoping to beat his gnarly doppelganger. The cover itself has everything I’d want in just such a weird take, including a reason for Jughead to finally wear a ridiculous hat and a dystopian take on the jalopy. But mostly I just love a really jacked Archie, who looks like a pure badass while maintaining some slightly goofy/silly quality that exemplifies the character. All together, it makes for a daring take on this world without feeling all too removed from why people love it, and that’s something more series ought to try from time to time.

Hitomi #4

Cover by Clark Bint

Judging by the Cover

It may seem like I talk about every new Hitomi cover that debuts. (I’m having another Do A Powerbomb! moment and I don’t really care to be stopped.) But it’s hard not to want to talk about such a dynamic book, one that takes a more earnest and evocative approach to the world of samurais and feudal Japan. Even if you ignore all that narrative richness, the book continues to step up its game with each new cover. The cover to issue #4, for instance, feels like a marked leap in terms of messaging, aesthetic, and outright narrative potential. As Hitomi rebukes the advice of Yasuke and joins a military campaign, we move for the briefest of seconds to Yasuke’s life/times battling the sumo champion. Are these “moments” connected? Sure, perhaps as a kind of shorthand for two people who place themselves in complicated situations because they just can’t stop themselves. Or, that Yasuke knows what it’s like to try and engrain yourself with people who want only to further your suffering. Either way, this maybe doesn’t change their dynamic and possible future clash, but it does offer some rich context that builds the stakes in some truly compelling ways. That, and you got to love what they did with the title.

Lovesick #4

Cover by Luana Vecchio

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

Lovesick makes me equal parts deeply uncomfortable and also hugely interested and compelled. It’s not that it really tries to do either, per say, but it’s just one of those rare books that is unapologetic in being exactly what it wants to be. And from the looks of — not to mention the solicitations for — issue #4, it looks as if that won’t be stopping anytime soon. Sure, I get that on the surface, this cover doesn’t even come close to capturing the sheer blood-soaked depravity that occurs in the book proper. But this piece works because of both what it shows and doesn’t show. It manages to tease some really visceral things, but through the focus of the shadowed man dead center, it also fosters a real sense of distance. These two ideas tend to “battle” as you take in the cover, and it helps make it all feel really exciting while somehow still unnerving. That’s this book in a nutshell: you want to look away but it gives you just enough room to really squirm. Not a lot of books can do that with such ruthless efficiency, and that’s why Lovesick feels so genuinely powerful and all-consuming.

Action Comics #1051

Variant cover by Steve Beach

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

There’s a lot of changes happening to Superman, and it’s all sort of centered around Action Comics. For one, we’re looking into a new era of Superman: he’s newly-returned from space, and trying to get his bearings after the last couple of years. Meanwhile, in the real world, the title itself is transforming from featuring just one story to three total, which is both more Superman for your buck and more complications for the Man of Steel. So, how do we really encapsulate and/or celebrate this “fresh start” for Clark Kent and company? I can’t really think of a better way than this excellent Steve Beach variant. Here, the past and future seem to crash together in glorious fashion. We get a kind of George Reeves-ian Superman (who is doing his best “irritated ’40s detective” smirk) bashing a slick version of Metallo — it’s sort of the entirety of Superman condensed into one supermassive image. Plus, just the detail and style alone feel both perfectly suited and an absolute total revelation. Does this have anything to do with the issue proper? I won’t tell. But it does feel like the perfect way to kick-off this new era, and a shot to the arm in the best possible way.

Murderworld: Wolverine #1

Cover by Paco Medina

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

The title alone seems to be pretty direct: Wolverine is in Murderworld to do that which is most vital to that world’s existential infrastructure. But beyond that — and an effective use of “SNIKT~” — the solicitations don’t really offer much else. And, yeah sure, you don’t really need much else when the hook is, “Watch Wolverine murder his way through an interdimensional hellscape.” But the cover proper does actually raise some vital questions. Is Logan hunting his children/clones, or working with them? And if it is the former and not the latter, which one makes for the best showdown? (If you asked me, it’d be Laura given her sheer intensity and ruthless effectiveness.) There’s other questions too — how does Wolverine intend to do said dispatching; what’s it all really mean; whose blood is that in the front there; etc. But the one thing we really need to focus on is that whatever happens (and to whom), this cover is a slice of what makes Wolverine stories so dang compelling. That, and it’s nice to see Daken totally dressing for the situation at hand.

Plush #3

Cover by Daniel Hillyard and Rico Renzi

Judging by the Cover – 01/25/23 new releases

I want you to pretend you haven’t read Plush yet. (Or, our totally great interview with the book’s creators.) And with that in mind, I then want you to take a few minutes to really enjoy (or feel an immense sense of horror about) this cover to issue #3. Even if you had all the context in the world — like you had actual access to the brain of writer Doug Wagner — you may not haven even the tiniest, nugget-sized idea of what’s actually going on. And, yeah, that feels awesome — it’s nice to just take in images that show insanity/depravity/etc. and that are completely unmoored from narrative and logic and all the rest. Because that’s the sort of thing that brings you to actually pick up a book — and in the case of this one, perhaps find out that this little snapshot is only the quaintest of beginnings. But don’t forget about that time when this image just existed in front of your face like some wild animal, and how you had to try and deal with the energies and ideas swirling off the page into your brainpan. Because that moment won’t last long, and you should really take it all in — even if you thought you saw the devil in that unblinking furry’s face.

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