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.
Silver Surfer: Ghost Light #1
Cover by Taurin Clarke
If you’re a frequent listener to the AIPT Podcast, you may have already heard me (somewhat awkwardly) describe my robust interest in the cover to Silver Surfer: Ghost Light. But now I get to do so in a medium where I’m all the more charming and put together, so here we go! There’s so much to be excited for before we even get to the actual cover. Like, the creative team of comics heavyweight John Jennings and Bitch Planet artist Valentine De Landro. Or, how this story focuses on something a tad more accessible, tossing the Surfer directly into a mystery involving the “quiet town of Sweetwater.” But then so much of the weight centers around the excellent cover by Taurin Clarke. It’s not only, as I said, just a compelling piece of art that demonstrates Clarke’s prowess and overall skill, but it also feels like a perfect snapshot of Surfer lore, playing with idea of him (and his “master” Galactus”) while injecting new ideas and energies. The result is a blindingly epic piece of art, and something that grabs every ounce of interest from moment one.
Batman: Legends of Gotham #1
Cover by Carmine Di Giandomenico
There’s a theory I have about naming Batman titles. Some variation of words will unlock huge nerdy potential — and Batman: Legends of Gotham seems like the perfect such formation. (It makes me think of Gotham Central and Legends of the Dark Knight, a deceptively powerful ploy that I don’t care is actually flagrant manipulation.) Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the cover itself plays up and then enhances whatever magic said wording/title has cultivated. Artist Carmine Di Giandomenico knows how to capture the intensity and kinetic feel of fight scenes, and one pitting Red Hood and Katana has heaps of both. Not only that, but the depiction of Gotham here — albeit a small, blurry corner while we race by at, say, 120 M.P.H. — extends the frenetic feel of the pair’s engagement. Does it matter why they’re fighting? Yeah, especially when it’s sort of cool (and likely involves a kind of villains-only auction). But even that context fads in comparison to the way this cover shows us the sort of magnificence that happens all the time across Gotham.
Where Monsters Lie #1
Variant cover by James Stokoe
Ok, here’s that occasional instance where the whole “Judging by the Cover” moniker goes out the window for a hot second. Because I’ve read this great new book from Kyle Starks and Piotr Kowalski — a few times, actually — and it’s so so great. It’s basically the answer to the question, “What if the world’s worst monsters and killers lived together in a kind of blood-soaked Sesame Street?” And what happens in the story proper is equal parts funny, genuinely poignant, and a little unsettling/disturbing. But since we are here for the cover after all, I think it only makes sense to talk about the variant piece from James Stokoe. Because, sure, on one hand it perfectly captures the whole gimmick in one brilliant, slightly nerve-wracking image. But it also invites the reader to spend a few minutes scanning Stokoe’s highly-detailed efforts, and the more you look, the more you be surprised at the banality while still waiting desperately for something to “happen.” That’s where the book gets you: it welcomes you and lets you decide what to really make of this all.
Variant cover by Edward Laroche
If you haven’t read The Warning from writer-artist Edward Laroche, you’re really missing out. He created this deeply compelling world 00 one that married huge, fantastical sci-fi bits with grounded drama and warfare for something that really sticks with you. And Almighty, Laroche’s latest project with artist Brad Simpson, looks like it’ll be much of the same. Combining the best bits of Annihilation with Mad Max: Fury Road, the series follows a hired killer bringing home a kidnapped girl in “Third World America ravaged by economic collapse, anarcho-warfare, and a mysterious environmental disaster contained behind a massive wall.” And Laroche’s own variant cover nails a lot of those bigger ideas and concepts, but it also does so much more. All that powerful line work and emphasis on key details shows that this could be a hugely gripping tale beyond its core premise, and one that promises to deliver on all that blood and grit and madness of its own solicitations. Dystopias are a dime a dozen, but this one looks so much more deep and dark than we could’ve ever hoped for.
Breath of Shadows #1
Cover by Alex Cormack
Rich Douek and Alex Cormack have already had some compelling “wins” thanks to two other books, Road of Bones and Sea of Sorrows. Now, they’re trying for a hat trick with Breath of Shadows, in which a ’60s rock god tries to get clean by going to a mysterious rehab in the South American jungles. If the debut cover is any indication, he’s more likely to have found abject horror than powerful personal insights. Not only do I love a cover that shows just such a visceral image before word one, but I love a lot of the core design covers from Cormack’s cover to #1. Like, the use of red, which feels both chaotic and poised at the same time. The psychedelic quality to some of the “logos” and the piece in general, which seems extra fitting for the book’s time period. Even the screaming face of our supposed rock god seems both deeply terrifying and also even more surreal somehow, which just adds a whole new layer of nuance (and, of course, outright fear). If I’m having this much of a head trip with just the cover, imagine what the book itself might illicit?
Sara Lone #4
Cover by David Morancho
Another book discovered just a little too late. In fact, we’re all the way at the dang four-issue run of Sara Lone before I really noticed the truly compelling work of artist David Morancho. Over the four issues, he (alongside writer Erik Arnoux) have told a compelling store of Joy Carruthers (stage name Sara Lone), and that’s even (and perhaps especially true) about the covers themselves. If you look at all four together — and I totally urge you to do so — you may not fully understand the story proper (which, without too many spoilers, may set Ms. Carruthers on a direct course with a most important historical date, November 22, 1963). With all that in mind, the cover to issue #4 seems like it might spell out just how things go for Sara Lone and the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean there’s not so many other energies and story threads involved here. Because if these covers do nothing else, they demonstrate that it’s about the journey over the destination — and in this case, it’s a very sleek and compelling journey at that.
DC’s Harley Quinn Romances #1
Cover by Amanda Conner
I will say it again: DC’s holiday-centric one-shots continue to be one of my favorite things of the year. And that remains true even when Harley Quinn Romances gave me a nearly impossible choice between three covers. (What else would I expect from an issue packed with the likes of Amanda Deibert, John McCrea, Jessica Berbey, Fico Ossio, and many, many more.) Because if you’re going to talk about cheesy romance, you have to go with the David Talaski variant, which is effectively every cheesy, Fabio-starring ’90s romance novel every made and a truly glorious celebration/lambasting of the Man of Steel. But then there’s Elizabeth Torque variant, which offers the same sort of semi-nostalgic slice of magical referencing but for the glory that is the love between Midnighter and Apollo. Yet I just had to — after spending a legit 10 minutes making an agonizing decision — ultimately go with this Amanda Conner cover. One, because it shows the Harley Quinn in this perfectly titled anthology. But more so, the Harley-Aquaman combination somehow just feels a smidgeon more brain-breakingly awesome, and a perfect use of the Little Mermaid. (Including Aquaman really leaning into his role as “Prince Eric.”) Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!
Variant cover by Martín Cóccolo
And speaking of weird and silly conversations that happened on this week’s podcast, we arrive at the Martín Cóccolo variant for Venom #16. To recap, both David Brooke and I think this is a deeply funny and silly cover, and we are both effectively concerned about what the piece does (and often does not) infer about Venom and the Marvel Universe at-large. But since this is such a great cover, there’s way more stuff to talk about within its meager but amazing scope/frame. Like, while it may appear that Venom is about to win (and snuff out a small sliver of humanity’s collective sense of joy), whose to say Pizza Rat isn’t seconds from snatching victory from the drooling jaws of defeat? Or, maybe we’ve all generally misread Pizza Rat’s intention, and he’s the bad guy after all? There’s more, but you get the point: this cover is dumb (in the best possible way) and totally funny, and a perfect example of why we need variant covers — and not just to drum up extra money, either. If anything, I want more chapters from the mighty epic of Venom vs. Pizza Rat.
Blood Tree #1
Cover by Christian Alamy and Brad Anderson
There’s been ample chances to be silly in this week’s edition of Judging by the Cover. And so now I want to end on a slightly more serious note — and Blood Tree seems like the perfect choice. Not only because it’s got some heavyweight creators (Peter J. Tomasi and Maxim Simic), or that it’s effectively about two NYPD detectives on the case of a serial murderer called the Angel Killer. But that it started life as a title on Zestworld and is now being re-released through an “established industry name” (my quote, FYI) in Image Comics. And, sure, that kind of thing isn’t exactly new these days, but it is becoming all the more frequent, and that’s an interesting development. It shows the important work of platforms like Zestworld (and others too, including Zoop). But it’s mostly just more proof that great work — led by this generally great cover from Christian Alamy, which checks every box for “intense police drama comic” — will always find a big audience no matter how or where it may begin. Sure, it also helps to have attractive leads and a giant demonic looking angel fiend, but my point remains regardless.
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