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AIPT Comics Podcast episode 209: Reginald Hudlin

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 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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Wolverine #30

Cover by Leinil Francis Yu

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

I’ve gone on quite a bit about the wonders that the “Krakoa era” have provided to readers. A more robust and diverse cast; intriguing new character arcs and journeys; and a more cohesive X-centric world than ever before (and that’s saying enough). But one of the things that isn’t hyped nearly enough is the ongoing “evolution” of Beast. What was (at least seemingly?) just an awkward nerd covered in blue fur has developed into a genuinely twisted man, the undeniable architect of much of the last few years’ more, let’s say, nefarious dealings across the X titles. And it seems it all comes to a heads of sorts with Wolverine #30. Whether it’s the gnarly, mangled eye; the quiet rage strewn across his face; and/or the literal Wolverine skull he’s basically palming, Beast has never look more badass. More than, though, this whole image doesn’t feel all that removed from an actual possibility in the book itself — and that’s as terrifying as it is oddly compelling. We’ve truly come a long way from Beast in the ’90s animated show and even’ Kelsey Grammer’s take.

Batman: Beyond the White Knight #8

Variant cover by Sean Murphy

Judging by the Cover

And speaking of books that have done a lot for storytelling and world-building, we come to the Sean Murphy-led White Knight “universe.” Over a series of books, Murphy and his many collaborators have given us a daring and intriguing new version of Batman, one who grapples with ideas of grief, legacy, and power in new and interesting ways. And now he faces another “challenge” of sorts with, at least as this cover suggests, Superman making his way to ol’ Gotham City. This would be the first such appearance by the Man of Steel in this universe, and I love the whole vibe/aesthetic they went with here. It’s very much feel-good, pseudo-50s vibes — a Superman that’s bright and shimmery and endless hopefully. Or, everything that this Batman isn’t, and that dichotomy could be even more satisfying given the “shape” of this Dark Knight. Your stomach almost churns at the mere sight of this sparkly dynamo, and I hope the book delivers on that by even a mere fraction of a percentage.

Art Brut #3

Cover by Martin Morazzo and Mat Lopes

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

I get that this is comics we’re talking about, and the artwork really does so much of the heavy lifting. But I think that’s really worth repeating and delving into when it comes to Art Brut. Sure, because the series is all about art and the creation of it (told through the lens of a man who leaps into paintings to help fix the dying world of fine art). But also because there’s just so much visual potency here, and covers like the one for issue #3 prove just how savvy this book can be artistically. By repurposing the famous Andy Warhol piece — which itself is a kind of pop culture recontextualization — series artist Martin Morazzo (and joined by Mat Lopes) manages to 1) generate a really insightful bit of commentary about art and 2) show how sort of dumb and silly all of it can be. And I think that’s what makes this book so smart and entertaining: it embraces complex, nuanced ideas and delivers some genuine comic magic. Soup for all of you!

Masters of the Universe: Masterverse #1

Cover by Eddie Nunez

Judging by the Cover

I didn’t really grow up with He-Man and the whole Masters of the Universe whizbang. It was just a couple years before me, and I recall my older brother being really obsessed with it. However, since I’ve basically grown into a world where it’s a big thing, I feel like it’s nonetheless a rather important cultural landmark — something that’s only become more prevalent with the recent slate of relaunches/reboots across comics and TV. And so because of that I think I finally have a proper jumping on point, as it were, with the new series from Tim Seeley, Eddie Nunez, Sergio Aragonés, Kelley Jones, Rico Renzi, and Brennan Wagner. Because not only is that some real A-list talent, but Nunez’s debut cover basically shows me 1) the team understands the series’ vital role in the larger scope of animation history and 2) everything looks so amazing when you find that perfect blend of ’80s and ’90s aesthetics. Seriously, they’ve nailed this perfect blend of edgy, overly muscled dudes and weirdo sci-fi. And that’s the sort of thing everyone can appreciate.

White Savior #2

Cover by Eric Nguyen

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

Sometimes I’ll go, “This is Judging by the Cover, but…” and then talk about a series I’ve read and deeply loved and use the cover as a mere entry point. But this time, I’m going to do that but then talk about a book I didn’t love so much. Sure, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, but the debut issue of White Savior took a solid premise — Old Man Logan artist Eric Nguyen explores ideas of race and appropriation through a time travel story involving feudal Japan — and made some early decisions that derided it momentum. (I’m talking mostly about some of the dialogue and the slower execution.) But the cover to issue #2 gives me enough hope that this series could turn it around, as Nguyen plays up a dash more “romanticism” that I think will help temper this wholly satirical series. That, and a slightly more serious tone also really helps control your expectations and give this whole thing a sprinkling of added gravitas. Now, just stick the landing by making us laugh and making us “ooh” and “ahhh” a little.

Ronin Book II #2

Cover by Philip Tan and Daniel Henriques

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

Did you know there was a sequel to Frank Miller’s legendary Ronin? Did you also know that it’s already at the second of its six-issue run? Regardless, it’s still early enough to hop in on the adventure, which “takes Casey and her newborn son across the ravaged landscape of America.” (It also features layouts from Miller and art by Philip Tan and Daniel Henriques). And if there’s anything that could shake any latent uncertainty some of us have about this book — why else was it not nearly hyped/promoted enough?! — it would be the Tan-Henriques cover to issue #2. It certainly engages the original’s aesthetic, but in a way that feels fresh and new, with a bit more edge and heft while also playing up a bit more nuanced style. The end result makes me think of anime by the way of Toonami, and the sort of thing that feels like a proper extension and development of the original Ronin. Plus, little kids wielding swords is somehow my new favorite trope.

Marauders #11

Cover by Kim Jacinto

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

Want to know another, slightly under-heralded thing from the Krakoan era? It’d have to be the covers — across most series, the creators have really stepped up their game both in opening up opportunities for new artists and the sorts of visual gags and feats of wonder they’ve employed. And that’s held doubly true for Marauders. Whether it’s badass-but-cutesy covers from Peach Momoko, or a slice of pure awesomeness via Kael Ngu, the book’s always express some very spellbinding and lethally effective messages via its covers. And that’s true for #11: as things heat up with new happenings and blood feuds galore, artist Kim Jacinto captures a heated moment of battle with a vibe that’s both playful in its intentions while capturing the appropriate levels of grit and intensity. And those dynamics work well with Marauders‘ overall scope while also furthering the sort of energies and visual identities that are ultimately aligned with this book. Let’s hope they’ve got at least another cover in ’em.

Danger Street #3

Variant cover by Ramona Fradon and Evan Doc Shaner

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

I don’t have any special access into the mind of writer Tom King. (If I did, maybe I’d be some combination of more famous and a little less well-adjusted.) But generally speaking, the very basis of his approach in books like Mister Miracle, Strange Adventures, and the ongoing Danger Street is basically, “Remember that (mostly/slightly) obscure thing from DC’s history? Let’s make it weird and really dark.” And, if you haven’t noticed already, it’s an amazingly effective formula, and one that gives King and his various collaborators ample space to tell weird and powerful stories. It’s that very dynamic that makes this Ramona Fradon-Doc Shaner cover work so well. Because we get to see some retro work by Fradon (a comics OG dating back to the ’60s and the co-creator of Metamorpho), which is then supplemented by Shaner’s always excellent work, and enjoy it a few different ways. One, for the amazing piece of kitschy pop culture it is, and two, because we know that what lies in the book ahead is all together more nuanced and complicated (and yet also very much in line with said image). The final result is kind of like a headrush, and a powerful example of the pure acts of insanity that come with collaboration and a proper recontextualizing of comics legend.

Kaya #5

Variant by Wes Craig

Judging by the Cover – 02/15/23 new releases

I’m a little sad about Kaya #5. Sure, the series has been excellent so far (and that’s even true for the various covers), but the end of an arc is always a little uncertain. Because, sure, a story is easy enough to tell, but sticking the landing can be another feat entirely. But there’s one thing that tells me that, if nothing else, issue #5 will be a solid enough end (and hopefully a springboard into a bright future) — and it’s creator Wes Craig’s own variant cover. Specifically, it’s in honor of artist Frank Frazetta, who is best known for his award-winning fantasy and sci-fi working from the late ’20s to early ’90s. (Seriously, do yourself a favor and peep his work.) And as for his actual homage, Craig nails Frazetta’s vivid use of colors, robust depiction of heroes, and generally romantic energy, but in a way that stays true to himself and, perhaps more importantly, the emotional and visual core of this wonderful little book. It launches the book into a new stratosphere and yet feels like a perfectly in-line development for the title itself. If this is indeed the end, it’s quite a moment of emotionality and bravery to go out on.

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