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Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 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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Nightwing #101

Variant cover by Vasco Georgiev

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

I get why some of you haven’t come around when it comes to the Tom Taylor/Bruno Redondo-led run of Nightwing. “Oh,” you say with a noticeable whine to your voice, “it’s just so dang cutesy.” And I totally agree; any book that prominently features a three-legged dog named Bitewing has totally jumped the glitter-encrusted shark. But then I’d also say, “Give me more.” Because this series’ displays of cuteness are powerful ways to build and extend the world of Dick Grayson and friends. Case in point: this Vasco Georgiev variant to issue #101. Be it the prominent placement of Bitewing/Haley; Grayson’s wonderful shirt (will DC start selling this, I wonder?); the fast food and rampant sitcom vibes; and the fact he hang dries his uniform, this cover has me swooning. And that’s sort of been the point: Taylor and Redondo are trying to build a life for Mr. Grayson, to show him truly as a well-rounded person who just so happens to fight crime. And there’s no more effective way to do so then with overly saccharine images like this. Now, give me smiling babies and dancing anthropomorphized Wing-Dings!

Blue Book #1

Cover by Michael Avon Oeming

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

If the solicitation for your book mentions past works like Powers and Something is Killing the Children, you know you’re doing something right. But James Tynion IV and Michael Avon Oeming aren’t ever ones to rest on their mighty laurels, and they’re doing something sort of innovative with this new Dark Horse title. Namely, they’re calling these “True Weird” stories, rehashing and retelling legends of the most well-known alien/UFO stories in modern history. (And they’re starting with the story of the Betty and Barney Hill abduction, which is sort of the progenitor of the entire “genre.”) And I think Avon Oeming’s own debut cover is a truly smart choice. Not only is it super slick and utterly terrifying, but it’s nebulous enough to capture the core sentiments, energies, emotions, etc. of practically any abduction story they could ever tackle. It’s a kind of lingua franca of the weird and unsettling, and the perfect snapshot to set the tone of this entire project. It’s so powerful, in fact, I can almost feel myself being tractor-beamed out of my very chair.

Thor #31

Cover by Nic Klein

Judging by the Cover

There’s no denying that, with the personnel issues and whatnot, the whole of the Thor book has suffered as of late. But on the upside, life rolls ever onward, and with it comes the promise of a brand-new arc and more mighty adventures for the God of Thunder. And so, if you look at it through the frame of a new storyline, this Nic Klein cover’s pretty great. What better way to tackle a story about the broken gates of Valhalla and missing souls than with a hugely creepy cover like this. (It feels like the love child of The Walking Dead and Marvel Zombies, yeah?) But I think there’s more here. If you consider the book’s recent “issues,” this cover also feels like a way to capture some of the emotional potential and give Thor some extra potency. Then, if you consider the more long-term lineage of Point Break himself — his endless struggles with legacy and his place in the Asgardian canon — this cover then feels all the more evocative and poignant. No matter how you look at it, though, it’s a hugely gripping piece, and something that works for the character no matter where he and his book may be at.

Local Man #1

Cover by Tim Seeley and Tony Fleecs

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

Prepare to hear a veritable boatload about Image Comics’ latest series, Local Man. The brain-child of Tony Fleecs and Tim Seeley, it’s a giant-sized love letter to ’90s comics. But whereas a book like Vanish embraced the edge and grit, this book doesn’t shy away from the neon-colored silliness of the era as it tells a powerful story about a man grappling with a fall from grace and just trying to do the right thing. And the Fleecs-Seeley cover to issue #1 is a perfect encapsulation of the story itself and some of the themes and dynamics at play here. And, sure, it clearly captures the regret and longing that rests at the story’s core, but it also shows something more human and organic — that deeply powerful belief that, no matter how far we may fall, it’s possible to still do something of merit/value. All of those heady energies swirl together to tell a rather compelling story about what really makes a hero, and how the hardest part is just getting back onto your feet. This just in, Local Man does a damn fine job.

20th Century Men #6

Cover by S. Morian

Judging by the Cover

It’s been a minute since I touched base with 20th Century Men. Those early covers were really compelling in that they expertly and effortlessly built a very specific kind of alternate history while also just being really dope to ogle at. But now with the release of issue #6, we’ve reached the end of this miniseries, in which all the big players — Iron Star, President Goode, and 6Bill — clash together. The cover from series artist S. Morian would demonstrate that it’s going to be an epic clash indeed, but I also think there’s more here. Specifically, if we’re talking about a book that’s exploring the true heart of the 20th century as told through the lens of the Cold War, a heavily radiated nuclear man is a pretty dang powerful image. It’s one that cuts to the very heart of the battle, and what it continues to tell us about the very soul of man (read: we’re awful and twisted, yeah?) Sure, maybe the actual Cold War is a bit more complicated than that, but if we’re trying to real bash folks in the face with some larger message or meditation, you really can’t get more effective than this.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds – Illyrian Enigma #3

Cover by Megan Levens

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

If you recall some of my other musings on the series/franchise, I’m not much of a Star Trek fan. But I am slowly becoming a fan of the comics-centric output given the recent slate of pretty great covers from the various titles. And the cover to this Strange New Worlds offering is clearly no different. Do I know why series artist Megan Levens decided to go with this DNA-starring piece? Not really. Do I want to maybe do a little research into why? Also, not really. Is that going to stop me from extrapolating regardless? No way. If I had to guess, then, I’m sure it has something to do with genetic manipulation and the titular Illyrians. If I were to go a little deeper then (again, given my general lack of know-how), I’d say this cover rocks because of some greater meaning. This hugely connective potential that unites Star Trek (not unlike the role of DNA), and how it’s the people and their interactions and emotions that are at the very core of this entire franchise (again, not unlike how DNA is at the core of all people). If it’s not a good enough answer, I hope it at least proves that I’m finally coming around to Star Trek, and that’s got to be a damn fine accomplishment from some mere comics covers.

Superman #1

Variant cover by Tom Derenick

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

If nothing else came through during their interview, Joshua Williamson and Jamal Campbell deeply love Superman. And they’re showing that appreciation and fondness by telling a really interesting story about the Man of Steel, one that balances both his lineage and history as well as contextualizing things for this bright new era. And they had more than their fair share of debut covers to help facilitate that larger process. That includes Campbell’s own appropriately epic cover; this breathtaking bit of majesty from Andy Kubert; some flirtatious vibes courtesy of Jorge Jiménez; and massively savage piece from Francesco Mattina. Yet the clear cut winner is the variant from Tom Derenick. Why exactly he opted to portray this piece of memorabilia from the home of Bibbo Bibbowski remains a mystery. But there’s no denying that it’s sweet, silly, cheesy, funny, and almost romantic — or, pretty much the emotional smorgasboard the series itself is already purveying. The power of Superman really is to have it all, and this cover proves that with such profound ease and intent.

Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain #1

Variant cover by Miguel Mercado

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

When you’re talking about Marvel covers — and perhaps X-centric titles more specifically — you’ve really got to go big to grab people squarely by the eyeballs. And yet this Miguel Mercado variant isn’t exactly the most ocular-snagging when you first take a peep — especially when you consider covers like this understated piece of badassery from Otto Schmidt. Yet Mercado’s done something really compelling here: in a new series that’s about Betsy Braddock trying to define herself and her role as Captain Britain, this cover speaks volumes. There’s something about the quiet dignity of her face; the almost organic glow of her shield and sword; the way her cap gently flaps in the breeze — all of it tells us everything we need to know about Braddock’s next chapter. Which is to say, she may be facing plenty of challenges (known and unknown), but she’s going to tackle them like a proper hero. That, and few heroes have as shiny a pair of boots even with all that travel back and forth to Otherworld.

Lovesick #5

Variant cover by Luana Vecchio

Judging by the Cover – 02/22/23 new releases

We’ve reached a new low (or high depending on how you look at it). Because, sure, I talked a lot about Do A Powerbomb!, but even all of that doesn’t real compare to the sheer amount of unfettered gushing I’ve done over Lovesick. It’s just one of my faves, and the less I hear people talking about it (no matter how much that might actually be in reality), the more time I will take to gush even harder. And after some genuinely great covers from issues #1-4, I think writer-artist Luana Vecchio has once more upped her game with issue #5. Is it as deliberate or boisterous in its intentions as, say, issue #2? Or even the other covers for this issue? No way. But what makes this variant cover so great is it pretty much checks the boxes for why this series matters: endless blood and guts; a massive sense of humor and general affirmative wink; nuanced emotion and humanity; and just some deeply compelling artistic expression. It’s dark and weird and utterly earnest and just the sort of thing that grabs you by the face and screams while leaving just a hint of mystery to delve into later. In short, it’s a proper comics experience, and if you can’t fall in love with this, then maybe you’re not ready for real love.

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