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Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 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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Stargirl: The Lost Children #4

Cover by Todd Nauck

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

I’ve only interviewed him briefly, but Geoff Johns is a bona fide DC Comics historian. And while he uses that knowledge and passion across a lot of his stories, that seems especially true and abundant with the ongoing Stargirl: The Lost Children. As we reach issue #4, solicitations make mentions and/or promises of Hypertime and, in a real deep cut from DC lore, Corky Baxter, Time Master. And that whole dynamic continues on the actual cover, as we get to see a little old-school comics magic regarding Jay Garrick and his “lost daughter” Judy, in a piece that expertly captures both the DC new-school and that old-timey retro goodness that feels like an essential element of the publisher’s history. Is this all a little too meta, perhaps? Maybe. But if you muck with time, that’s sort of what inevitably happens. That, and artist Todd Nauck is just so skilled at creating two distinct “worlds” and still highlighting some interconnective wonder between the pair. This is sort of why comics (especially DC) always feels so dang special.

Rogue & Gambit #1

Variant cover by Kaare Andrews

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

Of all the things happening in X titles, and across the realm of Krakoa at-large, I’m a little surprised we didn’t get this book from Stephanie Phillip and Carlos Gómez a little sooner. And that’s almost exclusively because of the roles the two are playing right now, and a lot of the sheer story potential with Destiny and her larger influence on the future of the mutant haven. But if waiting meant we’d get not only a possibly great story but an actual heap of variant covers, then it is already more than worth it. There’s this sweet Zu Orzu piece, which makes me think of the best harlequin romance novel ever. Or, this equally playful and sultry piece from Marc Aspinall. And even the main cover from Steve Morris, which is a little straightforward if not still pretty effective. But the ultimate winner is this Kaare Andrews variant. We all know how I feel about ’90s comics, but this one takes all those extreme vibes, turns them up by a few hundred degrees, and still manages a little self-knowing wink. The fact that this is a “fossil-foil” variant, and that’s, like, the fourth best thing going on here, just proves how exceptional of a cover we were gifted.

Phantom Road #1

Variant cover by Jeff Lemire

Judging by the Cover

I may have said this before, but if you see Jeff Lemire on a comics cover, you can pretty much pick it up sans further context. But this time around, there’s something truly special amid Lemire’s otherwise top-notch work. Mostly because he’s reunited with artist Gabriel Hernandez Walta, and the pair that last struck gold with the Sentient series. Just don’t expect horror-tinged sci-fi this time — it’s actually more supernatural fantasy with some hardcore grindhouse vibes about a long-haul truck driver named Dom and a girl named Birdie who undergo “a frantic journey through a surreal world.” And Lemire’s own variant cover sort of nails everything you’d need to know: the grindhouse vibe (seriously that crowbar gimmick is genius); the soul-melting monsters; and just the general feel of this series (read: playful without foregoing all that headiness and overt seriousness). But I think the cover also works because it hints at larger motifs and mysteries without spoiling much, and that kind of “secrecy” feels really novel and a genius way to start such a daunting experience. Hop on this rig, pronto.

Breath of Shadows #2

Cover by Alex Cormack

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

When I spoke of the debut cover just a few weeks ago, I used words like “terrifying” and “visceral.” And that’s doubly true for the cover to issue #2 of the series about a rock star trekking to the jungle to kick drugs (and maybe stumble into some David Lynch-ian hellscape?) But I’d also add some new words into the mix. Like, “trippy,” for the sense of depth and use of colors series in which artist Alex Cormack has expertly employed. And “anxiety-inducing,” as the perspective here really plays with your sense of gravity (and reality to boot). And even though it’s not a word per say, I’d also like to offer up, “If I stare at this piece for too long, I feel like I might either die or transcend into some new and strange dimension.” While this main piece isn’t nearly as metal as, say, the Björn Barends variant, it has the same effect of accidentally inhaling industrial paint fumes, and that’s a feat in and of itself.

Where Monsters Lie #2

Cover by Piotr Kowalski

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

The thing about making comics covers is that it’s hard AF. You have one image to sell a whole story (from a multi-issue series) while making something novel and refreshing. This piece from series artist Piotr Kowalski does all of that and more for Where Monsters Lie. Does it connect back to the story? Heck yes — it tells you what you need to know in a very minimalist way. And is also still almost standalone in its scope? For sure — if you saw this anywhere else you might both appreciate it and buy the ticket/merchandise it was attached to. Plus, not enough covers are always able to perform just such a feat; if anything, this cover does so because it really tries to engage the subject matter and the main narrative while playing around with iconic images (small town life) and even eschewing our understanding of the natural world. It’s a cover that clicks on so many levels, and it does so without making the audience presume to much or engage beyond whatever level they’re comfortable achieving. It’s a powerful piece for what it says as well as the things it even only ever whispers.

Red Zone #1

Cover by Rahzzah

Judging by the Cover

The whole premise of this new series from Cullen Bunn, Lee Loughridge, and Mike Deodato, Jr. feels a little forced. It’s basically like every ’90s action movie where some unexpecting schlub (this time a “Russian and Slavic Studies” professor) has a dark secret (this time involving ties to Russia) and must kick heaps of ass to find something (redemption, peace, vengeance, etc.) But the thing selling me on it is the excellent debut cover from Rahzzah. Sure, it’s a little on the noise — the man, like the doll, has many secretive layers! But it’s still such a hugely perfect image, and it manages to be a little disarming (get it, ’cause it’s a bullet?) despite being a little blunt. That, and the image itself has so many dang layers; the bullet itself is ornate as heck, and that seems to say a lot about some of the core motifs at play here. It remains to be seen if the story can match this cover’s promise. But if nothing else, the cover itself is bound to help move some books from shelves.

Cosmic Ghost Rider #1

Variant cover by Felipe Massafera

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

Yes, there’s been a few different Cosmic Ghost Rider-centric book since 2018, but I’m a little puzzled why we’re not at, like, issue #100 of an ongoing. The character sells himself: a time-displaced melding of Punisher and Ghost Rider, who goes around the universe shooting stuff and enacting some level of cosmic justice. I mean, the covers alone for issue #1 prove that there’s a veritable smorgasbord of potential here, and we’re all just collectively OK with it going unmined until now. There’s this Ryan Stegman piece, which makes somehow think of both Mad Magazine and 2000 AD (and that’s the greatest compliment I can offer up). Or this John Giang variant, which genuinely made my skin crawl as I thought about this evil fiend smothering space puppies. And, of course, this Cory Smith variant that makes Howard the Duck 4,000 times more badass. But again, there’s one clear winner, and it’s Felipe Massafera variant. Because what other piece is 1) a lost Rush album cover; 2) a recruitment poster for a weird evil space army; and 3) motivation to never, ever skip leg day? Long live Cosmic Ghost Rider.

DC / RWBY #1

Variant cover by Mirka Andolfo

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

I spent about ten minutes reading up about RWBY, and as a 37-year-old man, I’ve decided it’s not for me and that’s totally OK. But DC clearly thinks that more people do need an anime-style webseries about a future-fantasy world with airships and whatnot — and they’re bringing in the big guns to prove it. DC / RWBY sees the monsters and heroes from the realm of Remnant land firmly in the DCU, and it’s up to Batman and company to save the day. I think the one thing selling me that this book is genuinely a good idea is the Mirka Andolfo variant cover. Does it make me think the RWBY side of things is any less overly cutesy and annoying? Not really, and that’s OK. But it does show what these crossovers do need to achieve to actually be successful: a matching aesthetic. If only for this cover, we get to see a truly united DC-RWBY, and while it’s not always so dang compelling, it’s serviceable enough to make me think there’s something decent brewing here. But if it’s not, this is a time for RWBY fiends to have some fun, and that’s totally cool regardless.

Hollowed #1

Cover by Darius Johnson

Judging by the Cover – 03/01/23 new releases

I want to dispel a quick myth: Not everything piece that appears is the “best.” Which is to say, that while this feature is usually to celebrate the week’s most outstanding covers, it’s also a chance to, well, Judge by the Cover. (And, while I’m ranting, the notion of something being the “best” is a little asinine — something’s “best-ness” is so varied and complex.) I think Hollowed is a great addition to the side of this feature that’s interested in exploring the idea that important/compelling things aren’t always the “best.” Sure, while I love the whole concept — falling out of an explosion and shooting at the ground is a genius trope that more action series needs — I’m also aware at the slightly unpolished nature of this. Is that somehow also a little charming? Sure — I think great comics can come from artists across the spectrum, and there’s something to having a vision and voice if nothing else. My hope is that I’m not being dismissive; it’s that you check this out and engage this piece (and maybe the book) as that’s the most interesting thing we can ever do. This whole feature is about fostering that conversation, and this lil’ cover does that and then some.

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