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Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 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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Adventures of Superman: Jon Kent #1

Cover by Clayton Henry

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

As the Dawn of DC starts to slowly unroll, there’s already one clear upside: the continued evolution of Jonathan Kent. After starting his career in Superman: Son of Kal-El, young Mr. Kent gets his second book with Adventures of Superman (even if its sub-headed “Jon Kent”). And in said book, the younger Man of Steel has to face a multiverse-spanning murder mystery about who’s knocking off the Supermen of different earths. How will he handle such a feat, and is Mr. Kent ready for a challenge that also involves the a former foe of sorts in Ultraman. Based on this cover from series artist Clayton Henry, it would look like he’s ready for round twp. Not only is he clearly rocking some blue electric powers like his old man, but Jon Kent looks focused and up to the task of saving the Supermen — without looking overly confident or braggadocious. And that’s a perfect balance to strike: we want him to develop emotionally without being fully removed from the boyish inexperience and charm that defined his early career. That is the face of someone ready to step up but who not so long ago wasn’t sure he was ready to wear that over-sized symbol.

Blood Tree #2

Cover by Christian Alamy

Judging by the Cover

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s hard to feel truly shocked and/or appalled by most media these days. The last few years have burnt out some nerve-endings or general sensibilities, and things that are meant to be terrifying or unnerving feel a little flat when it comes to some of the actual things we’re bombarded with in the 24-hour news cycle. Yet even with that, I can somehow still generate a subtle full body shake at some of the stuff in Blood Tree. The cover to issue #2, for instance, is a good example of some of the great (read: terrible) imagery that defines this truly harrowing title. Cover artist Christian Alamy clearly understands the assignment, and he nails the gritty and yet otherworldly qualities of this Peter Tomasi-penned story. Maybe it’s the subtle use of blood; the ethereal quality of the angels; and/or the layout of the tree (it’s sort of compelling, yeah?), but this book’s doing it for me. And by “doing it,” I mean it’s unsettling without feeling overwhelming, and it tries to subtly attack the sensibilities and not bash it with a heavy hammer. So, is it just subtlety we’re missing, ’cause that seems almost strange.

Nightcrawlers #2

Cover by Leinil Francis Yu

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

If you told me you had a book that’s basically, “Nightcrawler clones combined with different X-Men,” I’d burst at the robust whimsiness of the concept. But then if you told me it was written by Si Spurrier, I’d probably just break down and sob. And that latter reaction seems to be the correct one, as this series, part of the larger Sins of Sinister event, is decidedly on the menacing side. The “Crawlers” in question are assassins of the good Mister Sinister, and they’re part of a larger struggle to wrestle control away from Marvel’s maddest scientist in a future timeline. If the cover to issue #2 is any indication, that struggle isn’t going so hot. It’s also not doing many favors for our collective childhood, as artist Leinil Yu has expertly torn down the legacies of Thor, Nightcrawler, and Colossus with such a powerful image — one whose larger context unfolds for the reader across several layers. It’s not an obvious dropkick to the face but the severe implications, and sense of despair, methodically attack the old brain pan. More like Night-skin-crawling, amirite?!

Space Job #2

Cover by Álvaro Sarraseca

Judging by the Cover

When Space Job debuted back in early February, I was generally impressed. Not with the sleek and sexy look of this sci-fi series, but how it made a future of universal exploration feel sad, gray, and firmly like a trip to the MVD. Now, as issue #2 debuts, we’re greeted with more of the same — like The Office meets Deep Space Nine — but with something more to it. Maybe it’s the flat gray tones; the lack of decor and even practical furniture (rolling chairs in space?!); the slightly menacing tones of space; and the distinctly flat, Earth-ian items like a cereal box and bowl, but this makes me hugely uncomfortable. And in a series that, at least thus far, is about how deeply human all of this trailblazing stuff really is, that level of disconnect feels extra important. It’s not just that it’s de-romanticizing space travel (which it is) — it’s also showing us that there’s some huge layers of subtext that would inform a far more uneasy and emotionally complicated experience. So, yeah, it’s not all about traveling into the wild blue yonder, but having to take with us some parts of humanity we just might find unsavory.

The Gimmick #1

Cover by Erica Henderson

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

You may already know how I feel about wrestling-centric comic books. But I’m doubly excited about The Gimmick. Not only is it written by someone with a pro wrestling background — Joanne Starer ran a women’s promotion in the early 2000s — but it’s got a novel, distinctly superhero-esque spin. I don’t want to personally spoil said “twist,” but it’s the reason why our hero, Shane Bryant, has to hit the road to “a new gimmick-and a new life!” And, sure, some of that is sort of perfectly hinted at in this cover from Erica Henderson, but there’s maybe more important elements to this excellent cover. Like, the spotlight, which really plays up the drama and inherent theatricality (like, this is an actual play, I mean). Or, the broken ropes and the posing of the bodies — again, not unlike a stage show. What I’m saying, then, is that I think this series is going to expertly dissect what wrestling is, and in doing so, perhaps offer some bigger truths about human relationships and how we try and get by in life. And if there’s dope suplexes thrown in, that’s totally cool, too.

Stoneheart #1

Cover by Emma Kubert

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

You may recognize the name Emma Kubert from her famous family , but she’s no slouch herself. The young Kubert has already provided art for several noticeable series, including Frank Miller’s Pandora, Radiant Pink, and Inkblot. Now, she’s going it solo as both artist and writer on Stoneheart, about the “bubbly and headstrong Shayde Whisper” who must travel the realm, without the aid of her magical guild, to effectively save the day. And, sure, the premise itself isn’t exactly new, but Kubert’s art continues to feel pretty refreshing and compelling. There’s a kind of whimsy and heart to her work, and yet she understands the vital importance of depth and darkness. That results in a cover that sort of feels like Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story — which is to say, something that brings a level of intensity without forgoing that sense of pure fantasy and innocence, a blend that speaks volumes about the tone and level of emotions we’re to expect here. There’s a power to this cover, and if the book itself delivers enough, you’ll see Kubert’s name more than we already have.

Poison Ivy #10

Cover by Jessica Fong

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

The thing about satire is that doing it right can be really hard to do well. It’s about being direct but also playful — having the balance to cut your intended subject without letting things derail into a mess of bad jokes and weak execution. And the Poison Ivy series has done a damn fine job in lampooning certain subjects and people, with a special focus on environmentalism and consumer culture. That’s doubly true for the cover to issue #10, as Poison Ivy enjoys a little detour on her way back to Gotham to manage the pesky problem of a “fungus-loving Hollywood celebrity with a lifestyle brand and spa.” Here, we get a perfect slice of satire that 1) plays up the consumerism bent with a CCTV camera (very much 1984 vibes, yeah?); 2) pokes fun at big box health food chains without being ham-fisted; and 3) shows how generally terrifying Ivy would be in the real world. It’s done not with lazy malice but a playful sense intellect and authority. The only thing missing is the $6 price label for a bottle of asparagus water.

Black Panther #15

Cover by Alex Ross

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

After 15 powerful issues, the John Ridley-penned run of Black Panther comes to an end. Here, T’Challa comes face-to-face with an old friend as part of an extra twisted plot of assassination and betrayal that will have ramifications for both Wakanda and perhaps the very legacy of the Black Panther mantle. But the thing I want to talk about is this great Alex Ross cover. As far as endings go, having T’Challa in the mouth of the goddess Bast feels like a really powerful image — one that’s both disconcerting and yet also comforting somehow. It’s also sort of terrifying and also uplifting the way Ross has depicted the stars here; it generates a sense of romance but also makes you feel a little empty inside. But perhaps the thing that this cover does best is that it’s not as “clean” as some of Ross’ other, equally majestic covers. Whether that’s the line work of the panther’s head, or the makeup of T’Challa’s suit, that added air of chaos just makes things feel all the more dire. If this is how things end, it’s going to be one heck of a final ride.

Children of the Black Sun #3

Cover by Letizia Cadonici

Judging by the Cover – 03/08/23 new releases

Great comic covers show you an image that is just specific enough to get you theorizing in a hurry. But they can also provide you with zero context and instead poke your brain with a mostly abstract image and many accompanying questions. The latter is certainly the case with Children of the Black Sun #3. The story itself is about the children born under the titular Black Sun, whose “white hair, ashy skin, abnormal proportions, and eyes as red as fire” is basically like Children of the Corn — which further suggests some scary stuff is about to happen in the book’s main burg of Brightvale. But that connection back to a cult horror classic isn’t what I’m interested in; it’s the cover from series artist Letizia Cadonici. Why is this girl (seemingly) hosting a podcast? What is that red beam of light (the sun or maybe a beam from a huge gun?) Why did they highlight that specific part of her head/brain? And should we want bad things to happen to this person or not? All of those questions (and so many more) don’t so much drive me bonkers but get me properly hyped while demonstrating the power that an effective visual statement can have in engaging readers in some compelling ways. Oh, and one last Q: is that a giant monster behind her?!

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