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Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

Judging by the Cover

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 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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The Amazing Spider-Man #26

Variant cover by Skottie Young

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

Well, after an internet-rocking leak, we finally come to the arrival of The Amazing Spider-Man #26. There’s no beating around the bush: the death of Ms. Marvel certainly generated a response, albeit a whole lot of “OMG why?!” as to whatever Marvel and the creative team thought they might’ve elicited among readers. And, sure, without getting too deep into tinfoil hat territory, maybe that leak was orchestrated to sell books and get ahead of whatever reaction this seemingly unpopular choice did actually generate. But all of that’s just old news and conjecture, and the only thing we have right now is this Skottie Young variant cover, which seems extra important given the events of the last couple weeks. From the way the grave is dug (kinda shallow, huh) to the cartoonish puzzlement of Spidey himself, it feels like a proper reaction to this extra weird turn of events. Even if the leak never happened, this cover still feels somehow overly cutesy, and I think that makes this whole situation a tad bizarre. And, if absolutely nothing else, it’s taught us all one valuable lesson: if you want to move books, it doesn’t hurt for things to get a little weird.

W0rldtr33 #2

Cover by Fernando Blanco

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

It’s pretty obvious what covers are supposed to do, right? I don’t need to give an explanation at this point — but I do want to talk about what makes Worldtr33 feel really special because it seems to buck some important “rules.” Yes, covers don’t always depict what’ll actually happen in the book proper — and yet I get the sense this is potentially ripped right from the interiors. And there’s usually something hyper-dramatic and slightly over-the-top; this moment, while still hugely unsettling, isn’t quite as grandiose, and forces the viewer/reader to try and piece together just what makes this scene so dang intense and horrifying. And, finally, a main character type/big player takes an obscured seat in the back, and while that’s not as firm a tenement of comics covers, it does still feel like a semi-novel and important decision. Altogether, it’s these subtle decisions that make a good cover really important, and further hype the importance of this compelling new book.

DC Pride 2023 #1

Variant cover by Jen Bartel

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

If I believe in two things in the world, the one that’s comics-related is that Harley Quinn and Pamela “Poison Ivy” Isley are the most important couple across DC, Marvel, etc. (The other thing is that you always want at least two cheeses on any pizza.) I could spend a lot of time dissecting why Poison Quinn are the top of the romantic charts — like how their relationship grew in a really thoughtful and organic way, or that they balance out and compliment one another really well. Instead, I will just point to this truly excellent Jen Bartel variant to DC Pride 2023, in which we see an absolutely magical moment between the pair. It’s not super telling or anything, but it does frame the lovebirds in a really magical light — demonstrating some essential quality to their coupling as well as the way they sort of operate just to carve out these really vital moments alone. I get that parasocial relationships aren’t exactly a good idea, but if it’s something sort of playful and pure like this, maybe they’re not so terrible after all. That, and any tarot card that looks like this gorgeous surely can’t be bad news.

Savage Strength of Starstorm #1

Cover by Drew Craig

Judging by the Cover

When choosing pieces for Judging by the Cover, I try to think about more than just the art. Like, sure, I need something to move me, but I also need something to latch onto from a narrative standpoint so I can tell a proper story. Then there’s times when I just drop that act and pick something jaw-droppingly amazing like Savage Strength of Starstorm #1. Sure, it’s not exactly the most novel from a story perspective — teenage boy finds mysterious space artifact, has to save the universe. But writer-artist Drew Craig has such an amazing aesthetic that we can forgive a slightly familiar narrative. He’s certainly got a Jack Kirby-esque approach to weird space magic — albeit with a more cartoonish joy and bent. It certainly feels very much an indie comic — weird and silly, with an emphasis on the humanity and interpersonal tidbits — but I’d argue the whole design/gimmick is right up there with a DC-Marvel property in terms of connective potential. I get that we should just appreciate good art, and that story often comes beyond these covers. But sometimes it takes an especially solid piece, brimming with a kind of giant-sized magic, to really drive that fact home.

Cat Fight #1

Cover by Ilias Kyriazis

Judging by the Cover

Anyone who knows me, or reads this column, should be aware that I love a good tagline. And in terms of the new IDW series Cat Fight, “John Wick meets Kill Bill, meets CATS?!” deserves a solid 4.25 stars out of five. Because the first two scream highly choreographed fight scenes with an edge of humor/self-awareness, and the last one says, “And don’t forget the weirdo vibes and overt whimsy!” That’s clearly something that informs the cover by series artist Ilias Kyriazis, as we get a pretty powerful blend of ideas and influences. There’s some real Broadway musical energy to the way everyone’s posed. Some seedy, “everyone’s an assassin vibes ala John Wick” pretty much everywhere (the money counting, slick clothes, grappling hook, etc.) Plus, a dash or two of some James Bond flicks (really, it’s the rattan chair and just the sheer number of cats depicted). All of that  together makes for a really compelling, multifaceted universe, and one that I hope builds on some of the playfulness, drama, and intensity of its inspirations. Talk about the cat’s meow, amirite?!

Neverender: The Final Duel #3

Cover by Devin Kraft

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

I get that sci-fi is pretty much everywhere these days, but Neverender: The Final Duel is a standout already. If only because it asks one very important question: “What if space travel inevitably lead to a universal interest in sword fighting/dueling?” More than just that top-notch premise, artist-writer Devin Kraft has built an equally impressive world — based on the first two covers alone, it’s one that feels really out there and inventive (love the Warhammer-meets-StarWars vibes) while leaning into some of the feudal and Victorian era vibes associated with dueling at-large. It’s such a powerful world, in fact, that as Kraft goes decidedly minimalist for the cover to #3, it never loses any of that power. Maybe it’s how all that negative space makes me feel small and uncertain; the way the black and white adds power to the solitary figure; and/or the way that even the text and its layout really add to the progressive sci-fi vibes, but this thing works. The mere fact that it makes me think of, and feel similar sentiments to, Tsutomu Nihei’s BLAME! are mere bonus points for this truly inventive slice of novel space storytelling.

Power Girl Special #1

Variant cover by Amanda Conner

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

Sometimes these specials can feel a little hollow — they’re meant to be a display for characters and not always an exercise in storytelling or world-building. But that’s not at all the case for Power Girl Special #1: not only does she have new powers to contend with, but the whole story — “[battling] the demons (literal and figurative) lurking within the minds of some of the greatest superheroes in the DC Universe — is both totally bonkers and ties directly into Lazarus Planet. So, I can’t think of a better cover to help capture this big-ish moment than this excellent Amanda Conner variant. It looks like Power Girl has her hands full in an especially harrowing moment, and yet there’s still time/space for a little light-hearted humor and cat-themed cuteness. It doesn’t distract from this big story but add to it by reminding us of Power Girl’s unique disposition and the humanity and integrity she’ll maintain as she tackles one of her biggest challenges to date. The fact that this feels like some super-powered Archie comic is sort of the point — there’s always room for the cute and compelling, and Power Girl is the vanguard of that very dynamic.

Venom: Lethal Protector II #3

Cover by Matt Wilson and Paulo Siqueira

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

Around these parts, we love ’90s comics for being over-the-top and very dumb in the best possible ways. So it’s a little surprising, then, that it took till issue #3 for Venom: Lethal Protector II to really enter my radar. Because it has everything you need to be a successful rehashing of essential ’90s comics madness. (And almost none of it has to do with co-creator David Michelinie slinging Venom stories from the days when “brains — and Spider-Man — were still on the menu.”) In fact, it has almost everything to do with the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. gave it’s newest member a gun and a bandolier even when he could likely make this same stuff with his symbiote suite. And there’s also the really top-notch black and white background pieces, which add a level of intrigue and drama while still maintaining that distinct ’90s feel. Even the design choices of Venom’s dang face feel of that era’s intensity and endless commitment to over-the-top-ness at every turn. If you’re going to rehash the ’90s, it needs to be done like this: with an unflinching commitment and dreams bigger than any futuristic machine gun.

Snow White Zombie Apocalypse: Legendary Edition #1

Cover by Hyeondo Park

Judging by the Cover – 05/31/23 new releases

If you’re not up-to-date on your recent comics history, Snow White Zombie Apocalypse #1 debuted way back in the Before Times of October 2019. Here, writer Brenton Lengel and artist Hyeondo Park basically mashed together the story of Cinderella and 28 Days Later into a bloody tale of romance and survival. The only thing different this time, though, is that this is a so-called “Legendary Edition” format that measures in at 11″ x 17″. And, sure, it’s subtle, but I think that format really helps to extend our perception of this cover. The black and white also does a lot of heavy lifting; it feels perfect for proper horror and the sort of whimsy of old-school fairy tales. That, and the world doesn’t scream “bloody mess” right away; it sort of reveals itself slowly that this world’s maybe not as magical as is might be for Cinderella and her Prince Charming. Heck, even the smirk on the prince’s face here feels like he ripped it from the Ash Williams Playbook, and I know that means we’re going to be in for some uber bloody madness. If the book can achieve even a fraction of that, then let’s go with all the super deluxe mega editions that publishers can muster.

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