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Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 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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Also, in the name of fun and spontaneity, this week’s edition of Judging by the Cover is composed entirely of variant covers! Because more variants make the world a beautiful place, right? 

Daredevil #14

Variant cover by Dave Wachter

Judging by the Cover

Issue #14 of the latest Daredevil promises to be “THE ENDD.” (God I hope that extra D isn’t an error but some wildly inventive new form of emphasis.) And whether that’s “a marriage, a life, a love, or Matt Murdock’s time as Daredevil” remains to be seen, but it should make for a whiz-bang of a finale with Chip Zdarsky at the helm. So given that this is perhaps going to be the conclusion to end all conclusions for the Man With No Fear, I think Dave Wachter’s variant cover is an interesting choice. For one, the focus on Matt and Elektra is a big deal: not only because their dynamic has always been a huge part of the Daredevil story, but that it’s been even more vital among the “Zdarsky Era.” But it’s more than that — I love that this is such a wildly intimate moment between the two, and it’s a singular instance that speaks to some kind of humanity or emotionality that’s always felt so deeply elemental to this singular hero and his little slice of Hell’s Kitchen. And yet even more than that, I love that we don’t get to see what slice of madness is about to unfold, and we’re left to hover in the quiet before the storm with our heroes. Forget all the explosions and big action scenes as a teaster — this one moment will torture and tantalize for whatever enddd (with two extra Ds!) is about to come.

The Cull #1

Variant cover by Michael Walsh

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

I think we have a contender for best new series descriptor of 2023 thanks to The Cull. This tale of friends shooting an indie film is described as “Something is Killing the Children-horror vibes [mixed] with The Goonies-style adventure.” While that generates all sorts of images in my head (like Sloth wearing one of those dope bandanas), some of the images we actually get are just as intriguing and compelling. That includes this variant cover from Michael Walsh, which maybe lands a little closer to a Midsommar-esque aesthetic meets a lost variant cover of Annihilation. But while I don’t know if that actually fits the look and feel of the book, it at least feels thematically appropriate. There’s something sly, sensual, and subtly intense about this cover, and that mirrors the intrigue and web of interpersonal drama that’s meant to define this book. It almost makes me think of those title cards from a show like Pretty Little Liars and/or Sharp Objects, where there’s things both only implied and outright screamed directly at the viewer as to tell a story that’s both firm and direct in some parts without giving up all of that sweet, sweet mystery. If the flowers and other flora are any real indication, this one’s already in full bloom and ready to ensnare viewers posthaste.

Knight Terrors: Nightwing #2

Variant cover by Francesco Mattina

Judging by the Cover

I adore Nightwing; my Twitter features the phrase “Nightwing of Culture Journalism.” And so of course I was overjoyed when Nightwing, who’s taken a massive leadership role amid the whole Dawn of DC era, got his very own solo title amid the many Knight Terrors spin-offs. Issue #1 proved compelling enough, as one Dick Grayson was forced to grapple both with a fleeting sense of reality and some painful issues about hurting the ones he loves (not to mention some truly gnarly humanoid pigs). So as Insomnia continues his nightmarish torture into issue #2, it’s only fitting that we get this truly metal cover from Francesco Mattina. Dick certainly sees himself (and, as an extension of that, even Batman) as pure and good heroes. To see him warped so wickedly — like a mutant bird creature from Pan’s Labyrinth — is a complete deviation from how he sees himself and his place in the world. And that right there speaks to the larger themes of betrayal and uncertainty that the story grapples with — Nightwing may be good, but he’s quickly defeated and left devastated when you take his feet out from under him. If you can also make this process look hella cool and dark, then it only enhances a profound moment of genuine character development.

Sirens of the City #2

Variant cover by Toni Infante

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

I really did like Sirens of the City #1 — even if I thought there were some parts that felt a little uneven and a tad bit confusing. Because, as I’d also noted, the visuals themselves didn’t have quite the same issues with narrative flow and structure, and it turns out that this consistency and intent even applies to variant covers. Case in point: this Toni Infante variant cover to issue #2, which arrives as the book promises to reveal the “mysterious truth of Rome and his connection to Layla’s pregnancy…” This cover, then, seems to nail everything that I loved about Khary Randolph’s work across issue #1. Like, the way magic ingratiates itself into the real world and still feels vivid and powerful. Or, the way it still feels very personable and ground-level, which proves the robust humanity at this book’s core. Even just the color mix/palette here really plays up the tone and intentions of this book in a truly playful manner. Plus, this cover mostly, sort-of-kind-of addresses the problem of “who’s on who’s side” by ignoring all the malarkey for the sizzle of some YA-adjacent action-thriller. It’s my hope that issue #2 can fix some things before they become real “problems,” and we’re clearly off to a great start.

Tales of Syzpense #2

Variant cover by Nelson Daniel

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

And speaking of things I liked from a month starting with “J,” we’re at issue #2 of Tales of Syzpense. I was mostly lukewarm (to be kind, really) about “Les Mort 13,” and yet I was totally in love with “Dreamweaver.” But as we see from this excellent Nelson Daniel cover/homage, both stories are planted firmly on the same ground, and that’s where something truly magical happens. Daniel’s distinct brand of old-school comics majesty makes it feel like these are two moments from the same story, and that fosters an air of cohesion that actually makes this anthology feel more robust. Still, there’s just enough of a distinction here — the coloring, really, helps a ton — that lets these two tales stand tall in and of their own, which is, again, the whole point of any proper anthology. The end result is something that makes me consider both stories together in a way that maybe they should be read in respect to one another, and that there’s bits of storytelling charm and power that might make me love one just as much as the other. Even if you don’t have the same kind of experience with this specific cover, there’s no denying that it’s just a super fun, slightly mysterious slice of delightfully vintage pulp comics goodness.

Wild’s End #3

Variant cover by David Peterson

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

In reading through the first two issues of Wild’s End, I’ve grown quite fond of this dramatic, animal-starring tale of small town life gone maddeningly awry. Where I had some minor issues with #1, the bulk of #2 made me think that that this story has the heart and gumption to fully lean into its many parts in order to tell a truly affective bit of sci-fi insanity. The only problem I still foresee, though, is what happened while the crew was on the ship — and luckily we have this excellent David Peterson-penned variant cover to help us crack that mystery. Based on said cover, it seems the crew went a tad bit bonkers, a sentiment that makes sense and likely even informs some of their actions and decisions having made it back home to an entirely deserted seaside burgh. But even more than that, what I love about this cover is its relationship to what’s actually supposed to happen in #3. Because as we’re promised “new revelations about the nature of the invaders, and their sinister means of controlling the survivors,” we get what could be something that so perfectly and succinctly speaks to the tension and drama the crew might be experiencing afterward. Whatever the reasons and/or case, this cover only adds to the growing promise of this totally quaint, equally wild young series.

Spider-Man #11

Variant cover by Alan Quah

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

There seems to be some strange happenings over on the Spider-Man side of Marvel. Folks don’t necessarily love what happened with Kamala Khan and Amazing Spider-Man, and perhaps rightfully so. Meanwhile, the Spider-Man title caught a little flack with the possible re-introduction of Spider-Boy. So now that we’re actually at the moment where Spider-Boy finally comes swinging back into our lives, we can only expect things to get even more weird and tense. But, perhaps as an earnest way to mitigate any of that, Marvel approved this Alan Quah variant. First and foremost, it’s clearly alluding to and referencing the Spider-Verse, which is very much a popular entity and something that might disappear those very real issues with Kamala and even Spider-Boy. (Or, at the very least, silence all that under a wave of joyous fan-demonium.) Not only is our Spider-Boy now effortlessly attached to this beloved movie series, but his design and stance here comes off a bit more grounded and less overtly annoying, and that is also going to go a long way to helping people accept a sidekick that maybe didn’t have to be a thing in the first place. Plus, when it doubt, place Spider-Ham front and center — that’s always going to give the people exactly what they want.

Knight Terrors: Wonder Woman #2

Variant cover by Scott Forbes

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

Physically speaking, Wonder Woman is pretty safe amid Knight Terrors. Zatanna went and placed her body in a giant maze underneath some League base, and no one’s getting to her short of being Jareth himself or having a magical chainsaw or something. But mentally, she’s in especially dire straits, and the brave warrior is grappling with some extra heady nightmares and the twin monstrosities of self doubt and uncertainty. But the thing about her nightmare is that it didn’t start out so poisonous, and that somewhat “sweet” start may be an even more effective form of torture for the world’s most badass warrior. It’s an energy and thematic idea expressed perfectly across this Scott Forbes variant cover, with Diana quite literally removing her face (i.e., her sense of bravery and self-assuredness) to face her inner most gnarly demons. (Also, the fact she looks rather plastic/doll-like only adds layers to this robust visual metaphor.) The end result is a really powerful exploration of Diana, how she sees the self and the world around her, and how perilous it can be to fight ever onward when you’re not always so certain. It’s a mighty snapshot of a character, and just another reason this whole event has been so effective at every turn.

Something is Killing the Children #32

Variant cover by Matias Bergara

Judging by the Cover – 08/16/23 new releases

If you call your book Something is Killing the Children, then it’s probably fair to say you don’t mind killing your darlings. And across 30-plus issues James Tynion IV, Werther Dell’Edera, and a host of collaborators have maintained that very perspective/approach when it comes to the main character, Erica Slaughter, and that holds doubly true as we enter issue #32. As Erica and company further contend with the story-altering Duplicitype, she’s also got to grapple with some big-ish issues surrounding Cutter and whether or not she’s going to get real help or face the rusty, jagged knife of betrayal. And so having her battle an especially monstrous foe in this specific configuration has a few different meanings and “levels” of value. For one, it shows that she’s willing to go to some big lengths to win, and that informs the sort of madness she may face. But also, she herself is on something of an actual downward spiral given all that’s happening, and with this book’s track record, there’s a solid chance something truly catastrophic could take place. All that’s why this book rules — nothing ever feels truly safe, and it only takes one new monster or an errant bite or scratch to forever change the shape of this world. Maybe it’s wrong to cheer for a hero’s demise, but this book makes it seem so dang fun.

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