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Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 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 Immortal Thor #9

Cover by Alex Ross

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

Yes, Alex Ross getting praise is like Yankees somehow being everyone’s favorite baseball team. But sometimes Ross somehow manages to even outdo himself, as is the case with the cover to Immortal Thor #9. Not only do we get a really powerful version of Amara/Enchantress — which really captures something all the more dark and foreboding about the character — but we get this very neat, very meta cover. Those of us with a keen eye (or, really just a solid internet connection) will recognize this as Journey into Mystery #83, which serves as Thor’s official comics debut — and that in and of itself is great considering that this book is a kind of “re-origins” tale, as solicitations describe it as “the story of The Immortal Thor…and of the trap he could not escape.” But while that’s maybe bad news for Thor, the extreme meta energy here makes it feel like this could be a hugely important issue for Thor’s ongoing character arc and what this book has done to get us to continually re-evaluate the God of Thunder. If nothing else, though, I think it’s also a nice development of the already amazing Ross, and proof that the best artists can find new ideas or approaches to continually do exciting and genuinely vital work. I can’t wait to tear into this one pronto.

Batman #146

Variant cover by Jorge Fornés

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

From one slice of old-school comics goodness to another, we arrive at the Jorge Fornes variant cover to Batman #146. I think it’s important to look at this piece and of itself — it really is a powerful bit of vintage-looking/feeling Dark Knight action. The costume alone is pretty iconic, and it touches on bits of the comic and even the ’90s cartoon to present a kind of deeply essential version of Batman. Plus, I just love the way he exudes so much power in this scene — not only the way those would-be thieves scatter from his arrival but also the way his body language/pose here shows that he’s coming in with ample speed and power. Yet I think it’s just as important to look at this piece in the context of the ongoing “Dark Prison” story, as Zur-En-Arrh continues to try and wrestle control from Bruce Wayne in order to take his Batman-ing career in continuously dark and unsettling directions. As such, given the overt vintage power of this piece, it got me thinking that this is a “memory” from Zur-En-Arrh — a way he sees himself and the role of Batman as smasher of baddies. It adds a new, slightly depressive quality to the piece, and shows how the infusion of different energies can further extend this compelling event. Holy double stomping criminals, Batman!

The Walking Dead Deluxe #86

Cover by David Finch and Dave McCaig

Judging by the Cover

If you haven’t been paying attention — god I sure hope that you have been over several years — The Walking Dead Deluxe is a great continuation of everyone’s favorite long-running zombie story. It’s not only in full color but features commentary and more insight thanks to a brand-new installment of “Cutting Room Floor.” While all of that’s quite important for fans across the spectrum, I like to compare the two covers to try and get an idea about the book’s development and why these deluxe editions are vital (or not) in the first place. And the original cover to issue #86 looks a little like this, which is not only badass but captures a certain level of stoicism and emotionality that felt important to the story at that point (i.e., a lot of stuff with Carl’s survival as well as Rick’s ongoing moral and emotional development). The deluxe cover, then, is totally badass, and artists David Finch and Dave McCaig have given us a profoundly detailed look into the very makeup of man (if that man just happened to be dead when a bullet tore through his skull to reveal the rotting, sticky-looking forementioned makeup). But aside from likely making stomachs churn, I think this deluxe cover does a similarly effective job on picking up on the issue’s emotionality, and giving us a kind of release through such a singular but effective moment of ultra-violence. It’s a chance to let off steam, or at least get in that headspace, with a really vivid and unflinching snapshot of this book’s take on violence and humanity. Sure, you don’t need to buy the deluxe issues, but with covers like this, why wouldn’t you anyways?

Kaya #17

Cover by Wes Craig

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

I’m not sure I’ve seen this employed too many times before (or outside of Kaya), but I love the solicitation being placed right on the cover. It makes it look and feel a little like a movie poster — sure, a bit of a long-winded poster, but one that’s effective nonetheless. It’s a rather direct but effective design choice from Image Comics and writer/artist Wes Craig that sets apart this book in small but mighty ways. It’s also a really nice way to either balance the sheer intensity of the rest of the page, or offset it all, like posting a warning on screen when Evel Knievel did a super dope flip or something. But, of course, all of this talk about design choices ignores the most gleaming thing about this cover: a drowning child being pulled into the endless depth by the most perfectly depicted skeleton I’ve seen in quite some time. I love how, almost like the solicitation box itself, it feels like the skeleton almost doesn’t belong in this world, and I for one love the potential thematic significance of that as well as just how inventive this book remains in telling a really well-developed, wholly textured adventure story. If you haven’t been keeping up, this issue is your one true sign.

Minor Threats: The Fastest Way Down #1

Cover by Scott Hepburn and Ian Herring

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

If you’ve read my reviews, you’ll know that I’ve been a big Minor Threats fan. Sure, I loved The Alternates a touch more — way more layered and just generally bonkers looking — but the “original” book is still totally great. And that proves extra true as the creative team present The Fastest Way Down, in which Frankie/Playtime has become the brand-new queenpin for Twilight City. (It’s like if Toyman were not only effective, but somehow beat everyone in Metropolis like an O-G.) Artists Scott Hepburn and Ian Herring have done a bang-up job of displaying just what kind of weirdness and madness are in story under the reign of Queen Frankie. Not only is resting your throne atop a pile of your defeated enemies always a classy choice, but we get a lot of great details. The use of money, for one, feels like both a profound piece of commentary as well as something that maybe is meant to be a red herring somehow. (IDK, I can’t put it into words beyond that, but it’s just the way this series operates to both engage and play against tropes.) From there we get some brooding intensity from Frankie, a little ambiguity from Scalpel, and the sense that things have either fallen apart or coalesced like never before — and all of that feels like this book is telling a really novel story that we may not see fully coming till its already smashed in our noses. That’s why I love Minor Threats no matter who’s on the team or who’s just an obstacle.

Akogun: Brutalizer of Gods #1

Variant cover by Ramon Villalobos

Judging by the Cover

You may have loved what writer Murewa Ayodele and artist Adedotun Akande did with I Am Iron Man (if you had a heart and eyes you used to appreciate good things, of course). But even that generally solid book is nothing compared to what the duo have cooked up with Akogun Brutalizer of Gods. In my interview with the pair (which you can read Tuesday morning), they basically call it an African version of Conan-esque stories. Again, even that simple but effective descriptor misses so much magic of this book, which explores fantasy’s tropes and their larger value through a rich and often unsung cultural framework/perspective. So, then, why have I opted for a variant cover from Ramon Villalobos (especially when Akanda has his own deeply solid work featured on the main cover)? Well, because it speaks to an idea I’ve really assigned a lot of value to: you can tell how powerful a book/story is going to be based on it variant covers. Based on this truly epic cover from Villalobos — which captures the sheer grit, poetry, and violence you’d expect from your a really great sword and sorcery story — it’s going to be a book that knows its identity, expresses that with sheer efficiency and brilliance, and give us a new kind of fantasy hero to celebrate and/or engage with accordingly. It’s a cover that shows a small sliver of the power of this story, and it does so with the artist’s own style and unique feel still firmly intact. Gods being brutalized? Nah, it’s your sensibilities that are about to be utterly demolished.

X-Men #33

Variant cover by Lee Garbett

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

When this cover was first released circa January, Marvel’s intentions seemed pretty obvious. With the “Blood Hunt” event happening in early May, a turn by Kamala Khan, betraying the X-Men for the vampires, would be a really intriguing little spin. Not only in terms of the actual story, but as a really powerful response to the way that Kamala has been regards in recent history — she’d clearly have some feelings that would make her heel turn all the more likely and doubly appealing/satisfying for all parties (save the mutants). And I’m all for it — not only the event and its lead-up, but also teasing something so deliberately and for such a long-ish period of time. It makes it that, as this issue is finally about to hit shelves, all those weeks of wonderfully uncomfortable churning and mental back-and-forth might give way to a proper bit of catharsis. Add in that this is a generally great cover — I love the very dirty, chaotic feel and the sheer maniacal joy of Kamala’s face — and I feel like issue #33 is a generally important accomplishment and something that makes me feel truly excited for both the title, Kamala, and the X-Verse in general. That, and more vampire/mutants crossovers is generally weird and wonderful stuff.

Kneel Before Zod #4

Cover by Jason Shawn Alexander

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

I get that after The Walking Dead Deluxe #86 cover, maybe we don’t need another “character staring through the human wreckage they’ve just wrought onto their foe.” But what can I say, I’m a fan of very specific tropes, especially when said tropes involve really intense body horror. But what I can say about this cover from Jason Shawn Alexander is that it’s markedly different from Walking Dead‘s offering. For one, there’s heaps of rage and fury permeating this piece, and that adds a wholly different, altogether more unsettling tone and feel to the piece. The “victim” here may also be a robot of some kind, and while that doesn’t leave as much space for totally awesome viscera, the destruction of mechanical parts and frayed circuits and whatnot is still nearly as satisfying. I also really like that I can’t tell if Zod used just his laser vision and/or his bare hands, and that small sliver of uncertainty only extends the rawness and sheer emotionality of this cover. So, yeah, there’s only so much that you can do with this core trope, but this cover demonstrates that it’s all about the execution and bits of “innovation” over the final product. Even if said final product continues to be the best visual device this side of “Clifftop Caterwauling.”

Hack/Slash: Kill Your Idols #1

Cover by Tim Seeley

Judging by the Cover – 04/03/24 new releases

Tim Seeley gets plenty of credit for his work in creating and writing Hack/Slash — he basically remixed horror and slasher stories and tropes into something altogether more funny, charming, and engaging. But I don’t think he gets nearly enough props from his various artistic contributions over the year, which makes sense given the sheer number of talented artists that have been attached to the series. But as he proves with the cover to Hack/Slash: Kill Your Idols #1, Seeley shows what makes this series so great. That includes the slightly cheesy tendencies to this book’s brand of horror, and how it’s all about balancing bloody and heft with endless hijinks and humor. That, and he’s able to further reference and remix bits of horror in a way that it always feels interesting. And none of that’s even mentioned the other Image “icons” — as he’s done with books like the awesome Local Man, Seeley captures ’90s comics “xtremism” with a depth and intensity that makes these slightly hokey gimmicks feel wholly revitalized. Put it all together, and what we get is truly great comics, something that’s weird and funny and surprisingly smart and perpetually focused on telling the best kinds of stories. Hats off once again, sir.

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