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Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 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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Action Comics #1064

Variant cover by Ariel Colon

Judging by the Cover

This week, Joshua Williamson and a host of collaborators kick off “House of Brainiac” in Action Comics #1064. Without spoiling too much — you can read more in my interview with Williamson on Tuesday morning — it involves not only the whole dang Super Family and a legion of Lobos, but a powerful moment in the story of Brainiac. It’s a chance to remind folks that Brainiac is not just a gimmicky, somewhat indulgent supervillain cliche but also a deeper character with some really interesting motivations. And that’s exactly why I chose this Ariel Colón variant cover to AC #1064. For one, I always love when we get a decidedly more “organic” Brainiac — it just makes his robotic demeanor and emotional detachment feel all the more compelling and intriguing. Then, of course, there’s the machinery he surrounds himself with — it’s also somewhat organic in nature, and that adds even more layers to the “what is Brainiac really up to” gimmick that is central to this event/story. But if you’re really unsure about his machinations, just peep that creepy grin; there’s something about joy on that dude’s face that just unsettles me like few other big bads. I guess the motto of House Brainiac really is, “Come in and feel deeply troubled.”

Carnage #6

Cover by Juan Ferreyra

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

And speaking of things that give me nightmares, we arrive at another great (read: terrifying) cover to a Carnage book. I’ve featured everyone’s beloved happiness-eating Symbiote in the past, but the always impeccable Juan Ferreyra just brings Carnage to new levels with issue #6. Yes, it helps that the Torunn Grønbekk-written book is already deeply weird and violent already; the story has done heaps with the source material, and it’s getting darker and more gripping as Anti-Venom pops up in this issue. But that shouldn’t take away from the work Ferreyra has put into this cover. Is it as bloody and terrifying as Carnage can be at his best/worst? No, and I like that he’s made to look more robust and foreboding and like he has this heft to his presence than the normally lithe bit of space horror we usually see in Carnage stories. He casts a big enough shadow on the already sturdy Anti-Venom, and that power and impact does wonders to extend our relationship with this character in some intriguing new directions. He’d seemingly eat us or crush us as opposed to slicing and dicing, and I love that Carnage feels like some almost elemental force than a psycho with a penchant for torture and murder. He just feels more foreboding in some novel ways, and it’s fully in line with this run’s great work. Also, be sure to never, ever look up for the rest of your life.

Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees #5

Cover by Patrick Horvath

Judging by the Cover

If you’re still looking for bloody murderers, though, there’s this great cover to Beneath the Trees Where Nobody Sees #5. Writer-artist Patrick Horvath has not only given us some bloody great visuals — with a precision and sense of vision that disarms you completely — but he’s still managed to tell a really lean and effective crime/detective story. Still, what makes issue #5’s cover so effective is that continually unflinching approach he takes to building and then displaying this world that he’s so carefully constructed. That, and there’s just something so…pedestrian to this scene. (Wordplay!) And I don’t mean that as an insult at all — Horvath has managed to take something deeply disturbing and position it in such a way that we’re forced to reconcile with the massive gap between this bloody, carved up body and the ordinary vibes that define city life. In that process, we get a better sense of what this story is all about, and what it’s trying to do in exploring ideas of violence, community, and what exists under the surface of our so-called ordinary lives. It’s a powerful demonstration of this book’s thematic achievements, and a piece that grabs you by the hands and forces some rather big contemplation with all the agony and uncertainty these deep dives ought to contain. It has, with all due respect, the guts to really and truly go there.

Uncanny Valley #1

Variant cover by Tony Fleecs

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

The thing I like about Tony Fleecs — aside from being a thoughtful and talented writer and artist — is his commitment. With most of his book, he not only writes and/or draws, but he makes sure to have plenty of variant covers by himself and/or equally talented friends. And Uncanny Valley is a great example of this — we not only have this really solid main cover from series artist Dave Wachter (and letterer Rico Renzi), but there’s a few different solid covers that nail the big themes and balance between realism and cartoon hijinks that’s central to this book. But I just had to go with this cover from Fleecs himself, as I think it perfectly encapsulates what I really enjoyed about this debut issue. Like, the way it leans into certain cartoon tropes, and does so to both entertain and get us thinking about the nature of reality and our connection with these stories. Or, how so much of this book is like a fall down a cartoon cliff, and how we’re tumbling toward uncertainty with a mix of anxiety, fear, and a dash or two of genuine excitement. Even just the way Fleecs balances these two worlds here feels really important, and a novel commentary and extension of what this dichotomy really means. Uncanny Valley is a weird and wild book, and covers like this are just a small part of the dark but playful, silly but serious approach it’s using to tell a deeply personal story of legacy and family. ::Holds up sign like Wile E. Coyote reading “Enjoy!”::

Night People #2

Cover by Jason Shawn Alexander

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

It’s weird to me to think that the covers of Night People are perhaps the “least” impressive part of this book. I mean, we have Chris Condon expertly reworking a brilliant Barry Gifford novel, and a rotating case of artists (this issue features some really solid contributions from Alexandre Tefenkgi). Yet none of that means that the covers still aren’t quite important, and this piece from Jason Shawn Alexander exemplifies that and then some. Does it tell you much about the story so far and this latest chapter? Not really, unless you somehow picked up on stuff about the Church on the One Hand and the Church on the Other Hand from this piece. (Which, if that is the case, then bravo.) Does it tell you anything about the setting or the feel? Maybe, as the bug here does scream “the hellish insects you only see in the South,” and we are in New Orleans for much of #2. Rather, it’s just the feelings attached here — the robust sense of disgust, uncertainty, grief, and trauma (or is that just me?) — that fully make this cover. It’s those sentiments that connect with and extend the book in some interesting ways, and tell us everything we’d need to know about this title no matter how much we’ve read of it so far. It’s the kind of powerful device you’d expect from this specific story, and more reasons why Night People is a powerful comics adaptation.

Deadweights #1

Cover by Sebastián Piriz

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

From a book that’ll likely shatter your hearts to something a little more playful, we come to Deadweights. The brain-child of writer Tyrone Finch and artist Sebastián Piriz, the book is “a buddy comedy about two unlucky henchmen trying to make their way in the world.” So, sort of like that one gag from Rick and Morty, but a generally poignant and thoughtful story about “what happens after the fight when the villains are tired of being villains, and the heroes aren’t as heroic as they want you to think.” Given all of that, I really like Piriz’s own cover to issue #1. Sure, it’s a touch simple and straightforward, but somehow our two “heroes” capture the eye even with all of that super dope hero/villain action taking place in the background. It shows a certain kind of honesty and vulnerability to being a “minion” — what it’s really like to have to live with this kind of stuff and what it might mean if/when you walk away from it all. It already feels like a deeply human book that’s going to let us see these two henchmen try and just be men/humans, and the kind of slow come down that happens when you kick off the gravity belt and power gauntlets or whatever, and how that’s both a life-changing thing and something that guts you to the core. Simple and straightforward, yeah, but there’s layers and textures here that make me think the actual story will be anything but that.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Return #3

Cover by Goñi Montes

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

I get that it’s unfair to say that Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Return is all about stoking nostalgia. For one, it’s an MMPR comic, and that’s not exactly the same kind of canon if you were a ’90s kid in love with the TV show. That, and the whole story is about getting older and dealing with things like regret and second chances. At the same time, there’s heaps about this title that are all about tickling that old familiar friend called nostalgia, chief among them is that it’s written by the Pink Ranger, actress Amy Jo Johnson. And, as it turns out, the same can be said for this Goñi Montes-drawn cover to issue #3. Because in some key ways, I have no idea what’s going on in full — is this mid-Morphing somehow?! — and that’s a theme that was consistent when I was seven watching the original run. But even if I was fully aware of the specific events/happenings, I knew that much like this kaleidoscope of colors on the page, everything is amazing and I want to see it all with unblinking eyes. Toss in some clear ties to the Green Ranger — clearly the best part of this whole dang story/lore — and all of it’s giving me the warmth and joy like I never left 1993. Just toss me some Hawaiian Punch and you can have your nostalgia revival forever and ever.

Rat City #1

Cover by Ze Carlos

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

It’s 2024, and we’re on the verge of peak Spawn. For some of us, that’s going to be annoying (what, do you still need time to catch up on the main title?!) But for the rest of us, meanwhile, it sure feels nice to see the sheer depths of the Spawn-i-verse. And that now includes Rat City, in which writer Erica Schultz and artist Ze Carlos come together to tell the story of Peter Cairn, an “ex-soldier, an amputee, and a Hellspawn in a post-war future.” (Go ahead and get “Spawn 2099!” out of your system right now.) What makes this a worthwhile addition to Spawn, and why I’m more than OK with this whole universe growing and growing forever, is Carlos’ design/depiction of Spawn 2099 Future Spawn. We have the same lithe, extra lean feel to this new Spawn as Al Simmons, and that connection/shared “language” feels really important. No, there’s not as much necroplasmic “decorations” here — there’s nanites that have been exposed to the supernatural substance — but I for one really like the way the technological rendering looks and how it makes new Spawn feel different (while, once again, also feeling properly textured a la Classic Spawn). There’s other bits as well — the claws, the lights, etc. — but either way, this fresh take on Spawn demonstrates there’s new ways to wring further truth and action from our favorite Hellspawn. That, and techno-brutalist architecture is always super great.

Thundercats #3

Variant cover by Declan Shalvey

Judging by the Cover – 04/10/24 new releases

I’ve commented before that I like when writers get to do their own covers/variant covers to a book. And when said writer/artist hybrid is one Declan Shalvey, I like that process way more. Am I a little iffy about this latest Thundercats book? Maybe a touch — I think it’s good and entertaining and all, but I’m one of those dummies that just can’t fully shake the connotations with the beloved ’80s cartoon. But I do love what Shalvey is doing here that feels connected to the story of this book and even some of the vibes/sentiments of his collaborator, artist Drew Moss. For one, the colors give me not only some real cartoon vibes but also manage to stay true to what’s new and novel about this book (i.e., it’s the cartoon but it’s so much more textured and nuanced that that show). We also get something more forceful and with proper intent from the team, and I think that element has been a big part of (once again) separating this book from the cartoon as well as making this “version” of the team feel more serious and robust in their mission (and still fun and approachable to an essential degree). Even the design of the ThunderTank feels properly anime-esque in its scope, and that’s just another spin/addition that shows how devoted this book is to both familiarity and pushing this franchise forward. Maybe it’s not my favorite book of the year, but covers like this make an increasingly compelling case for a new generation’s Thundercats.

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