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

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 04/24/24 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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Wolverine #48

Cover by Leinil Francis and Romulo Fajardo Jr.

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

We’ve seen Wolverine in some rather compromising scenarios over the years. But few have basically regarded Logan as some knock-off Stretch Armstrong. Well, it turns out that it’s just the perfect visual device to demonstrate just how torn (wordplay, zing!) old Wolverine is as the Creed father and son duo are basically trying to play King Midas with our hero. And there’s a lot of great details and other decisions here that enhance the sheer drama and theatricality of said visual device. For instance, I love that Logan really is regarded as a proper action figure being fought over by two feckless, spoiled boys. The way his face achieves that peak sense of pain — it’s a much-needed dash of reality that plays nicely with the whole toy metaphor. Even the chest/body hair seems like it would be for a really weird GI Joe, and I just love how much further that drives home this weird, specific, and hugely effective cover. It’s so good, we need a Stretch Logan made with some kind of voice box. Like, “Hey, watch where ya stretch me, bub!” Or, “Hey,I ain’t Morph, bub!” I’m just brainstorming but anything to help the Wolverine team pivot after issue #50’s grand finale.

Batman: Dark Age #2

Variant cover by Steve Pugh

Judging by the Cover

If you doubted the scope and intent of Batman: Dark Age, it only took till the debut issue’s finale to dispel any misgivings. Not only was Bruce Wayne locked up in jail, but we got a really solid hint/clue for the events of issue #2, which seem to be dropping our young hero directly into Vietnam in a move that will apparently “change him forever.” Writer Mark Russell hinted at this very event in our own chat, but the fact that it’s actually happening is still kind of surprising. That’s doubly true when we look at this really great Steve Pugh variant cover to issue #2. This cover should be hokey — I mean, the red eyes are basically the sun setting behind a mountain. But Pugh’s approach is really quite intentful and unsettling, the kind of execution that takes “Batman in Vietnam” and makes it so seemingly obvious to readers that I just know it’s going to be a massively monumental moment for the life/career of the Dark Knight. There’s also a touch of grit melded with a sense of romanticism, and that makes me even more sure this chapter will be treated with the right amount of gravitas. War is hell, yeah, but covers like this show why this story “trope” is so essential for this very new, very distinct Batman.

Dawnrunner #2

Cover by Evan Cagle

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

In his own generally great review, our own Collier Jennings noted how different Dawnrunner proved to be in the realm of kaiju goodness. Creators Ram V, Evan Cagle, Dave Stewart, and Aditya Bidikar have done a lot of thinking and planning to make this book’s giant robot story feel all the more nuanced and textured, exploring family and memory as much as it is about sweet giant fights. Yet I think it’s the work of Cagle, especially on the cover to issue #2, that feels important in really defining what Dawnrunner does. Yes, there’s some vivid, hugely detailed giant monster devastation, which boggles the mind with its sheer intensity and scope. And yet there’s the young girl (seemingly our “all-star pilot Anita Marr”) drawing in the eye nearly as much as any gorgeous act of destruction. It’s the razzle dazzle of it all, yeah, but don’t ever forget that robust, unflinching sense of humanity, tension, drama, and emotionality that makes all that action all the more vital and important. You can have your cake and eat it too, or just enjoy one thing ahead of the other. That kind of energy and choice and overall sense of newness is what makes Dawnrunner so deeply effective in the grand scheme of this rich canon.

RoboForce #1

Cover by Dustin Weaver

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

When The Nacelle Company launched its plans for the NacelleVerse line of comics, I was totes happy. I mean, any attention we can give to Biker Mice from Mars is a small but mighty gesture in addressing our lackluster treatment of that series back in the ’90s proper. But as it turns out, just as many people were jazzed for RoboForce, based off that other ’80s franchise about giant robots. (No, the other one.) While I wasn’t much of a fan before, I’m definitely excited for the book’s prospects after seeing the work of cover artist Dustin Weaver. I lobe the clunky but colorful vibes of the robots, which says to me we’re going to get a fun and relatable story. The way that it feels similar to and wholly different from some other robot-starring franchises — I want that familiarity and tinge of nostalgia as much as I just want new champions to admire. Even the Saturday morning cartoon vibes, the sprinkling of anime, and the very slight Voltron vibes — all of it says that RoboForce has what it takes to be the best kind of retromania. Plus, it’s a series that hasn’t been revisited too much, and that could be a good thing for this book’s long-term future. Just give us a giant sword at some point and you’ll have my heart forever.

Universal Monsters: Creature From The Black Lagoon Lives! #1

Variant cover by Joëlle Jones

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

From old-school robots to old-school horror, Skybound is set to launch the second title in its Universal Monsters line. After the wholly great Dracula from James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds, Ram V, Dan Watters, and and Matthew Roberts are teaming up for a retelling of  Creature From The Black Lagoon. You’ll get my thoughts proper in a Tuesday morning review, so that let’s my almost exclusively talk about this excellent Joelle Jones variant cover. Sure, it ain’t the work of Roberts (and colorist Dave Stewart), but Jones has nonetheless captured something essential about this book. The old-school vibes and retro creature horror sentiments? You better believe it. The way that sex and humanity are a perfect balance to the creature’s cold, deeply unhuman tendencies? Heck yes — that’s got to be a vital feature of any version of this story. And maybe even a monster being depicted and regarded in such a way that captures the book’s similar tone and novel approach? Anything’s possible, yeah? It’s a cover that scratches so many itches, and builds toward and previews the book in such a way that you have everything you need without having the experience ruined (too much, at least). A cover so effective and appealing that it’s almost scary.

Deprog #2

Cover by Dani

Judging by the Cover

What do you get when you combine the writer of Sfsx (Tina Horn) and the artist from Witchblood (Lisa Sterle)? Why Deprog, in which a “hardboiled, hard-drinking leather-loving dyke detective” has to track down the cult she escaped from many years ago. That premise alone would be enough to get me on board if it also weren’t for this really great cover to issue #2 from Dani (who also provided a similarly great cover to issue #1). I mean, the sheer sexuality rolls off this page like nuclear energy should be enough to set your brain and heart on fire. But I love the psychedelic undertones, and how that plays with the grit of this intense slice of noir. Or, the way that whole piece (but especially the title) seems to play with and remix ’70s grindhouse films in a really novel and effective manner. Heck, even the way this thing feels unflinching in its identity and resolve is both a tad shocking and also something I could never truly look away from. Sometimes I beat myself out for missing out on a book into its second or third issue. But with a cover this disarming, savage, and altogether appealing, I’m mostly glad I stumbled on this book in the first place.

Detective Comics #1084

Variant cover by Maria Wolf

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

Back in March, DC Comics released Ape-ril Special #1, a celebration of the line’s many primates and a truly “ape-surd amount of bad ape puns.” Why they released it in March is beyond our wisdom (damn you logistics), but it’s nice to see in April proper that there’s still some ape-centric variant covers being thrown our way like so many tasty, tasty bananas. That includes Detective Comics #1084, in which Maria Wolf gives us this wonderful and comedic bit of insight into the working routine of one Detective Chimp. Where do I begin with how much I love this cover? It’s of course the fact that it’s DC and Detective Comics, which is now and forever Detective Chimp. But I also love the detailed approach that’s central to Wolf’s style, and how that’s both really intriguing and just a little bit weird. Or, the fact that his case load seems to focus as much on missing bananas as it does smuggling and robbery (or is it all one grand conspiracy?!) There’s so much more, too, but one fact is all but undeniable: Ape-ril needs to be celebrated in April proper and we need more monkey madness this and every year. Bananas!

X-Men: Forever #2

Cover by Mark Brooks

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

Rise of the Powers of X debuted back in January, and was one of the key signals that, for better and worse, the Age of Krakoa was over. But as it turns out, writer Kieron Gillen has purposefully “unrevealed” a few key mysteries. Now, in the pages of X-Men: Forever #2, he and the rest of this book’s creative team will “fill in the gap of what happened between the end of Immortal X-Men and the beginning of the end of the Krakoan Age.” So, what’s that cover have to do with such a massive moment in Krakoan history? I’m not really sure — maybe not much of anything if I’m being honest. Are Jubilee and Askani at the heart of it all? Whose side is Krakoa on in this Mark Brooks cover? And when did this whole “confrontation” actually take place? The very notion that we have zero idea is essential — this is a foundational element to all things Krakoa. Forget the exploration of morality and theology — Krakoa’s biggest strength is looking cool as hell and getting us to dissect every image and every scene to try and understand what’s really happening. It’s lineage will be how it made comics feel grand and exciting again, and how nice it can be to gather together to celebrate the medium and these big stories. Maybe I’m the only one getting sentimental about this cover, but then that’s just Krakoa for ya: there’s magic almost everywhere.

Rick and Morty: Kingdom Balls #1

Cover by Jarrett Williams and Hank Jones

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

Did I pick this because it’s called Rick and Morty: Kingdom Balls? Maybe, a little juvenile humor can extend your lifespan. But I also have really good reasons to pick this book that have little to do with really dumb (but cleverly constructed) dick jokes. For one, I simply love the idea of referencing and paying homage to Kingdom Hearts: while the R-rated bent maybe isn’t in line with the beloved franchise, that same spirit of openness and curiosity sure is, and that’s got to be a point in Kingdom Balls‘ favor. Plus, the actual physical execution by series artist Jarrett Williams (alongside artist Hank Jones) is just great — lots of franchise-perfect nods and touches, and even the ball-centric stuff seems to be just measured enough (while also feeling appropriately dumb and fragrant). I don’t get the slightly clown-y vibe to rick’s clothes, or the deal with Mr. Meeseeks (is using a dead person as a backpack something from the original game series?!), but then none of that matters too much when we let this be what it is: a weird, wholly uncalled for marriage of two beloved things that may or may not work out in the long run (I’m firmly in the former category, FYI). And if nothing else, we can rely on Jerry Smith for a wonderfully dumb visual gag. Thank you, Kingdom Balls, for already existing in this dimension/timeline.

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