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Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 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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Harley Quinn 2024 Annual #1

Variant cover by Erica Henderson

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

We already know how I feel about about DC’s various holiday specials. But often just as promising are the larger, 40-page annuals and other titles that sometimes feature a single writer/artist. Case in point: Harley Quinn 2024 Annual #1, in which writer-artist Erica Henderson gets to follow Harley Quinn around and she enjoys some much-needed vacation. And during said vacation — which you know goes wrong before Ms. Quinn can even enjoy an over-sized pina colada — Zatanna is “framed for a mystery on a cruise ship, ol’ Shamluck Harley is on the case.” Do I know why said investigation might wind up with Harley and Zatanna practicing their knife-throwing showcase? No, but this is DC after all, I could easily see that happening pronto. But what I do know is that I just love Henderson’s style, and that blend of cutesy but off-kilter, cartoonish but deeply personable makes for a variant cover that feels both novel and still fits the silliness and slight depravity that comes with a really good Quinn-starring annual . The knife’s so sharp I can nearly feel it, there’s hella detail on Quinn’s outfit, and those colors are sublime — in short, this is one summer vacation gone off the rails that we can and should get behind.

Space Ghost #1

Cover by Francesco Mattina

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

If you’re like me, you have a very specific relationship with Space Ghost. More specifically, from the ’90s show on Adult Swim, where Space Ghost and his wacky companions run the most insane late night show this side of Alpha Centauri. Yet it seems like the creative team behind Dynamite’s new Space Ghost (writer David Pepose and artist Jonathan Lau) are instead opting for the tale of a “cosmic vigilante who metes out justice throughout the galaxy, bringing vengeance to those prey upon the defenseless.” that very figure is dead center in Francesco Mattina’s main cover — a stark and intense paladin who is clearly about to crack some heads and blast some baddies. And yet something about the cosmic energy swirling about, as if he’s tapped into the very essence of the universe, adds a bit of levity and life to the title card for the space-faring remake of Justified. Does that somehow make him as silly and irreverent as his Adult Swim counterpart? No way, but it does play with and contrast some energies in a really neat way, and gets me thinking that we’re not just getting “Space Ghost Badass” but a more nuanced and textured look at a character who frankly deserves to be as multifaceted as possible. Just give me a Brak cameo and we’ll be right as rain, yeah?

Bear Pirate Viking Queen #1

Cover by Jonathan Marks Barravecchia

Judging by the Cover

The world needs much more books that say what they are in the most simple terms possible. I mean, why else would anyone love The Old Man and The Sea so dang much after all these years? And not only that, but Bear Pirate Viking Queen doesn’t bother with syntax or whatnot, and it gets right to the meat and potatoes of why we want this book. But is it a deeper, more involved tale than the greatest fist-fight of all time? Sure, as writer Sean Lewis has crafted a “blood-splattered story of conquest” with the four “combatants” all “battling for their claim to determine what the world will become.” In response, series/cover artist Jonathan Marks Barravecchia has given us a main cover that’s the best of both worlds. It’s a really subtle but impactful mystery figure who hints at a narrative that will unfold lusciously beyond it’s inherent, “gimmicky” premise. (That, and a really solid preview of Marks Barravecchia’s simple but deeply effective art style.) And if that’s just too much for you somehow, then boom, giant bear ready to pounce of the page and into your face. I have high, high hopes for this one, and it’s already off to a great start with a cover that’s direct but playful, beautiful and wholly dangerous.

Deadpool & Wolverine: WWIII #1

Variant cover by Todd Nauck

Judging by the Cover

And speaking of Harley Quinn and heroes with supreme personality disorders, we come to Deadpool & Wolverine: WWIII #1. Written by Joe Kelly, and with art from Adam Kubert and Frank Martin, the book is what happens when the “most intensely mismatched team-up in comics and pop culture…undergoes a radical change as we kick off a three-part, globe-spanning saga for the ages.” Given the sheer promise of that premoise, we get some really primo cover options, including this badass variant from Gabriele Dell’Otto and this, um, rather revealing variant from J. Scott Campbell. But for my money, the best one’s from Todd Nauck. Because why the Deadpool-Wolverine pairing does demand utter insanity, there’s something about a dash of mystery that does wonders for teasing out their “confrontation” and making me think it’ll have more layers than their usual hijinks. Plus, we still get to see their dynamic play out in a really hilarious but altogether subtle manner, and that just further shows the excellence awaiting in this book. If nothing else, at least they finally had the courage to really nail just how teen tiny Logan is compared to his bonkers tag team partner. Play nice, fellas!

Cemetery Kids Don’t Die #3

Variant cover by Tom Fowler

Judging by the Cover

If you’re a regular reader of this column (give me money), then you’ll know I’ve been a big fan of Cemetery Kids Don’t Die. Writer Zac Thompson and artist Daniel Irizarri have done a wonderful job across the first two issues, crafting a tale that explores ’90s nostalgia, grief and loss, alienation as imposed by technology, and how we make families with the most random of spare parts. But as we move into issue #3 — as our players “enter the next level of the subversive horror/sci-fi hybrid that writhes with fear and tension” — I thought I’d give a quick spotlight to a generally great variant cover from Tom Fowler. For one, I think Fowler’s style references Irizarri’s style in some subtle ways — I feel the connection and the dialogue that’s being fostered even as Fowler’s approach is very much his own. At the same time, there’s no denying that Fowler’s style facilitates a different vibe — there’s less of the childlike joy of the “normal” book, and the end result is something that mirrors the increasing odds in a really novel and thoughtful manner. But if none of that really resonates with you, spend a few times peeping that white/negative space. Does anyone else think that it’s a really novel commentary about life in digital spaces and our tenuous relationship with these “venues”? If not, no big deal: anyone can see this is a hella dope cover about steam/cyberpunk fantasy heroes, and that’s always, always cool.

Barbaric: Born in Blood #1

Variant cover by Sanji

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

When we spoke in October, writer Michael Moreci and artist Nathan Gooden called Barbaric: Born in Blood their “most brutal volume yet.” And if you’ve read anything from the Barbaric-verse, you know that’s a rather lofty goal, and I have every confidence that Moreci and Gooden (alongside colorist Fabi Marques and letter Jim Campbell) can deliver that and then some. But in the meantime, there’s one thing I want to focus on: Barbaric: Wrong Kind of Righteous #1. Because when that book dropped in late November 2023, artist Angela Wu did this totally great, Berserker-referencing cover — and now we get another such homage to Berserker (this time from artist Sanji). I see this decision not only as another much-deserved nod to that wonderful manga, but perhaps a kind of “shorthand” about this latest book’s lean and violence level, which was similarly bumped up with Wrong Kind of Righteous. At the same time, I just think Sanja’s version feels all the more “true” to the Barbaric series — something a dash more weird, unpredictable, and altogether chaotic in its approach to fantasy/fantasy-adjacent stories. That, and I think I feel even more dark and/or unhinged energy, and that speaks to just what new lows/highs we might expect. Is one homage cover better than the other? Maybe, but I’m too busy being stoked to really care.

Blood Hunt #1

Variant cover by David Baldeón

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

The PR folks are calling Blood Hunt the “bloodiest Marvel event ever.” And, hey, there’s nothing I love more than a big summer event that’s all about how vampires have “risen from the dark and hidden places of the world as one to drown the Marvel Universe in blood.” Not only because the use of blood in fiction is among my favorite devices for messing with people physically and physiologically, but that means we get more of a starring role for the Cal Ripken, Jr. of vampire hunters, Blade. And speaking of the Daywalker, he’s the cover star for this terrifying and amazing variant cover from David Baldeón. Part of me loves the idea, as I’d already mentioned, of giving a little more spotlight to Blade; he’s a perfect cover star not just for a vamp-centric story but also one that’s likely to call for his specific brand of moping/badassery/intensity etc. On the other hand, the idea of blood/spit combining in such a way causes a deeply, deeply unsettling chill to crawl down the entirety of my spine and pool in my stomach as endless worry and dread. It’s really great artistry, yeah, but if I stare at it too long I just start to dry heave. So I guess you can say that Blood Hunt is already off to a truly amazing start!

DC’s Spring Breakout! #1

Cover by John Timms

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

Oh boy oh boy! Not only do we get the aforementioned Harley Quinn Annual this week, but we get another DC event special issue in the form of DC’s Spring Breakout! #1. And if I’m trying to explain why I love these star-studded events — this one features Mike W. Barr, Patrick R. Young, Meghan Fitzmartin, and Vasco Georgiev, among several others — then I’m going to point to this bonkers John Timms cover in perpetuity. Like, is Harley Quinn rock climbing or something, or has she been caught in some kind of trap intended for an animal? Why are the Speedsters using canoes, and are said canoes somehow connected to the actual Speed Force. Questions aside, I love that Nightwing, Batman, and Katana are camping, and that Damian is being a canon-accurate jerkweed by flying overhead. But the real piece de resistance of this cover is Mr. Freeze, who proves that being forced to live at/near arctic temperatures doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a truly beautiful spring day. It’s weird and silly and a little nonsensical — really, no helmets speedsters? — but it’s exactly what I want from DC when they’re trying to let loose a little. Spring break 2024!

Toxic Summer #1

Variant cover by W. Scott Forbes

Judging by the Cover – 05/01/24 new releases

After work on titles like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Jughead, writer-artist Derek Charm is returning with Toxic Summer, a “monster-sized 48-page nightmare beach party that will keep you up all night…if you can live long enough to tell the tale.” I don’t do a ton of coming-of-age stuff, but if you describe your book as “one part Riverdale with one part The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” then I’m already on board. That’s doubly true if you consider this excellent W. Scott Forbes variant cover. I love how it captures the weirdness of being a teen, especially if you have to deal with toxic sludge to any degree. That, and I just love the neon-tinged Gen Z vibes — I think there’s not enough really good comics tales for this gen and I hope this one captures the unique challenges and energies of this population. Plus, on a wholly personal note, anything that makes me think of The Toxic Avenger — but maybe a more potent, less hacky version — is a winner in my book. (Fun fact: seeing that movie circa 1991 is precisely when I “came on board” and became aware of myself for the very first time. Neat!) Summer’s never been my favorite season — go fall! — but this one could change my mind with its mix of fun, weirdness, and emotionality.

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