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Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 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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Batman / Superman: World’s Finest #27

Variant cover by Keron Grant

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

There’s an entire library of books and stories dedicated to exploring the dynamic of Batman and Superman. One represents the light of hope and optimism, and the other the darkness of pain and brutality. One manages the ground-level stuff, and the other focuses on the big picture (and occasionally saving a cat or whatever). But of all the work to contrast and compare these leading heroes, I earnestly think that nothing can touch this Keron Grant variant cover for Batman / Superman: World’s Finest #27. Because in one decidedly powerful image, Grant has given us the most succinct and efficient encapsulation of Batman and Superman via their shared pose: they may do it a little differently (a grappling hook versus flight) but they’re basically headed toward the same goal/objective. (That, and Superman doesn’t need to raise his fist to fly, but he sure does need to put on airs for better and/or worse.) Throw in Grant’s really unique, vivid style — bold and exaggerated, it captures the sheer essence of our heroes — and this piece speaks absolute volumes with just an extra tight depiction. It may seem like an obvious explanation of the pair, but then if it’s this effective, it’s hard not to see the power of this rather simple message. Also, it doesn’t mean we don’t still need 1,000 more stories of the duo.

Fall of the House of X #5

Cover by Pepe Larraz

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

If you see a cover like this one from Pepe Larraz, and you are surprised about the sheer intensity and brutality of it all, did you forget the book is called Fall of the House of X? Because after for generally solid issues, we’ve come to the finale, as the “Orchis has pushed mutantkind to their lowest point ever” and the X-Men are forced to fight back with teeth and nail and giant magical swords and weird blobby tendrils. Now, a betting soul wouldn’t actually think that this is the definitive and final outcome, even as the book’s been pretty straightforward and deliberate in depicting this bloody confrontation. Still, I think there’s a few solid takeaways from this cover specifically. A Cyclops-Storm dual attack seems to be the coolest thing I’ve seen in some time. There’s a bitterness and ferocity that prevails this piece, and that alone does wonders to show the real stakes and larger value of this event. And while he may seemingly be down an out, I’d like to think Wolverine is just using the handrail here to help himself back into the scrap. All of that together doesn’t just make for a cool cover, but it shows the kinds of ideas and energies that have informed this book, and how even at what seems to be the final bloody moment, there’s still heaps of story to tell. X-Men forever, indeed.

Thundercats #4

Cover by David Nakayama

Judging by the Cover

And from one bloody and brutal galaxy-spanning beef to another, we arrive at Thundercats #4. Now, I won’t lie: the second I saw this cover, I thought about that famous image of Captain America punching Hitler, and whether that was intended or not, it’s a really powerful layer to this series, a totally great repurposing of something that’s take on meme-ian status, and just a great way to think about the beef between Mumm-Ra and the ThunderCats in general. And cover artist David Nakayama has done a really great job building this whole moment. It’s the way that Lion-O’s Claw Shield looks like both fur but also the rippling veins of a fist flying towards someone’s face at 120 mph. The humorous way that Mumm-Ra’s face contorts here, but not so humorous that it doesn’t feel properly epic and also satisfying as all heck. The way that Lion-O’s face combines both rage/grit and remains nonetheless boyishly charming, and what that says about this iteration of the leader. Heck, even Nakayama’s little signature/logo here feels like a producer tag, and that just adds to the multimedia tinge of this piece. This one lands like a punch to the jaw, but in the very, very best way imaginable.

Local Man #10

Cover by Tony Fleecs and Tim Seeley

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

If you’ve read my reviews, then you’ll know the return of a new arc for Local Man is right up there with Christmas and Free Slurpee Day a t7-Eleven. And oh what an arc it plans to be, as Jack Xavier has to “hide out with an ally from his superhero past” only to quickly discover that “there are some things you can’t hide from.” That extra painful process means that the man called Crossjack can’t get his superhero on, which comes at a time when Jack’s rediscovering what being a hero really means to him. And it’s those ideas in mind that make this cover from series creators Tony Fleecs and Tim Seeley so dang powerful. Jack has to literally and figuratively watch heroes do their thing, as he’s stuck in some tiny apartment (albeit with great views) feeling totally neutered and powerless. He would be smart to look away, but then he can’t, and Jack’s cursed to want to be involved when maybe it’s better that he just remain on the sidelines (most of the time, even as he’s been mostly effective in being a superhero again). That makes him an idiot, yeah, but it also makes him a kind-hearted and endearing idiot, and someone worth looking up to for his bravery and compassion (even if we shouldn’t look up to him in other ways). It’s little moves/decisions like this from Seeley and Fleecs that have made Local Man so important, and I can’t wait to see our hero both fumbles and saves the day in this latest chapter.

Blow Away #2

Variant cover by Megan Hutchison

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

Further speaking on books that I like, Blow Away really knocked me off my feet with its debut issue. And it’s easy to see why, as Zac Thompson and Nicola Izzo joined forces to tell an uneasy but compelling mystery at seemingly the very end of the world (like, a snowy mountain and not the apocalypse). I have every bit of faith that issue #2 will be a solid follow-up, as Brynne finds that “the local authorities are only helpful in adding to her growing paranoia” around whether or not she witnessed a murder on the mountaintop. But I’m also convinced of this issue’s sheer potential thanks to this totally great variant cover by Megan Hutchison. For one, I love the vibe like it’s some lost Alfred Hitchcock movie poster — I’d 1,000% make that comparison in terms of the book’s overall vibes and feel and whatnot. As part of that, we get some basic iconography — the mountain and its sense of loneliness and foreboding; the dehumanized players in Red and Blue; the voyeurism of our lead and the way that fosters a further sense of distance; and what all that negative spaces might say. It’s a cover that is both direct and has layers galore, and I love how powerful and yet simple it feels in trying to give us a true snapshot of this story. It’s all about mood and colors and whispering things, and I think that’s such a powerful way to go. Even if I’m afraid of what a massive camera like that could someday accomplish.

Army of Darkness Forever #8

Cover by Arthur Suydam

Judging by the Cover

Some artists have little niches and/or gimmicks they’ve developed the years. In the case of Arthur Suydam, that’s shambling zombies, which he seemingly started with the original Marvel Zombies series from 2005 to 2007. But it goes beyond Marvel, and Suydam’s spent years drawing zombies for a whole slate of titles/stories. Yes, almost no one draws terrifying, meat-slurping rotted corpses like Suydam, but even a connoisseur like myself (I have a zombie bite tattoo, mind you) can get a little overwhelmed with years and years of zombie action. Until, of course, I saw this cover to Army of Darkness Forever #8. I don’t know what this iconic Muhammad Ali moment/fight has to do with the book, and I’m not sure how much I care. Same goes with the added fighters in the ring, or that everyone else is a zombie and yet they’re behaving like the best crowd this side of a U2 concert. No, what I care about is Ash’s jokey, sitcom-adjacent vibes, and what this added bit of humor does to extended Suydam’s wonderfully awful zombie shtick. Even Zombie Ali feels like he’s in on the gag a bit, and that just adds heaps of new layers to this image. The horror never diminishes the humor/hijinks, and vice versa, and we get a real standout among a crop of undead cannibal portraits. Seriously, though, was the boxer in the stripes that emaciated before he died?

The Bat-Man: First Knight #3

Variant cover by Marc Aspinall

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

It seems like an obvious enough idea: if you’re doing a pulpy Batman story, we may as well have some similarly pulpy covers to go along with them, right? And that’s exactly what The Bat-Man: First Knight has done so far, and I absolutely adored Marc Aspinall’s offering for the first issue. That one nailed the whole pulp novel vibe, and I could have easily seen this torn, dusty cover in the collection of some elderly relative neighbor or going for 25 cents in some used bookstore somewhere. Yet despite that cover’s magnificence, I think Aspinall has outdone himself for the third and final cover. Just the shading and color on the encroaching fire is enough of a singular accomplishment to merit our collective slack-jawed worship. And yet the cover gets better still. I love that we get long shorts Batman — it somehow feels super era appropriate even as it never once diminishes the danger and intensity of his surroundings. If anything, I think this version of Batman balances a sense of adventurism and being completely unprepared, and that dynamic feels true to the story and to the larger idea of this is a Batman still trying to get his feet wet. It’s a creative decision that does wonders for the narrative even as it remains endlessly thrilling and a snapshot of how you can tell interesting stories and repurpose. It’s a shame this pulpy tale’s reached its final drop.

The Butcher’s Boy #1

Cover by Justin Greenwood

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

I’ve been looking at Justin Greenwood’s cover to The Butcher’s Boy #1 since at least late February/early March when I interviewed him and writer Landry Q. Walker. Since then, it’s popped up several times on Twitter and other sites, and each time I take a few minutes to stare at it further. And so what’s my  opinion after all this time? Well, something feels really off. I mean, yeah, I’m unnerved by the giant, snarling teeth of a monster (or monstrous man), but I also can’t help but feel like the placement of the teeth is all wrong and it irks me deeply. Then I saw that this misalignment is true of the other Greenwood-drawn covers, and it dawned on me that, hey dummy, that’s likely sort of the point. I’m meant to be bother by that decision, and that it’s done to unsettle me and also but me on the edge. Once I’m there, and I really don’t know how to get back down, anything that happens is likely going to stab me right in the gut. And based on everything else I know about this book, that ability is going to be huge as it retells a familiar horror story with new levels of dread, gore, and emotionality. Sure, it would be nice if the teeth aligned more because who doesn’t like order and predictability. But that one tiny decision shows that this book is coming for us at every turn and it wants to use those teeth as much as possible.

Blood Hunt #2

Variant cover by Peach Momoko

Judging by the Cover – 05/22/24 new releases

If you’re going to call your vampire-centric summer event Blood Hunt, you’re likely going to get all sorts of dark and bloody with the story itself. And Marvel and the creators attached to the event have certainly done that with the main book and its various spin-offs so far, giving us all the drama and gore we’d want from vampires trying to take over the Marvel Universe. I mean, just peep some of the variant covers for Blood Hunt #2: maybe there’s no so much blood that we’re all drowning in it, but there’s brutality and Anne Rice-ian drama, and that’s exactly how vampires should be depicted. But I don’t think any of them hold a candle to the variant from Peach Momoko. On first glance, you wouldn’t really be able to discern that this had anything to do with vamps — this could be Scarlet Witch as she’s about to go to the grocery store. But then you feel the swirling darkness in the background seemingly make its way ever close, and see the lithe, mist-like feel of Wanda, and you definitely get the sense that something’s off. It’s a piece that captures the less “obvious” nature of vampires as these harbingers of doom and these fountains of a kind of uncomfortable beauty and sexuality. It’s a piece that shows us the “enemy” and invites us to think about what vampires really mean in these stories and the kind of larger threat they pose (if you want to call this a threat, of course). It’s also more proof of Momoko’s brilliance, and she could have drawn just a vampire canine or something and it would’ve worked.

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