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Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 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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(Editor’s Note for 5/27: Thanks to a savvy reader, that’s Wally West and not Barry Allen. Pardon the mixup.)

Batman: Dark Age #3

Cover by Michael and Laura Allred

Judging by the Cover

Like a lot of folks, I’ve long been in love with the work of Michael Allred (who often works with/receives a big boost from his wife, colorist Laura Allred). There’s something so nostalgic and classical about the Allreds’ work, and it feels like something I’d want to see in my favorite old comic each and every time. Yet there’s no denying that unwavering “freakiness” of their work — it also just slants a little to the left, and the weird/quirky quality does so much to augment and extend the familiarity. It’s a dynamic that is encapsulated by the cover to Batman: Dark Age #3. I could certainly see this being a slightly more cheesy cover to some Batman book circa 1957 — I mean, how else would you explain one rope upending two grown men and a couple motorcycles? At the same time, there’s no denying the dark energy that permeates this piece; there’s a real sense of suffering on the goons’ face that makes this scene feel all the more harrowing and a little hard to swallow. And none of that’s getting at the shadowy Superman in the rear — it’s a rare instance where the Man of Steel is made to feel truly foreboding and thus simultaneously at odds and yet perfectly aligned with this chaotic scene. There’s a lot going on here (above and below the surface), and it’s best to just take it all in.

Hellverine #1

Variant cover by Mark Texeira

Judging by the Cover

Hellverine is one of those things in comics where you go, “Why didn’t someone think to do this 20 years ago?” Well, ’cause it took the twisted mind of writer Benjamin Percy to use a demon to (effectively) fuse Wolverine and Ghost Rider. And now Hellverine has his very own solo series, and we’re starting off strong with a story that asks if the fiery one is “slashing his hellfire claws for good or evil?” While I don’t have any answers for you, I think I can offer up that it likely depends on who might be drawing him. Take, for instance, the main cover Ryan Stegman, J. P. Mayer, and Marte Gracia: that more fluid, Wolverine-heavy approach certainly says evil. Meanwhile, the variant cover from the legendary Kevin Eastman screams generally good ’90s anti-hero. All of that is why I really adore this Mark Texeira variant. Because that fire hair and sneer scream bad guy, and yet there’s no denying that someone with a hog that sweet has to be the most proper anti-hero this side of a ’90s Spawn cover. And if you’re not inclined to delve into the morality of fictional characters, we can all enjoy the sweet, sweet flames. It’s a cover that fully and respectfully encapsulates the core of Hellverine: weird, a little dumb and cheesy, and just cool all over. My only complaint? Always wear a leather jacket on a bike or risk flaying yourself on the sidewalk at 120 mph.

Nights #7

Cover by Luigi Formisano

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

I get it: you’re probably sick of me talking about Nights. But I’m also sick of this book being so damn good that it forces me to talk about it with any proper opportunity. (Just be glad you’re not my wife or a family or friend — those people have lived in a Nights-themed hell for some time.) But as we move into issue #7, which is more or less the start of a new arc, I’m once again reminded of why this book is great courtesy of this cover from Luigi Formisano. Sure, the use of/repurposing of a playbill is a little old hat by now, but there’s no denying the sheer power of this image. We get Ivory looking like a proper protagonist out of a Tarantino flick; ample hints of dark magic and occultism; a little mysterious posing from Gray; and a car crash as an added bit of, “Hey, look over here!” But this cover also serves another really important function: it positions Nights as a play, and while it’s not at all, that kind of framework is really interesting and adds a little bit of meta-ism to this otherwise great story. All of that together has me excited for the continued development of this book, and to see how it can affirm what’s worked and still do interesting and novel things. You’ll never stop me from talking about Nights, so please get used to it ASAP.

Love Me: A Romance Story #2

Cover by Stefano Cardoselli

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

I started out this week’s column talking about the Allreds. And now I want to talk about Stefano Cardoselli, another artist who very much operates in the same vein (for me, at least). When Cardoselli and his collaborators debuted Love Me: A Romance Story #1 back in April, it felt like a snapshot of what I loved about his work. Which is to say, a bright, playful style that explores the future with a solid mix of anxiety, nostalgia, and all-around geeky, weirdo joy. Few people have as interesting and powerful of a take on sci-fi as Cardoselli, and he makes something deeply whimsy but with huge layers to boot. But as we move into issue #2, something’s changed, and a lot of that joyous magic has been stripped away for total bloodshed and brutality. While I’m no stranger to violence at this point in my life (I’ve long been desensitized with the rest of you), there’s clearly something about this more savage turn that disarms me completely and makes me feel all kinds of uncomfortable and uncertain. It’s powerful and vivid, yeah, but mostly it feels like Cardoselli has stripped away the layers of optimism and silliness and exposed the dirt and filth existing under everything. It’s a deeply effective turn for this book, and it extends the story and grows its potential in some massive ways. It’s an instance of a giant face-busting robot giving me actual pause, and even more proof of Cardoselli’s true genius.

Golgotha Motor Mountain #3

Cover by Robbi Rodriguez

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

Like Nights, I’m yet again talking about a book I’m deeply obsessed with. But unlike that book, it’s actually been two months since I talked about Golgotha Motor Mountain #2, which is part of my slightly weird, mostly out of normal sync relationship I’ve cultivated with this book. And as I’ve mentioned in some reviews, having both books early is part of this special perspective and connection that I share with this book, and why I feel like it’s wormed its way so deep into the ol’ brainpan. As such, this is the first time I’m coming to this book with everyone else — and I’m still of the opinion that this whole endeavor is the most wondrously bizarre thing I’ve willingly consumed in several years. You can blame or praise Robbi Rodriguez’s cover to this third issue, which continues to take Golgotha County and push into deeper and deeper into a hellish, drug-induced nightmare dimension that I wouldn’t escape even if I could. I love how we can see reality and context breaking down bit by bit in these covers — the alien drug seems to be consuming everything that Vernon and Elwood touch, and that is both deeply exciting and massively unsettling. It’s proof of this book’s ability to affect its readers, and to melt away time and stability and all that jazz in the name of powerful landscapes that joyously demand our attention in our own personal breakdown. Hit the gas, dummies.

Death Ratio’d #1

Cover by Rahzzah

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

When he’s not busy reworking the legend/mythos of Batman with Dark Age, writer Mark Russell is often writing disarming books about near-future hellscapes. Case in point: Death Ratio’d, an AWA one-shot in which “life and death are ruled by social media and where “one too many dislikes…and you’re dead.” It’s the kind of brilliant but forceful satire of our weird, dumb times that manages to dissect the sheer nuances of these issues while also still having the chutzpah to be totally unwavering and as direct as a ball-peen hammer to the nose. It’s a dynamic that I think is represented really well in the cover to issue #1 from Rahzzah. Because in a world where too many dislikes (or is that not enough likes?), we’d have awful, grizzly deaths like this all the time. And while we’ve become increasingly desensitized to them, to the point that we’d be more annoyed than anything, there’s no denying that we’d all have copious amounts of blood on our collective hands. That’s exactly what this cover demonstrates: the loss would be almost unmanageable, but rather than do anything about it or the underlying issues, we’d just keep needlessly cleaning up each new annihilation with an increasing air of quiet frustration. It’s a really honest and unwavering depiction of us and what happens when we don’t have the simple courage to just be a little better. Caution: jerk people keep being jerks.

Black Panther: Blood Hunt #1

Cover by Andrea Sorrentino

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

We’re still early enough into the whole Blood Hunt event to make at least one solid bit of analysis: there’s been more a few covers featuring hissing, blood-soaked vampire faces. And I’m not critiquing or attacking any of the creators — it’s a solid bit of imagery associated with vampires, and who doesn’t want to see more of that kind of darkness and depravity in their lives? That said, though, I do have to give Andrea Sorrentino some added credit for his novel enough take on vampires with Black Panther: Blood Hunt #1. I love the way the vampirism “virus” has distorted his armor; it’s such a powerful way to explore the kinds of levels and depths associated with these turns. I also really enjoy that we can see all of his teeth and not just the fangs — we don’t always get that in vampire stories, and I for one think it’s a way to demonstrate an added level of brutality and savagery. Then, of course, there’s the expert blood placement, which feels perfectly balanced between “I just ate six people” and still trying to have a clean outlook to play up the other aspects of this piece. Heck, even the claws feel disturbingly sharp, as if I can feel them on the back of my neck from here. If you’re going to do vampires, do it like this: with creativity and carnage alike.

The Flash #9

Cover by Ramón Pérez

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

If you’re the fastest man in the universe (or certainly up there), it can be hard to be caught lacking. And yet writer Si Spurrier has done just that across this latest Flash run, trying to place Wally West in scenarios where he scrambles and feels powerless, and not just in a ways that he can quickly make up for by running really, really fast. It’s about taking a genuinely good man and making him use the things beyond his power, and to find that even a good heart and a proper approach don’t always illicit the results you’d want. It’s part of why I love this cover from series artist Ramón Pérez so much. Asides from just being downright gorgeous, it exemplifies how Wally is continually trying to play catch up in this series (Editor’s Note 5/27: through the recently-completed first arc at least), and how despite his best efforts, he’s learning that there are things bigger than himself and his deus ex machina Speed Force. That creates and fosters the lightning-quick barrage of emotions Barry experiences on this cover — each one feels like a different reaction or moment in his life, and we’re seeing just how he’s responding (with frustration, fear, resolve, impatience, etc.) as he’s trying to make up for lost ground in a way he really hasn’t had to do before. Plus, none of that’s getting at the more obvious Rogue who’s clearly got Barry in the palm of his hand. If your work is as good as this, some overt metaphors can really work, and it’s just another reason this series is my favorite take on the Flash.

Grommets #1

Variant cover by Jonathan Wayshak

Judging by the Cover – 05/29/24 new releases

For someone who loves punk rock (read my newsletter, won’t you?), I’m extra excited about Grommets. It’s Rick Remender not writing about sci-fi; he’s also working with Brian Posehn (his Deadpool stories are great); there’s art from Brett Parson and Moreno DiNisio; and it’s both a coming-of-age story and a deep look into ’80s skater culture (which, if you’re not well studied, is sort of a golden era, for both better and worse). As such, there’s lots of really great covers that try and encapsulate the joyful but often rather specific vibes and aesthetic of this era. I do like Parson’s own main cover because it balances both the warmth of nostalgia with the wonderful filth of ’80s skaters. And I similarly think that this Andrew Robinson variant captures both the wonders and terrors of growing up in one perfect image. Yet for my money, I had to go with this Jonathan Wayshak variant. For one, I think video games were a central part of the punk-skating dynamic, and a medium and place that combined the mix of silliness and coolness of skating around listening to, like, Bad Brains or Black Flag. But I also love the overt joy of our youngster’s face — punk and skating wasn’t/isn’t about being cool but embracing life and finding that which makes you feel most alive. And, of course, the quarter trick makes me feel both 11 years old and 112, and I think that’s going to be a really central part to this story. It makes me so happy I could kickflip (if my right ankle weren’t so tight/sore).

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