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Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 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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Venom #34

Cover by CAFU

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

If you didn’t know anything about Venom, the Blood Hunt event, or even vampires in general, you may have some big questions. (The least significant of which being, “Is that Baraka from Mortal Kombat sucking down Venom’s life force?”) And in some ways knowing all of that and even what this issue focuses on — former Symbiote host Lee Price “rises from the grave” for some “unfinished business with his old partner” — takes away from just how brain-breakingly great this cover from CAFU is on several key levels. Because you don’t have to know much to think that this kind of vampirism/superpowered parasite is just deeply cool, as if you can feel the crackle of energy being engaged/released here. Or that it’s as if the Venom “costume” now seems to hang a little loser as Venom is fully consumed/drained. Even just that sharp, vivid orange does so much to pull in our eyes before the piece itself smashes our very sensibilities into 1 million pieces. Knowledge is cool and all, but we can feel the desperation and the overwhelming power of this cover regardless, and it’s a neat spin on the big themes and ideas that are making Blood Hunt so compelling (i.e., old friends/enemies coming back or being turned). This is the opposite of sucking, folks.

The Boy Wonder #2

Cover by Juni Ba

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

I earnestly thought that writer/artist Juni Ba couldn’t outdo his cover to The Boy Wonder #1. That piece was a powerful introduction to this solo Damian Wayne adventure, capturing the big thematic tentpoles like the repurposing of fairy tales and the vaguely gothic undertones. But Ba’s own cover to issue #2 feels like a step up in all the right ways. We once more get the “demonic” looking mask/vistage, which clearly is a clue that it’s an important story element and not just a really cool bit of design from Ba. Then, there’s the way that the streets of Gotham City are almost made to feel like a stage or some other production, and that feels like another layer to this book’s interests in the act of storytelling and fables. And, of course, there’s the Robin and Red Hood puppets, which don’t just play up the same kinds of ideas as the street signs, but also how Damian sees himself and his brothers and the way they are locked into this life and the rigid structure of superheroics. It all feels like a nice way to preview a Damian-Jason Todd-heavy chapter, and I think they’re dynamic is going to be especially interesting considering their similarities and differences. There’s nailing it, and then there’s nailing it.

Falling in Love on the Path to Hell #1

Cover by Garry Brown

Judging by the Cover

OK, let me just say it: this totally looks like a Star Wars movie poster, right? Which is an interesting choice for a book supposedly about a gunslinger and a samurai that die, wake up in purgatory, and fall in love (while also seeking some kind of revenge or whatnot, I’d imagine). I mean, I could just excuse any comparisons right away; referencing Star Wars, even tangentially, is something that happens to almost anything released post-1977. However, to an extent, Star Wars and this book both seem to be interested in both samurai flicks and westerns, and both of those traditions are about warriors and honor and the like, and that reference may be a kind of lingua franca into the book’s core values/ideas. Similarly, while this book features a purgatory “ruled by a ruthless society of damned warriors,” the grounded, dusty protagonists (like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, yeah?) is a nice balance to the ornate evil being hinted at in the top right (that’d be the Darth Vader-looking fella, FYI). But even if the two properties share nothing else, Falling is similarly about a lot of big ideas and cool stuff, including “action, the dead, the dying, the undead, and of course…romance.” Regardless, put this book in my hands faster than the Kessel Run or whatever.

Profane #1

Cover by Javier Rodríguez

Judging by the Cover

Am I excited about Profane? It’s Peter Milligan (alongside artist Raül Fernandez) and noir, so I’m more jacked than Jack Black himself. Am I also a little uncertain? Sure. Because the book is described as being about “the precariously thin line between reality and fiction-perfect for fans of BANG! and Newburn,” and that’s something that does tantalize me (I love meta stuff and Newburn) and makes me hesitant (meta stuff can also be tricky and/or blow up in our collective faces). But luckily we have this debut cover from artist Javier Rodríguez, which does a really good job of firmly pushing me to the side of, “Generally excited and optimistic.” We get some really solid noir vibes, and I just love the way those blues really counteract and extend the sharp, slightly orange-y red in all the ways that great pulp covers can and still do. And if we’re exploring this book’s innate meta-ness, I think the visual device here works to make that subtle but still in an inventive way while keeping in line with something that also feels quite noir-y in its scope and energy. Maybe it doesn’t purport to be very much like Newburn or BANG! but then it doesn’t really have to be when we have something cool, engaging, and interested in pushing these specific stories in daring new directions. If the book’s called Profane, hell freaking yeah I’m generally on board.

Cult of the Lamb #1

Variant cover by Troy Little

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

The thing that I remember when they announced a Cult of the Lamb comic book series was my disbelief. Like, sure, it was a beloved game (if not slightly undersung or a bit of a cult fave), but could it actually make the leap into a meaningful story (even if it did have Alex Paknadel and Troy Little on board)? And then the whole Kickstarter earned an insane amount of money overnight, and it was clear that I’d drastically underestimated a Lamb-starring comic. Given some of the art I’ve already seen, I’m glad that said book also happens to be deeply interesting and not just a way to satiate gamers. Case in point: this excellent variant cover from series artist Troy Little. It gives me a touch of Cuphead vibes, which I think is a neat way to help comics fans understand a slightly older, perhaps more “infamous” game. At the same time, though, we get everything we need regardless of context, like the weird-meets-cutesy vibes, the sense of larger story and lore displayed, and even a sheen of something more singularly weird or playful (which is saying a lot) that makes this comic feel like it could stand on its own two hooves. The lesson here is to sometimes believe the hype, and that great properties can be great regardless of the medium. That, and as always, never join a cult.

Beyond the Pale #1

Cover by Tomas Aira

Judging by the Cover

If Falling in Love on the Path to Hell made me think of Star Wars, then Beyond the Pale makes me think of They Live. And, sure, that device of “hey, there’s a scary thing being focused on through this other lens” ain’t exactly a new visual idea or trope, but I love what that connection does to ground and inform how I view this new book. However, it just as easily and effectively makes decisions to separate itself from any other franchises or similarities. In a book about about a war correspondent (Hetta Sawyer) “looking into the disproportional loss of black soldiers in the Vietnam War,” I love that there’s both a solemn focus on our photographer and that any supernatural elements are regarded with respect and nuance as to show us what this book really cares about (people over ghosts). And I really love the choice of font — I think it feels like a perfect choice for horror without feeling connected to any one film — and the continued use of the peace medallion/sign as as an overarching metaphor. Even Hetta’s mix of shock and deliberateness feels like it tells me everything about the tone of this book. Sure, comparisons help us understand context, but a cover like this is just as effective on its own.

What If…?: Venom #5

Cover by Leinil Francis Yu

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

The thing I like about comics is that it often shows us what we didn’t know we needed. (It also shows us very much what we want or need, but that’s perhaps just a touch less interesting.) And in the case of What If…?: Venom #5, it’s a fusion of Venom and Moon Knight. But not only that, but the solicitations raise the question of “which identity of Moon Knight’s will the symbiote connect with” and “what will their union mean for New York?!” I’m so excited and scared I could practically barf, and that’s not even actually getting at this amazing piece from series artist Leinil Francis Yu. For one, I love the way the design expertly balances both costumes; it makes it feel all the more striking as we get that essential balance. I also really adore the more chaotic and overwhelming feel of the line work — it captures the chaos and fury of both Venom and Moon Knight, and does so in a way that makes you think he/they are coming right for us. Even just the way the cape pops up and the energy flows/radiates off Moon Venom — all of it just further pushes the way this new host/potential public terror is all about grabbing up eyeballs and demanding our utmost attention. If I had to hazard a guess, it’s Jake Lockley, but no matter which identity, I’m already planning on hiding in a hole from this new flying menace.

Space Ghost #2

Variant cover by Jae Lee and June Chung

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

A couple weekends ago, I got to briefly watch Jae Lee work at a local fan convention here in wonderful Phoenix, Arizona. And the thing I noticed — outside of how insanely talented he is overall -is that Lee’s whole approach really embraces both chaos and control as well as power and grace. It makes for really vivid and hugely dynamic pieces, and most recently that includes this boss-level variant cover to Space Ghost #2 (alongside colorist June Chung). Almost immediately, we have to touch on that this cover feels like a weird and playful homage to The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, a decision in and of itself feels so bonkers that I don’t know if I can contain the sheer joy and giddiness in my heart. (Also, who would be God and would be Adam in this very specific scenario?) Outside of that, this piece captures both Space Ghost and Zorak in both a “classical” sense (as we’ve known them forever) as well as in a new light — Space Ghost feels more fluid and joyous than ever, and there’s a lot less innate awkwardness to Zorak, which makes him feel even more threatening (or, maybe a different kind of threatening). Shoot, even the g-d space rocks feel so big and epic, and that just shows the sheer skill and prowess of Lee/Chung. Now, do that thing where you make Brak genuinely intimidating and you’ve won the game in full.

DC Pride: A Celebration of Rachel Pollack #1

Cover by Michael and Laura Allred; Scot Eaton, Tom Sutton, and Tom Ziuko; and Richard Case, Stan Woch, and Daniel Vozzo

Judging by the Cover – 06/05/24 new releases

Normally on Judging by the Cover, we’d celebrate the work of one or two artists per cover. But Rachel Pollack was no ordinary comics creator, and so she gets a special tribute one-shot for Pride Month with a veritable suite of artists. This specific celebration features the debut of Coagula, DC’s first transgender superhero, from 1993’s Doom Patrol #70; the rare Vertigo Visions: The Geek; and a new Coagula story from Joe Corallo (a friend/collaborator of Pollack) and artist Rye Hickman. As such, this cover features contributions from Michael and Laura Allred; Scot Eaton, Tom Sutton, and Tom Ziuko; and Richard Case, Stan Woch, and Daniel Vozzo. Sure, it’s all mostly older stuff, and those things fans have read hundreds of times before. But assembled here in such a way, I think there’s a few notable things to take away. One, Doom Patrol was a triply weird and profound book under Pollack’s watch, but there’s always genuine depth and humanity. Two, I love that Coagula is sitting center stage; that heroine really represents a lot of what’s novel and interesting about Pollack’s writings. And three, true weirdness doesn’t abide by schedules and timing, and so this stuff feels central to big, vital parts of DC whether or not you’ve been a fan of Doom Patrol and/or Pollack in the first place. I appreciate paying tribute to someone like Pollack, and also doing it in a way that the focus is squarely on these truly powerful characters and stories. And to somehow out-weird Grant Morrison continues to be the feat of feats, folks.

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