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Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

Comic Books

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 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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Absolute Power #1

Variant cover by Chrissie Zullo

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

Absolute Power is a very serious event for DC, and the culmination of months of storytelling across several interconnected stories. A moment to once again (at least in theory) to shake up the DCU and re-align it for a new era post-Dawn of DC. But just look at the adorable little Amanda Waller! OK, I don’t think this excellent Chrissie Zullo variant cover to issue #1 harms the book’s perception whatsoever. Sure, I can see how such cartoonish joy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But I’m a firm believer that this kind of “violent silliness” (patent pending) is a trademark of the publisher. That, and it’s nice to see another version of Waller since this book is all about grounding and contextualizing this character as much as turning her into DC’s latest big bad. Maybe her childhood wasn’t about torturing Batman and Superman dolls (or was it?!), but it’s ultimately about showing that there’s a deep history to these characters and layers of humanity and complexity that extend and augment our understandings. Plus, maybe this cover is a tease of sorts about what happens in the event proper — and if that is the case then whoever is buried head-first in sand is going to have a real bad time. Darkness and light, joy and intensity can share the page, and this cover proves that a little playfulness can actually make a big moment feel more robust and textured. Also, where’d she get that dope Batmobile?!

Venom #35

Cover by CAFU

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

In case you needed another event at Marvel and didn’t like vampires, there’s going to be “Venom War” kicking off this August. In this prelude of the “Brock against Brock” battle royale, the solicitation notes that every Eddie Brock “is in free fall…literally,” with the very Earth itself at stake. Venom #35 promises a little “bonding time” (get it?) as Eddie and Dylan must “suffer the other” to live. And maybe I’m just a dumb guy with his own dead dad, but I do love when this book really leans into the daddy issues that have come to define much of Eddie’s story in recent years. And series/cover artist CAFU captures this dynamic brilliantly in the cover to issue #35. Brock and Dylan are so similar, and they’re both locked eternally in this cycle with one another and the symbiote. Yet not even this shared experience and pain can seemingly deter them from coming to odds in this prelude and (likely) the event proper. There’s also a sense to this cover (at least I ee it) that their real issue isn’t one another but the things outside their control or scope of influence, and that lends an especially tragic energy to their back-and-forth. Either way, I can’t deny that this cover is a striking first blow, as it were, in the “Venom War,” and something I hope sets the tone and pace for the event proper. Otherwise, this war might as well be a mild disagreement.

Beyond the Pale #2

Cover by Tomás Aira

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

If you recall, Beyond the Pale #1 made me think quite fondly of They Live. And that debut issue very much struck a similar tone — one of darkness but also this vague optimism about the horrors of war and how humanity survives such tectonic violence. But with the second issue’s cover (also from series artist Tomás Aira), I don’t really get that baseline or terra firma of pop culture familiarity. Rather, I just love how the peace medallion remains a really strong visual motif — such a solid and powerful way to encapsulate some big ideas about this massive historical and cultural event. And then, of course, there’s the giant horror show monsters, which somehow manage to draw the eye and also don’t take too much away from rest of the piece and its significance. So, then, what’s it all mean? Maybe that peace is just a thing we wear like good denim, and it doesn’t mean anything at all? Or, the true scope of life is a balance between the horrors we don’t see and the things we choose to focus on instead? Maybe that everything is a nightmare, and we’ve put it into boxes and a larger framework to make ourselves feel better? Pick a theme or whatnot, but one thing is clear: there’s heaps of power and ideas percolating beneath the cover of this surface. It’s why this book doesn’t need any references (or much of anything else, really) to work thus far.

The Boy Wonder #3

Cover by Juni Ba

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

And speaking of covers that I’ve liked quite a bit, we move from Beyond The Pale to The Boy Wonder #3. The first two issues saw writer-artist Juni Ba do some really incredible, ornate, and rather intricate things in building this fairytale starring our own prince (not so) charming, Damian Wayne. But this cover to issue #3 is something else entirely. As this issue focuses on Tim Drake/Red Robin, it makes sense to go as bare bones as possible with this one. Tim and Damian have always been locked in a kind of battle of the wits, as the younger Robin might feel a little threatened by the sheer genius of his older “brother.” So, all that red (which is also the color of anger, FYI) is about Damian stripping away the hubris and the bravado to lock horns with someone who may be his superior in ways Damian can’t fully counter (i.e., ways that don’t involve the use of a sword). There’s also a kind of regality to the Red Robin “symbol” — as if Damian has put him on a pedestal of sorts and thinks of Tim as a rather worthy “opponent.” Yet Damian’s “demon bird mask” visage remains, and I think that’s really how he sees himself in the face of his super capable siblings. Sure, some of this is just me playing armchair psychotherapist, but there’s no denying that Ba has put in some powerful work into these covers. Let’s hope issue #4 continues that worthy trend.

Spider-Man: Reign 2 #1

Cover by Kaare Andrews

Judging by the Cover

I remember picking up the debut issue of Spider-Man: Reign way back in December 2006 and being absolutely floored. Writer-artist Kaare Andrews crafted something really compelling, and very much the closest we’d ever get to a Spidey-starring take on The Dark Knight Returns. And yet I understand some of the backlash the book’s experienced; the way Mary Jane died, for instance, caught some folks off guard and not necessarily in the best way. So I’m still overjoyed to see Andrews returning for a sequel, which hints at both a new Black Cat as well as “tragedies and triumphs [awaiting] this older, grizzled Peter Parker.” Whether you know/like the OG series or not, Andrews’ debut cover tells you all that you need to know about Reign 2. Like, how it’s heavily stylized and dramatic, with this real Gothic undertone informing the look of this world. And how much power and prowess Andrews brings to this world — I mean, just look at the detail of all that wonderful, wonderful webbing. But, of course, there’s also a level of “humor” and absurdity attached, which must be the case if you have Parker’s four-foot beard flowing out of his mask. It’s the kind of “what if-ian” tale that will delight others and upset many more, and that process is how we make important comics stories take root and germinate. So, come into Reign 2 with a grain of salt or two, but I promise that it’ll still pull you into its weird and wild web. And if not, just blame me.

Doctor Who: The Fifteenth Doctor #1

Variant cover by Alex Moore

Judging by the Cover

Admittedly, I don’t know too much about this franchise after, say, the Tenth Doctor. But with all the tidbits I’ve seen online, and how the new Doctor makes some fans unhappy, I’m onboard for this latest time-traveling paladin’s adventures. That’s doubly true since it’s Dan Watters on writing duties, who promises a storyline involving a dying shopping mall and the Doctor “facing his greatest fears.” However, I’m mostly excited for this run given this truly solid variant cover from Alex Moore, who has somehow nailed the essence of the Doctor in a way that should appease fans regardless of their favorite version or how dumb they are in regards to change. We got some tried and true “Who-vian” standbys, like a really solid army of Cybermen. A big bad who is both cheesy and also kinda cool, and that dynamic will make him all the more appealing and relatable somehow. An innocent child, which is very much essential to this deeply, deeply human franchise that’s all about addressing fear and connecting with our most vulnerable selves to provide courage and strength. And, of course, we get the Doctor and Ruby Sunday looking either shocked or scared or both — either way, it has all the makings for a primo adventure. Maybe this ain’t your Doctor, but one thing is clear: you’d have to be a little daft to no want to hop on this TARDIS for some reality-bounding hijinks.

ThunderCats: Cheetara #1

Variant cover by Soo Lee

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

Recently, I got to speak to Soo Lee about writing the ThunderCats: Cheetara spin-off series. When I asked Lee if she was using the variant covers she was contributing to “maybe hint at some secrets or tease anything about the actual issue,” she responded, “Yes, actually, I do! You nailed it.” So, with issue #1 out this week, and Lee’s first cover just above this paragraph, let’s play a little another round of amateur comics detective. Given that I know this series is about Cheetara’s early life amid the “stifling nobility,” I’m assuming the fire is (metaphorical or not) all about her burning that life down for something new. Then, based on the plant life, I’m curious if she makes her way to the wilds of Thundera, where she becomes a kind of free-roaming warrior of sorts. Lastly, I think that expert use of shadow work has two purposes or meanings: 1) there’s a big mystery a foot, and I can’t wait to delve into and 2) we may get a really complicated and nuanced take on Cheetara across this book. This is, of course, all conjecture, and I could be off by a country mile. But it’s all in good fun, and this title is one that I’m especially interested to see given that it whats to do something novel and interesting from the main Thundercats title. But, Soo Lee, if I’m close to any of that, just go ahead and tweet at me or something.

The Savage Sword of Conan #3

Cover by Alex Horley

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

If you don’t read Conan comics, you may want to start. That’s especially true if you’re a giant fantasy fan who is also worried about getting the most bang for their buck given how jam-packed this third issue of Conan’s “return” truly is (and I mean jam-packed). Per the solicitations, there’s a “chilling” tale from Frank Tieri and Cary Nord; a Solomon Kane story from Patch Zircher; a “silent” story by Alan Quah; a teaser for the Conan: City of The Dead novel by John C. Hocking; and, of course, this beast of a cover from Alex Horley (and a variant by Nord to boot!) I mean, just this Horley cover alone would be enough to get me involved given how sweet it is and how it both answers questions even as it totally transcends the need for such gestures. Like, sure, I could ask or ponder as to why Conan is fighting a giant werewolf, but the sheer power and majesty here makes me thinking that such queries are ultimately pointless. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, because it’s a giant, slobbering monster that’s about to get rocked by a giant axe. That, and the way the title interacts withe the chilly moon is just ::chef’s kiss:: levels of perfection, and the kind of technical superiority that’s defined Conan since the days of Frank Frazetta. So, come for the epic cover and stay for the fantasy smorgasbord that awaits within. And if you get full, just channel the power of the axe and keep cutting right on through.

The Last Mermaid #5

Cover by Derek Kirk Kim

Judging by the Cover – 07/03/24 new releases

The Last Mermaid is one of those books that I’ve adored from the get go but couldn’t always feature or discuss because of the covers. Not that writer-artist Derek Kirk Kim has been slacking in that department; rather, I just don’t think some of the covers thus far haven’t really captured the beauty and power of this story of a mermaid trying to survive the horrors of a post-apocalyptic desert nightmare. But the cover for issue #5 (the penultimate offering of this “story arc”) finally does it, and we get a perfect snapshot of what Kim has been doing across the first four issues. Namely, the sheer detail provided here; we can practically feel the Mermaid smashing into our faces even as we just see her reflected brilliantly in the face of that giant mutant. And speaking of mutants, there’s a kind of organic but also unnatural vibe to this monstrosity, and that is such an effective design choice and just a small instance of how Kim has shaped and informed this world. And, of course, I can’t speak about the mutant without mentioning the red — it’s such an oppressive-feeling and another sign of how Kim has developed this world with maximum effectiveness. Heck, even the vaguely magazine-style layout/format just proves how unique this book is amid a sea of great titles. Get on this one while you can or may you wander your own personal desert hell forever.

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