This is the third season in a column that judges a book by its cover. Catch up on the current season, or view the complete archive. Spelling corrections are welcome.

Marvel released a preview of the cover to Uncanny X-Men #1 by Leinil Francis Yu. It’s a pretty standard group shot, revealing (in theory) the new team line-up. But what really stuck out at me is…

Nightcrawler has a beard.

This is confusing because back in the Claremont days, Kitty Pryde’s nickname for Nightcrawler was “fuzzy elf.” Which, naturally, leads one to believe that he is generally fuzzy. Similar to the Beat, but not quite furry. Just fuzzy.

Which raises the question: if Nightcrawler has been shaving this whole time, how does he shave without making part of his face unfuzzy?

This isn’t the first time this question has been asked. Nightcrawler briefly sported a chin goatee and buzzcut during Warren Ellis’ run on Excalibur.

But the questions still remain. Does he have to shave his whole face? Or does he just trim it down until it matches the length of the other fuzz? And why does the hair become darker when it gets longer?

Sadly, the truth that we’re afraid to accept is that characters change, and just like how Superman used to only jump very high, or like how black costumes colored blue were eventually considered blue, maybe Nightcrawler is simply canonically no longer a fuzzy elf.

I know this isn’t about cover design, sorry, but my brain has been very preoccupied!

This Week’s Covers

Every week I pick a handful of covers that I consider particularly well-designed, not just well-illustrated. My personal criteria for a well-designed cover is that the illustration and design elements complement each other rather than fight each other, and that the resulting image stands out from the crowd.

ETHER #4 by David Rubin

I really like how the golem is interacting with the logo, but the effect is kind of lost due to confusing lighting. Why is the palm of his hand the brightest thing? Where is the light source? Why are his legs brighter than his torso?

I’ve tried to do a quick mod to demonstrate how making the palm darker makes the hand pop out a little more, so it looks like he’s actually about the grab the logo. If I had time I’d do a little more…the whole cover has a bit of a flatness problem.

GRAVE DIGGERS UNION #9 by Wes Craig / SHEETS by Brenna Thummler

The logo for The Grave Diggers Union is big and bold and I like it a lot. This is the best image I’ve seen paired with it so far, because it’s so simple and high contrast. It looks instantly iconic.

Sheets is also a pretty simple cover, but the contrast here is the ghost in an otherwise completely normal, boring setting. It thematically grabs my attention.

BATGIRL #25 by Joshua Middleton / AQUAMAN #39 by Joshua Middleton

Joshua Middleton continues to crank out amazing textless covers. The Batgirl painting looks like a candid outtake from a serious photoshoot, which makes her feel like a real everyday person.

The Aquaman cover goes for an ultra-centered composition similar to a Wes Anderson shot, which puts the focus on all the elements that don’t fit the symmetry. It feels very album cover to me.

BATWOMAN #18 by Michael Cho / BATGIRL #25 by Rafael Albuquerque

Both of these covers have strong diagonals and a lot of well-designed white space, but utilize them in different ways.

Michael Cho continues to find ways to make a limited a red, black, and white palette feel fresh. Rafael Albuquerque’s cover is a good example of a composition that actually works with DC’s annoying off-center trade dress, partly because there’s no real center to the image.


  1. Nightclawler looks like some older future version of himself. Also, even if the beard was removed, the facial features just do not look like Nightcrawler.

  2. Nightcrawler has been rarely better written when Ellis was on board Excalibur and rarely better drawn then when Pacheco was on art duties. Fair point about the extra facial fur but I always loved that extra swashbuckling look Pacheco gave him. And his expert swordsmanship is something often overlooked today.

  3. He’s still explicitly mentioned to have fur (he said so himself in extraordinary x-men, as well as by Shadowcat in x-men Gold). I think he usually just shaves it to the length of his fur.

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