Ultimate Comics Ultimates 9: 10/10
The Marvel Universe's more movie-like parallel dimension known as the Ultimate Universe (designate 1610) has recently undergone radical shifts. Since most mutants were put in special holding camps and poor Spider Man died, you'd think the world of heroes would get a breather. Instead, things just seem to get progressively more desperate and fast paced. First, it turns out that in Earth 1610 the American government created mutants, and Wolverine was patient zero. When a Southeast Asian republic does some superhuman tinkering of their own, superhumans known as the People arise. Housed in the Eternal City of Tian, a concept arising from Warren Ellis' run on Astonishing X-Men, these peaceable beings are ruled by Zorn and Xorn, the equivalent of humanoid black hole and sun, respectively. Meanwhile, the return of a severely twisted Reed Richards hearkens the destruction of ALL ASGARDIAN GODS BUT THOR, the creation of The City and the Children of Tomorrow. With Captain America quitting, Iron Man's brain cancer getting worse, and Thor de-powered, things for the Ultimates do not look their best, especially since the evil Reed Richards has a thousand years of evolution on his side. The President of the United States sends The Hulk into The City to destroy it, then follows that up with every nuclear weapon in the country's arsenal. To be fair, The City HAD absorbed most of Europe. Issue 9 of Ultimate Comics Ultimates gives us a confrontation between the Children and the People, as well as Reed Richard's counterstrike. Jonathan Hickman's genius storytelling and Esad Ribic's beautiful artwork are complimented by some of the industry's very best color work, courtesy of Dean White.
Let's review: Reed Richards has now killed all Asgardian gods AND America.
FF 17: 9.5/10
In recent issues of Fantastic Four, and the captivating spin-off, FF, we've seen a storyline that burned slow and then white hot. In a last stand protecting a gate from the hordes of the Negative Zone, Johnny Storm, the Human Torch, was killed. Using um, special worms, the villain Annihilus resurrected him and set him to work as a gladiator slave. He earned the respect of the Inhuman Light Brigade and saved the planet from a Kree invasion upon his return, thanks to his brand new cosmic control rod stolen from Annihilus. Now, the day is saved. With this issue of FF, we find that he's moved in with his replacement on the Fantastic Four, none other than Peter Parker, Spider Man. This issue is a welcome comedic relief from the vast, extensive, and compelling storylines that have been a mainstay in FF almost since the beginning of the series, originally feeling like a tangential overflow for Hickman's ideas. The idea of Peter Parker and Johnny Storm being roommates is the first truly good thing to come about as a direct result of retconning Peter's marriage to Mary Jane out of existence. She makes an appearance this issue, actually. As usual, Jonathan Hickman's script is a masterpiece with each page, and Nick Dragotta's powers with a pencil give perfect expression to this comic. Just... be careful with the last page. It'll get you.
It's official. Peter Parker getting Inhuman tongue action is a win.
Green Lantern: New Guardians 8: 8.5/10
This issue of New Guardians seems to be a meeting point for all of DC's Lantern book plotlines. Since Sinestro and Hal Jordan recently wiped out the Yellow Lanterns in Green Lantern, and it seems as if the Guardians of the Universe are burning emotionless evil schemes at both ends by promoting Guy Gardener in Green Lantern Corps, GL:NG seems to be the side-quest that could become a forerunner for grander things. This issue splits between Yellow Corpsman Arkillo's discovery of Sinestro's betrayal and the other Lantern's various allegiances and drives as they prepare to fight the Orange Lantern Larfleeze for a cosmic angel that stomped them all last issue. The series shows great promise, but occasionally, with so many balls in the air, the reader might lose their way. Fortunately, if you're bothering to read this series in the first place, you're either a Kyle Rayner fan or a big Lantern series buff already. In either of those cases, this series will serve you well. Tony Bedard and Tyler Kirkham make an excellent team, as ever.
Justice League Dark 8: 8/10 & I, Vampire 8: 9/10
Personally, I felt that the starting point with Justice League Dark seemed like it would be pretty solid, in the long run. The mystic pastiche approach of the team was offbeat and quirky, and their missions would be all the dark side of DC that can't be approached by standard heroes like the Justice League, or even the big screen ones like Stormwatch. With the recent crossover with the less compelling (but beautifully drawn) I, Vampire, the primordial vampire Cain arises to wrest the mantle of Grand Vampire King and lay waste to humanity, starting with Gotham. The issue falls somewhat flat, however. The side story of Shade the Changing Man potentially hints at a peek at the Doctor's Dreamtime? It will be interesting when Justice League Dark gets back on its own track. Peter Milligan's script and Daniel Sampere's art are still sharp, but overall the story feels less compelling and more scattered than I would have liked. I, Vampire, concluding the story with a resurrection, feels more comfortable under Joshua Wade Fialkov's writing, and of course Andrea Sorentino's beautiful art.
Superman 8: 7.5/10
We'll conclude these reviews with a bit of a clunker. After DC fused with Wildstorm, villains and heroes from the Wildstorm stable emerged in the new universe, many centered around the new (to DC) race of evil aliens known as the Daemonites. Helspont, a Daemonite villain from the old WildC.A.Ts days, fell out of a prison on Stormwatch's space station after a recent explosion. Superman is drawn to him, and he alternates, for nearly two full issues, between talking the Man of Steel to death or crushing him under a rock. Even the alternate dream sequence felt like a less-weird Morrison venture. I get what it's going for, but it doesn't work for me. The new DC Universe is still gathering steam, in some places, and this Superman title has been one of those. Dan Jurgen's artwork seems to get stiffer by the issue, and Keith Giffen's script calls for a lot of standing around and talking. Sure, Helspont is attempting to lure Kal to the dark side, and yes, there are fun asides where Louis Lane's sister is not getting picked up at the airport like Clark promised, and Jimmy Olson's house is being fumigated, but these all feel like very well worn territory already, with only a few glimmers of something fresh in store, down the road. Overall, a pretty disappointing issue, but perhaps it lays the groundwork for something more engaging in the future, since Giffen has often been known to play the "long game" with some plot-threads, and as both he and Jurgens are very talented, this could simply be a temporary slump or editorial quagmire.