Blackest Night: Tales of the Corps 3: This last issue is a bit of a departure from the previous ones, with two Green Lantern origin stories – Kilowog and Arisia – and the pencils to Blackest Night #0 with commentary by Geoff Johns and the other creators involved. The origin stories (by Pete Tomasi) are good, though I think the timing is off on the Arisia story. (Guy Gardner is shown as a Green Lantern before Arisia joins, and I’m pretty sure it happened the other way around.) Ivan Reis’ issue 0 pencils are amazing to look at, but there’s nothing critical in the commentary if you already have the issue.
Ultimatum 5: So this is finally done, and the ending comes full circle with Ultimate Origins. Besides the massive destruction in New York, some characters are killed who would be unkillable in the Marvel Universe and other characters cross lines they would never be allowed to cross in the Marvel U. If it sounds like a pretty gruesome comic, it is, and I’m not convinced that these changes (drastic though they are) make a good new direction for the Ultimate books.
Ultimatum: Spider-Man Requiem 2: This, on the other hand, is more like it. Great work as always from Bendis, Bagley and Immonen and the change to J. Jonah Jameson seems substantive and interesting. (Peter’s status, however, is not as changed as it first appeared.) I’m definitely looking forward to the new series.
Fantastic Four 569: Speaking of Stuart Immonen, as I was reading this I wondered why the art seemed “off” and it turns out that Immonen drew this issue instead of Bryan Hitch. (It looks great, even though Immonen sort of tries to do Hitch’s style – it’s just not Hitch.) Frankly, I’m stunned that Marvel decided to ship this with a different artist instead of delaying it for consistency’s sake like they did with “Civil War” and “Old Man Logan”. The only thing I can think of is that there must have been no chance that Hitch would finish the book this year. Anyway, the first 2/3 of the story with the multiple FFs and Doom and the two versions of the villain bored me, but the last third about the Thing’s wedding was terrific. Just when I thought Millar didn’t get these characters at all…
New Avengers 55: Might as well talk about all the Stuart Immonen books together – this is is first issue as regular artist of this book and it looks great. There are a lot of characters and crowd scenes in this book and the panels always look interesting. Storywise, the team regroups and tries to figure out what their next move against Norman Osborn should be – with some ideas more extreme than others – when they’re attacked with a new weapon that could completely change the balance of power.
Teen Titans 73: Better, as Wonder Girl’s mistake last issue is acknowledged and the rest of the kids are written well enough and authentically enough that it’s entertaining. Still, there’s a new “permanent” writer coming in two issues so it’s hard to get that excited. (Though Dwayne McDuffie speaks well of her, so I have high hopes.) The Ravager story is also pretty good, but it hasn’t really gotten into high gear yet.
Superman 690: An odd issue that has neither the title character (which has been the norm lately), or his temporary replacement. That’s right, Mon-El isn’t in this issue at all (well maybe in the Science Police section, it’s hard to tell when they’re in uniform.) Instead, the various subplots each get some space with some of them to be continued in other books. There’s Steel vs. Atlas (which will continue in this book I guess), the beginning of a Science Police story to be continued in Superman: Secret Files 2009, the meeting of young Zatara and a long forgotten DC magic character (which I’ll leave as a surprise), a Guardian/Dr. Light scene to be continued in JLA, and an Ion/Tellus encounter to be continued in this year’s annual. To James Robinson’s credit, all these threads are compelling enough that I didn’t feel bored or shortchanged at all. (Edited to add: According to Sterling Gates' current interview at Newsarama, it is Jonathan Kent a.k.a. Mon-El in the Science Police segment, so he's briefly in the issue after all but not in costume.)
Justice League of America 35: I like Len Wein from back in the day, so I was expecting to like this issue (and next) but I liked this even better than expected. He does a good job with the team he’s been handed – which even the villains complain about (“Where are Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, any of the other big guns?”) -- even bringing back a Morrison-era member we haven’t seen in a while and a villain we haven’t seen in years. At the end of the day it’s still a fill-in, but it’s a good one.
Son of Hulk 13: If you’re having trouble keeping track of Hulk-related books, this one has stayed the space-based book. Skaar and Bruce Banner’s adventures on Earth will be in Incredible Hulk and the Red Hulk still stars in Hulk. So who’s the star of this book? An former slave boy named Hiro-Kala from planet Sakaar who also claims to be the son of Caeira and the Hulk, though he may be deluded or lying. Paul Jenkins does a better job with this than I expected, as the survivors of Sakaar look for a place of refuge and to stage their revenge on Galactus. (There’s a lot of that going around lately.) Too early to tell whether I’ll stick with it long term, but it’s a good start.
Detective Comics 855: I honestly don’t have the words (insert your own joke here) to describe how amazing the J.H. Williams III art is in the Batwoman story, but you can see the preview pages for yourself at DC's blog. Suffice it to say that Williams and Rucka are at the top of their game and this is the best book DC is currently publishing. (I love the Question story too, but the level of innovation is not the same.)