January 10th, 2023

Rob's Picks:

Ultimate Spider-Man #1: The new Ultimate Universe is finally here! The incredibly slow burn of Ultimate Invasion generated more frustration than hype for this already much-anticipated series, but the long wait pays off, or at least starts to. Hickman is known to take his time setting the stage, but what made Invasion a slog makes this issue a treat for long-time Spider-fans. On an Earth robbed of its superheroes, Peter Parker lived an ordinary life, the kind where no one gets bitten by a radioactive animal. While the Peter we know constantly puts life on hold, this one got to live it. He has the kind of life most people hope for: marriage, kids, career. Yet, he still feels like something isn’t right. While his concern is personal, others have begun to realize that the whole world isn’t what it should be, including the Daily Bugle's J. Jonah Jameson. Lack of a spider bite isn’t the only shake-up to the status quo. Some relationships are changed, and several significant characters are in very different roles. Despite being light on web-slinging, this was a hugely satisfying read. Hickman understands the emotional connection we have to this character and writes in a way that gratifies it, rather than doing what other writers have done in the past; double-down on the “Parker luck,” walking back any meaningful change in favor of a status quo of Peter as permanently broke, alone, and unhappy. Hopefully, this is setting precedent and the other Ultimate Universe debuts we have coming are just as satisfying.

Blade #7: The series takes a detour from the main plot that sees Blade teaming up with the Hulk. Following last issue’s training montage with Dracula, the Daywalker got a call from Dr. Banner, whose drifting has led him to another small town in trouble. Demons have taken over, killing those they do not possess. The supernatural isn’t Banner's area of expertise, and this isn’t a problem the Hulk can smash. The two take some time to talk about inner demons, then we’re given a demonstration of Blade's new command of his vampiric powers. The Hulk's own ongoing has taken a hard turn into horror, becoming a creature-of-the-week battle royale, and it pairs well with the always action-heavy and darkly stylish Blade. Writer Bryan Hill's run on this series has been incredible. The plot moves fast but never feels rushed, story beats and set pieces always arriving right on time, and his Blade is the perfect badass action movie protagonist; arrogant enough to get into trouble, competent enough to get out of it, always ready with a quip.

Wesley Dodds: The Sandman #4: Last week's confrontation with his new nemesis exposed Wesley Dodds to his own sleeping gas, and like the man himself says, 'no one escapes the Sandman's dark dream.' We get to see the effect of the gas from the inside as Wesley’s dream magnifies the guilt and shame of every misdeed he has committed, every person wronged. Not a stranger to prophetic dreams, he also sees a glimpse of heroes and horrors to come. Dodds created the sleeping agent as a tool of non-violence, a weapon of peace. Knowing the psychic violence it causes gives Wesley pause, but there is little time to reflect. Another world war is on the horizon, and if his formulas need to be found before they reach the battlefield. This book has been a decent read, but this issue in particular felt like something in line with Sandman Mystery Theater, the character's noir-inspired 90s revival. The plot takes some major steps forward following Wesley's nap, and this entry really lets artist Riley Rossmo cook, making this a good one to jump on for anyone who’s been sleeping on this series.

Solomon's Picks:

Giant-Size Spider-Man #1: By Cody Ziglar, Iban Coello, and Guru-eFX comes the action-packed Giant-Size Spider-Man: ‘Lethal Protection’! I thoroughly enjoyed this issue, and as previously stated, there’s TONS of action crammed within the pages. We follow Miles Morales as he investigates a warehouse located somewhere in Brooklyn with weapons flowing in and out created by none other than Rabble herself. He communicates with Misty Knight for a few brief moments before his investigation is cut short as Venom comes crashing onto the scene, infuriated with the criminals hiding within the warehouse who’ve “endangered innocents”. After the thugs are dealt with, Venom turns his attention towards Spider-Man, and the two trade blows for the remainder of the issue. The characterization of the cast in this book is definitely my favorite part about it, and I loved Miles trying to talk Dylan back to reality. This new iteration of Spider-Man vs Venom is perfect for new and old fans alike as it offers the iconic rivalry between the two characters (Venom and Spider-Man) but shows the new abilities and personalities of the ones who have picked up the mantle (Miles and Dylan). The art in this book was incredibly refreshing, and there’s a particular panel where the two heroes are fighting off thugs together that was nothing short of astounding! This book also features a reprinting of one of Miles’ most iconic stories- Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man #22 so grab a copy now!

Ultimate Spider-Man #1: The day so many of us have waited for is finally here: Ultimate Spider-Man is back, and this run is already shaping up to be a legendary story! Given to us by Jonathan Hickman and Marco Checchetto, this first issue shows Peter Parker but definitely not the one we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. He has a stable career, a loving family, oh- and he’s NOT Spider-Man. After the events of Ultimate Invasion and Ultimate Universe #1, many of Earth’s greatest heroes were reduced to shells of who they were supposed to be. We see how Peter, though he has everything he could possibly want in Earth-616, is filled with an immense dread at the idea that this is all his life has shaped out to be thus far. A constant feeling. The last five or so pages are genuinely amazing and reminded me of all the reasons I love Spider-Man! This issue also helped me appreciate and understand the message that this new Ultimate Universe seems to be aiming for: A generation robbed of their future desperate to reclaim it.

Daredevil: Gang War #2: Another fantastic entry into Gang War with Daredevil back on shelves this week! Elektra has been doing an excellent job thus far of protecting Hell's Kitchen, and this entry only continues that. Masterfully illustrated fight scenes are definitely the main attraction of this issue as Elektra punches her way towards answers behind this mysterious assassin who seems to possess the powers of Wolverine!? An enjoyable, action-packed quick-read that I highly recommend to everyone this week- and make sure you’re following along with Gang War as it releases!