EW.com's take on the Dark Knight's newest comic-book saga. Plus: the winning ''Some New Kind of Slaughter'' and a hard look at Marvel's ''Ultimate Human''

Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel
(Monthly; issue Nos. 673-674 are on sale now)
Is Batman having a heart attack in issue No. 673 of his eponymous comic? Or is he hallucinating that he is having a heart attack while in a meditative trance? Or is he hallucinating that he is in a meditative trance hallucinating that he is having a heart attack when, in fact, he is undertaking a military experiment in an isolation chamber? Mercifully, Brit comics legend Grant Morrison (All Star Superman) reveals all before a conclusion that nicely sets up issue No. 674’s battle of wits — and fists — between Bats and a demented doppelganger. FOR FANS OF… Morrison’s enduringly great 1989 graphic-novel Arkham Asylum. DOES IT DELIVER? Both Morrison’s writing skill and knowledge of old storylines are of a predictably high standard. Meanwhile, the large amount of doomy foreshadowing present in No. 674 does make you wonder just what we can(not) look forward to in the upcoming ”Batman R.I.P.” story arc. B+ — Clark Collis

Warren Ellis and Cary Nord
(Monthly; issue Nos. 1-2 are on sale now)
We love Ellis and his spare, cinematic storytelling and big sci-fi brain; no one mixes superheroes and hard science better. And he would seem to be a good fit for the Ultimate distillation of the Marvel universe — sleek and shiny with quasi-sophisticated, of-the-moment gloss. But Ultimate Human is more proof that Ellis needs a new challenge and the Ultimate thing is creatively played out. Hulk accursed smarty-pants schlub Bruce Banner asks billionaire alcoholic Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) to cure him by spiking his blood with nanomachines that could irreparably damage his Hulk cells. In the process, the brainiacs discover Hulk can now adapt to possibly any environment, which would seem to suggest new possibilities for volatile Hulk-creating super-serum research. Meanwhile, from afar, evil egghead The Leader plots to get a similar infusion of nanotech blood. FOR FANS OF… Actually, this is for Ultimate Marvel zealots and Ellis apologists only. DOES IT DELIVER? Once again, Ellis works his pet themes. Whatever happened to the rocket-pack future promised by the space-race ’60s? Where is our brave new world of post-human possibilities? But all this heady, passionate thinking is wasted on a comic-book world that has become a stagnant, silly soap opera. Please: Tony Stark’s drinking problem not only makes no sense, even as a joke, it’s an insult to real people with real drinking problems. And it’s hard to believe that guys as smart as Stark and Banner couldn’t have licked the Hulk problem by now. The ”Hulk cure” story has grown old, moldy, meaningless; Ellis’ new wrinkles can’t change that fact. Ironically, the Ultimate line has become yet another symptom of the stultifying and compromised cultural condition Ellis’ work often bemoans. Marvel and Ellis should take a cue from their iconic monster: It’s time to evolve. C- — Jeff Jensen

Written by M.P. Mann and A. David Lewis; art by M.P. Mann
(Bimonthly; issue Nos. 1-2 are on sale now)
Cool title. But dig this subtitle: ”Lost in the Flood (and How We Found Home Again) Diluvian Myths from Around The World.” No doubt comic buyers will see that and think, That sounds like the most boring comic book ever made. They would be mistaken. Slaughter takes a host of mythological and religious flood tales — plus a fictional storyline about an eco-warrior trying to reunite with her son after a natural disaster strikes — and attempts to fashion a new, modern myth for our environmentally challenged times. The baseline narrative thread follows Ziusudra, the proto-Noah of Sumerian myth, who is lost at sea in his massive ark and adrift with his own mind as he second-guesses himself and his divine direction. In response, his deity sends him visions of other flood yarns, including a well-realized story about Noah that reminds us how the God of the Bible used some fallen, nutty cats to execute his will. FOR FANS OF… The Lone and Level Sands (Mann and Lewis’ previous collaboration); Age of Bronze; will also appeal to comparative lit and Kyoto Accord wonks. DOES IT DELIVER? Well-researched, the dreamy, landscape-style storytelling alone is worth a recommendation. But here’s hoping that by story’s end Mann and Lewis have forged a truly relevant bond between the Joseph Campbell stuff and the Inconvenient Truth/post-Katrina subtext. A- — Jeff Jensen