I don't plan things this way, but the stuff I picked up last week turned out to be three more volumes in series that I've been reading for a while. So while it goes without saying that none of these represent a good jumping on point for their series (well.. "Criminal" is a special case), I'll at least say that it would be well worth anyone's time to start reading them from the beginning. As for these particular volumes...
Berserk vol. 27
Guts learns the dangers and limits of the Berserker Armor firsthand, Sheirke bids a final farewell to her master, and our heroes' involvement in this part of the arc is wrapped up in the series traditionally bloodily entertaining fashion. (Though the stage is set for what's going to be a truly epic rematch between Guts and the Apostle everyone escapes from.) We're also treated to a glimpse at what's become of the capital of Midland, and what Griffith and his other Apostles have been up to in the meantime. This part has the whiff of filler about it, though a potentially interesting new wrinkle is introduced in the form of the King of Kushan. He's the only one of Griffith's Apostles who doesn't want to help his master rule the world -- as he's having too much fun ruling over half of it himself. I'm interested in seeing how this conflict will play out over the coming volumes, though the setup for the next stage of Guts' journey caps off this volume. All in all, another strong entry in the series.
Criminal vol. 4: Bad Night
If I covered up the "4" on the spine of the book and said that this was the first volume of a new crime series from writer Ed Brubaker and artist Sean Phillips, it would be utterly believable once you started reading it. While the series stars Jacob, the ex-counterfeiter and current comic-strip artist from the "Lawless" arc, no prior knowledge of his exploits is necessary for enjoying this entry in the series. All you need to know is that it's about what happens when bad things happen to people of morally dubious character. And in the case of Jacob, he winds up getting forced back into counterfeiting when he comes between a petty thug and his girl. At stake is a huge payoff from the Chinese Triads to the FBI, but things quickly go from bad to worse once a cop with a vendetta against Jacob gets involved. As always, while you know things are going to go wrong for everyone involved, Brubaker always comes up with interesting ways for how that actually happens. Though the first three issues collected in this volume are exactly what, and as good as you'd expect from the series, it isn't until the final issue that you find out just how high Brubaker's ambitions were reaching here. I don't think it all works, but I'd still recommend this to anyone who likes a good crime story.
Ultimate Spider-Man vol. 21: War of the Symbiotes
Less a continuation in writer Brian Michael Bendis' ongoing saga of Peter Parker and company than an exercise in incorporating the "Ultimate Spider-Man" video game into regular continuity and getting Ultimate Venom back into play. I've only played a little of it, and while Bendis has said that it's part of the continuity of the series, it's never been really clear where exactly it sits in there. So, here's the story that "adapts and expands on the story of the game" (as said on the back cover) and it mostly reads like Bendis is getting everything in order so he can get back to telling the stories he wants to tell with this series. Fortunately his grasp of the characters is as rock solid as ever, and the interaction between Peter and Mary Jane, Aunt May, Eddie Brock, Nick Fury (who returns in a flashback and emphasizes what a mistake it was to have him shunted out of the Ultimate Universe), and the rest of the cast makes the grinding of the plot mechanics bearable. Not the best volume in the series, but still not bad.