Crouch in fear, citizens of the Marvel Comic Universe – Knull has arrived after a couple of years of everything from namedrops to hints and teasing to predictions so hard that even Star Wars: Episode I. wonders if things should be pulled back a little. This week’s first issue of King in black is the culmination of everything creators Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman have built through their collaboration on both Poison and Absolute slaughter in recent years – but does the latest big event book literally live up to years of hype?
Who makes King in Black?
King in black is the most recent collaboration between Cates and Stegman, who first worked with the launch of the current version Poison Your work on this book has created everything necessary for the past year Absolute slaughter, her earlier Event book that ended with what was technically the most stimulating incident for this series: the awakening of Knull, the dark god who created the alien race of Symbiots, to which Venom belongs. Inker JP Meyer, the colorist Frank Martin and the ubiquitous Clayton Cowles also return on letters from these two projects.
What is King in Black about?
The basic idea behind it King in black is very simple: the guy who made all the symbiots like Venom came down to earth and brought an army of symbiote dragons with him to cause trouble. (Once you get down to the specifics, things get more complicated, but we’ll get into that in a moment.)
It’s a familiar formula – one that Marvel used last year War of the rich Event, in fact, when you replace “Dark Elf Malekith” for “Dark Symbiote God Knull” – but one that usually works damn well. Who doesn’t want all of their favorite characters to be united against a seemingly unstoppable enemy when it comes down to it?
Why is King in Black happening now?
The cynical answer to that question is, “Because Marvel needs a crossover event every quarter and the last one ended two months ago,” but we’re more than just cynics here. To the Poison Fans, this event has been in the making for years and it probably feels overdue. As for the wider Marvel Universe, there comes a time when the heroes are so distracted with their own storylines that an invasion turns out to be suitably disastrous.
Is there any required reading?
This is the first installment of a line-wide crossover event that emerged from a three-year-old plot from an ongoing series with a character that has been around for three decades. There is a quantity the required reading, particularly with a number of links listed in the editorial at the end of the issue.
Despite attempts by Cates and Stegman to retrospect on Eddie Brock’s concise narrative, the only way to fully understand the stakes is by checking out the stream Poison Series, along with her previous related crossover book, Absolute slaughter. Cates also snuck important backstories for the villain in his Silver Surfer: Black mini from a few years ago which also increases the level of reading required. It’s either a sign of the intricate meshwork of history he’s built up over the past three years, or evidence that he’s a writer who wants to keep his catalog circulating for as long as possible: you decide!
Perhaps the most unexpected continuity in output is the appearance of the sentry, a character that probably few have thought of lately, in a scene that ties in with the 2004 one New avengers # 2 and feels a lot like Cates’ inner fanboy has finally reached peace after 16 years.
There are also unexplained references to Marvel’s last great event, Empyre, but you can ignore these and still get the story to work. Just assume that the Avengers keep forever defunct space armadas in orbit around the planet.
Is King in Black good?
In many ways King in black # 1 is not a good comic, or at least a poorly written one. Relying on telling instead of showing, Cates offers an outrageously poor portrayal, especially when it comes to the narrative of Eddie Brock who bears most of the problem. There are tons of examples of characters too tell the reader that things are bad rather than demonstrating why they are – although even attempts to do so go wrong, the problem apparently being based on the childlike logic of “Who’s really tough? Well, my
Indeed, Knull’s weakness as a threat undermines the entire book; According to the evidence of this problem, he is completely generic, with ill-defined skills (he … can fly, is strong, and can control kites, I think …?) And no real personality, which not only leads to a boring story, but also This is also a problem when the entire premise is based on the idea that he is such a strong, inescapable force that any attempt to resist him will be in vain.
And yet… King in black does exactly what you’d expect from the first edition of an event book: it introduces the threat, first shows the plight of the protagonists as futile, and includes cameos of characters who can then be broken down into their own titles, each available separately. Sure, it makes it awkward, but no more awkward than Absolute slaughter last year or even the average Marvel Cinematic Universe project both of which have legions of fans, so maybe there is something to be said for the simple, straightforward approach.
One thing that can’t be denied is that the book looks good: Stegman’s work blends U.S. and Japanese influences to create a hyperkinetic mix of over-rendered, over-muscular cartoon characters with too many teeth and a lack of something that suits you recognizable people resembles emotion, as if My hero academia took over the Marvel Universe, all colored with surprisingly effective subtlety by Martin. It’s a beautiful and beautifully melodramatic look that improves the material a lot.
A panel that burst
Does anyone remember when Celestials were a big deal and not just dead or possessed pods? to be lived or used as cannon fodder to prove how big your newest bad guy’s deal is?