Marvel is going to close out 2020 in the only way they know how by beginning their next big event in the form of King In Black. As a direct follow up to Absolute Carnage and everything they’ve done with their run on the Venom series, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman are going to be fully unleashing Knull as he leads the symbiotes on a full on assault on the entire Marvel Universe. This is something that Eddie Brock as Venom has tried to get prepared to answer. But given how powerful Knull has been shown to be can even the united Marvel Universe’s heroes stand a chance against the God of the Symbiotes? Let’s find out with King In Black #1.
Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 8.5 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Sensing that Knull is arriving to Earth, Eddie Brock calls Captain America to tell him its time. As Captain America sends out a call to all of the Avengers to begin the evacuation of Earth, Eddie transforms into Venom.
Eddie goes to see his son, Dylan. Before waking him up Eddie reflects on how he wishes his son didn’t have to see the horrors he brought to him. Eddie wakes Dylan up and tells his son that they have to leave.
Over at Avengers Mountain, Captain America tells all the heroes to pick up the pace on the evacuation efforts. Iron Man mentions that he can’t get a firm lock on how far Knull’s invasion forces are from Earth though the leftover Kree and Skrull warships near Earth may help them get the edge they need.
Knull’s Symbiote Dragons army suddenly appear near Earth. Iron Man immediately activates the Kree and Skrull warships self-destruct.
Sensing this Eddie quickly tells the Avengers that while the explosion took out at least a hundred of the Symbiote Dragons there is still a massive horde of Symbiotes flying straight to Earth.
The Avengers, Fantastic Four, and other heroes immediately assemble to defend Earth as Knull’s invasion begins.
Elsewhere, Eddie takes Dylan to the bunker Peter Parker told him that Ezekiel built, which is supposed to be able to even survive a nuclear holocaust. Dylan asks his dad to let him help but Eddie says he can’t let his son do that as that isn’t what his life should be. Dylan asks his dad to promise him he will come back. Eddie promises and then closes the door to the bunker.
Captain America then calls Eddie to tell him to begin “Plan B.” Eddie knows that means things are not going well since the only thing that Knull is weak against is lightning, cosmic power, and possibly magic.
In New York City Captain America leads Iron Fist, Jessica Jones and other street-level heroes in helping evacuate the people still left on Earth. Captain America tells Iron Man that the Symbiotes are overwhelming them and they need back-up.
Charles Xavier telepathically talks with Captain America and Iron Man to tell them in an arrogant tone that the X-Men have arrived. As a second wave of Symbiotes arrive Storm tells Xavier to chill it with his tone as she attacks all the Symbiote Dragons with all the lightning that she can summon.
Elsewhere Venom detects a third wave of Symbiotes appearing, who he knows are worse than the first two waves. Iron Man contacts Venom to give him an update on the others and asks if he is in position.
Venom finally gets to the spire that Carnage used a while back (in Absolute Carnage) and uses it to link himself to the other Symbiotes with hope he can control the invading forces. As Venom plugs himself in he hopes that Storm and the magic users can provide him an opening to turn some of the Symbiote Dragons into their own forces.
Doctor Strange puts all his magical power and Storm is unleashing a non-stop barrage of lightning in order breaking the connection between Knull and the Symbiotes. Venom eventually is able to connect with the Symbiote forces but is mortified by what he detects and tells everyone to run.
It’s all to late as Symbiote infected Celestials appear. Knull comes out of one of the Symbiote Celestials to announce that he is going to kill the world but first demands Eddie Brock to be brought to him.
Captain America calls Iron Man to tell him that things have changed and they need “him” immediately.
Knull flies directly to where the Avengers and X-Men are at to ask who they are. Captain America says normally they are the ones who stop people like Knull but today they are just their to watch. Iron Man says that “he” is ready so Captain America gives permission to engage.
Sentry suddenly flies in and immediately kills one of the Symbiote Celestials. Sentry then grabs Knull and starts to fly him high into the sky. Knull knows that this is how Sentry killed Carnage a while back. Knull suddenly overpowers Sentry. Sentry warns Knull that he could release Void by killing him. Knull does not care and rips Sentry in half. Knull then absorbs Void while declaring himself the God of Symbiotes and Void itself.
Iron Man warns Captain America and the others to run but that is to late as Knull commands the Symbiote substance to consume all the heroes. Knull then begins the process of bonding all of Earth with the Symbiotes.
As one of the last remaining heroes Storm attempts to fight off Symbiotes. Knulls sees her and immediately creates a massive Symbiote arm to consume her much to Iron Man and Charles Xavier’s shock.
Venom tells Iron Man that he is going to do what he can to buy all the remaining heroes time. Venom uses the spire to create a direct link to Knull.
Detecting this link Knull immediately attacks Venom and forces Venom to come to him. Knull first thinks that Venom is Dylan but is surprised he is Eddie. Knull rips the Venom symbiote off Eddie and says he will now go after Dylan, much to Eddie’s horror. Knull then let’s go of Eddie, causing Eddie to start to fall from several stories high. End of issue.
The Good: There is not a single moment wasted as Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman go max speed in kicking off King In Black with the biggest first issue they can craft. Even as someone who has not been following the Venom series I cannot help but be impressed by epic, cosmic scale that King In Black #1 had. You just get lost in all the chaos that our the Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and other heroes have to respond to as they deal with Knull’s forces.
Not enough can be said about how Cates and Stegman paced King In Black #1. Opening with Eddie Brock sensing Knull’s incoming invasion set the tone that these first few set-up pages would be the only time in this issue we would be able to breathe. Eddie heading to make sure his son, Dylan Brock, was safe added to how time was quickly running out. Eddie trying to simply take in a moment of admiring his son before the chaos is unleashed onto the world created an immediate emotional attachment to how things are only going to get worse.
Further complimenting these opening pages with Eddie Brock is how we already see the Avengers working on evacuating Earth before Knull’s invasion begins. Learning that the evacuation is already going on puts over how seriously we need to take Knull as a threat. Cates and Stegman really do a great job showing us how there is a great sense of urgency with the evacuation as Captain America keeps asking for an update. Our heroes knowing that every second is crucial in their preparations made the stakes of King In Black come across as high as any event we have seen.
All of that made seeing Knull’s Symbiote Dragons approaching Earth terrifying. This first wave was made even scarier by the fact that even a massive explosion Iron Man created only put a small dent in their numbers. As soon as they hit the ground you just felt things were going to go south, which they did.
With such a massive invasion Cates did a good job in re-establishing the rules when it comes to the Symbiotes. Through Eddie Brock’s inner monologue, we are reminded that only lightning, cosmic power, and magic can truly harm the Symbiotes. This fact immediately made Thor, Storm, and Doctor Strange the most important heroes that Earth has. Which made the fact that Thor is MIA at the moment, likely due to events Cates is writing over in the Thor solo series, a big hit for our heroes.
Thor not being around further elevated Storm’s character and Cates did not let us down. Storm was a literal force of nature as she reigned down a constant barrage of lighting. This show of force was a reminder of how Storm really is one of the strongest heroes around and why she is now classified as an Omega-Level mutant. It was an incredible show of force, made better by how she told Charles Xavier to shut up while she went to work.
Having the Avengers, Fantastic Four, X-Men, and all the other Marvel heroes together doing their best to fend off Knull’s forces hammered home how big this event is. Knull is not a villain to take lightly for one second. Seeing our heroes understand that and respond to Knull’s invasion with that in mind made all the action have greater tension.
All those heroes being their also made each surprise moment we get in King In Black #1 hit as hard as possible. Starting with Knull bring Symbiote infected Celestials you could feel how intimidated our heroes would be in this moment. There was nothing for them to do when Knull approached them as they needed to figure out what the villain was going to do next.
This made the fact that Captain America and Iron Man were actually waiting for Knull to appear so they can bring Sentry onto the scene a cooler moment. While Sentry has been positioned as a Superman-like figure the character’s sporadic appearances and poor development over the years has made him hard to take seriously as a big deal. By setting up Sentry in this way Cates changes that as you do get a sense of how he is a game changer when he flies straight through one of the Symbiote Celestials. Even for how short his appearance was this was by far Sentry’s best showing in recent memory.
For a brief moment it did feel like we actually got to the end of King In Black #1 with Sentry and Knull beginning their face off. Cates completely subverts that expectation by having Knull quickly turn things around to not only rip Sentry in half but also absorb Void’s powers in one go. When that happens you knew everything was going to go from bad to worse as we see Knull use his increased power to completely cover the Earth and turn it into another Symbiote planet. Adding in how this completely took out just about all of Earth’s heroes left you wondering how the hell things will turn around with what has already happened.
Which made Eddie Brock’s sacrifice to buy Iron Man and the remaining few heroes time an interesting move. It all further cemented how Eddie has become a true hero as Venom now. This sacrifice turning into what Eddie feared most as Knull threaten to target Dylan next was a great way to elevate the villain who already felt unstoppable. What Knull meant in his reasoning for now going after Dylan will be interesting to find out as now Eddie is without his Venom symbiote.
With all of this going down Ryan Stegman delivered some of his best artwork with King In Black #1. All of the designs for the characters and what the world looked like as the Symbiote invasion got going was impressive. Having multiple splash pages to worked with further help create a sense of awe with everything we saw happen. You get the scope of King In Black is this massive event that you cannot miss. Through all of that Stegman makes Knull come across as the most terrifying villain there can be with how he is designed and the actions he does, such as ripping Sentry in half.
The Bad: The one knock that there is against King In Black #1 is that it is not completely new reader friendly. This is an event that is built around everything that Cates has been doing with Venom, including the Absolute Carnage event. Without knowledge on that work there will be a lot of references for things used in King In Black #1 that may fall flat. That includes how the Avengers got those Kree and Skrull warships near Earth that just did come across as a random thing to be in this issue.
Overall: Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman do not waste anytime kicking things off as big as possible with King In Black #1. This first issue set the tone that Knull is not messing around as the God Of Symbiotes makes it clear to all the Marvel Universe’s heroes they cannot stop him. With how things turned for our heroes by the end of King In Black #1 I cannot wait to see what happens next in Marvel’s big event.
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