Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman hit the ground running with King In Black. From the beginning there has been no slowing down as Knull has been presented as an unstoppable force that not even Sentry nor the All-Father Thor can stop. With everyone failing up to this point to stop Knull as he has converted Earth into a new Symbiote planet there is a big question of if the villain can even be defeated. That is a huge unknown as we enter the back half of Marvel’s latest big event. Let’s find out what happens next with King In Black #4.
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: Inside a Symbiote nest Knull taunts Dylan Brock that he cannot do anything to stop him. Knull goes on to demand that Dylan give him his powers.
As that is going on someone psychically communicates with Dylan to tell him that he can use Knull to amplify his powers to gain control of the symbiotes.
Dylan acts like he is taking Knull’s offer and takes Knull’s hand. As soon as he does Dylan says “You killed my dad.” Dylan then proceeds to use Knull’s own power to break Cyclops, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Thor, Storm, Doctor Strange, and Black Cat out of the Symbiotes that were controlling them.
The psychic who was communicating with Dylan earlier transmits the new battle plan to fight Knull to Cyclops, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, Storm, Thor, and Doctor Strange. Doctor Strange then has Black Cat hand over the Asgardian Staff and uses it to transform into a higher form of power.
Cyclops, Human Torch, Invisible Woman, and Doctor Strange then quickly move to different ends and fire of max powered blasts at all the Symbiotes. Namor then uses his powers to cause a massive tidal wave that covers the city. Thor and Storm then combine their powers to create a massive lightning attack that strikes the water covering New York City to eliminate large portion of Knull’s Symbiote army.
All of this damage to his hive ends up weaking Knull. Jean Grey (who turns out to be the psychic communicating with everyone this entire time) then appears and uses Knull’s weakened state to get into his mind.
As she searches for Knull’s weakness inside his mind Jean is shocked to find nothing including the Celestials, can hurt him. Jean continues digging and finds something that represents the light to Knull’s darkness. She goes on to discover this being of light has bonded with various warriors in order to fight Knull.
As Jean discovers exactly what this source of light acts similar to the Symbiotes she begins to collapse from the strain. Cyclops finds Jean and catches her as she collapses. Jean is able to stay conscious long enough to tell Cyclops that the source of light is actually trying to break through Knull’s barrier around Earth but is unable to.
Above Earth, Silver Surfer arrives and communicates with Jean that he is there. Silver Surfer then absorbs the power source that represents light and breaks through Knull’s barrier around Earth.
As he heads to Knull’s location Silver Surfer realizes that he was only a vessel for the representation of light to find its true host on Earth. The power source then leaves Silver Surfer’s body to find its true host.
At the heroes bunker Mister Fantastic gets the information on the energy source Jean was talking about and immediately recognizes it as the Enigma Force.
The Enigma Source suddenly enters Eddie Brock’s body and begins to revive him in order to start the process to turn Eddie into the new Captain Universe End of issue.
The Good: As with previous issues King In Black #4 is a non-stop adrenaline rush. There is no moment to catch your breath as Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman make sure you know that we are close to the end. At no point is the grand scale lost in King In Black #4. Rather the scale is elevated as things are put into place to ensure the next issue will have a grand finale.
What made King In Black #4 such a joy to read is how Cates never loses sight that Knull should be presented as a big bad at all times. Even when our heroes start turning things around and the path to victory is discovered you never lose sight that Knull is still a powerful force to be wrecking with. That is all thanks to how Cates has built up Knull in the previous issues of King In Black. We’ve already seen enough times by now that Knull can find a way to turn things around against God-level beings like Thor and the Celestials. There is no doubt that Knull will try to pull out all the stops against Eddie Brock as the new Captain Universe.
Speaking of, I have to commend Cates for using the long-standing Enigma Force and transforming into something that makes complete sense within the context of the story. We’ve seen how every time that a new Captain Universe is created that they are an incredibly powerful character. Now Cates gives greater depth to what the Enigma Force is by drawing on how it represents the light to the darkness Knull represents. That is very fitting to how we know that there is always a balance to how the light and dark sides work.
What made the way Cates used the Enigma Force work so well is by using the fact that because it has transferred hosts so many times that its never been at the power level of Knull. Which works well into how often we’ve seen the Enigma Force find a new host every time it appears. Adding in the detail that the Enigma Force is another form of a Symbiote expands on the idea around the Symbiotes being more than the forms of Venom, Carnage, and Knull.
Eddie Brock being chosen as the new host for the Enigma Force also works as the next step for the character. We’ve seen over the course of Cates run how Eddie has leaned even heavier on the side of the heroes. Becoming the new Captain Universe could be a role that suits him well in the long term as he no longer fully represents the darkness that comes with Knull’s version of the Symbiotes.
In the build up to all this Cates does a great job making the heroes all play major roles in how things turn out. After being thrown around by Knull we finally got to see the heroes go all out with how they worked together to weaken Knull. The combination attacks from all our heroes was just an impressive sight to see. It gets over the scale of what is going on as something that our heroes can’t hold back like they would normally do with their attacks. Knull and his Symbiote army call for full power attacks and that is exactly what we got.
Jean Grey turning out to be the one that leads the heroes turn around was well handled. This reveal worked well with how we have been seeing Jean step more into the hero side of things after leaving the Quiet Council. As soon as you see her revealed as the psychic giving out the orders you feel like Knull is a lot of trouble. It is a Superman-type entrance that Jean is given. Everything about her appearance was timed perfectly to set everything in motion for how King In Black will end.
Silver Surfer’s appearance was also an interesting development. Rather than going with the obvious route of combining his powers with the Enigma Force we see Silver Surfer just be the delivery driver for who is to be given the power. The way it was handled by Cates was well done as he uses this as a chance to put over Silver Surfer as someone who can turn things around but isn’t meant to be the final hero. Silver Surfer’s reaction to this made it all work as there is a slight teaser for bigger things for the character down the line, which Cate could use in his Thor run.
With all the big things that go on Ryan Stegman brings it all to life with his excellent artwork throughout King In Black #4. There is no moment in this issue that feels small. Everything is presented in the biggest scale possible as the big event feel of the entire story is never lost. The show of power from Cyclops, Invisible Woman, Doctor Strange, Human Torch, Namor, Storm, and Thor was a phenomenal sequence to watch. Each use of the character’s max power attacks built well on each other. It got across what it looks like when all these characters do not hold anything back in their attacks. That sense of scale was also felt when we saw the Enigma Force return and claim Eddie Brock as its new host. The visual of Eddie becoming the new Captain Universe built the maximum amount of hype going into the final issue of King In Black.
The Bad: One element in King In Black #4 that did not work was the lack of explanation for Doctor Strange’s sudden power up. The Asgardian Staff isn’t something that Doctor Strange used for his power up has not been brought up in this point in the King In Black event’s main series. That is only a detail you would understand if you are reading the Black Cat tie-in. But there is no clear indication that is where this sub-plot comes from. Because of that the new form Doctor Strange takes on just goes unexplained since it is not stated that what he uses is a magical Asgardian Staff.
Another odd omission in all of this is Iron Man’s sudden disappearance. After making a big deal about Iron Man gaining control of one of the Symbiote Dragons the character just disappears. Given how there was such a focus on weakening Knull as much as possible everything Iron Man has done in King In Black up to this point would’ve played well into that part of the story. But when the time came for that Iron Man just disappears like he was never around.
Overall: Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman once again knock it out of the park in providing another chapter in King In Black that captures the grand scale expected from a big event. Every page in King In Black #4 builds on each other as the heroes finally start turning things around against Knull. By then end you can help but have your sense of hype for the ending of this event to be at its max level. The stage is now set to make the final issue of King In Black one of the most epic conclusions to a big event that Marvel has had.
To comment on this article and other Comic Book Revolution content visit our Facebook page, Twitter feed and Instagram. You can catch up with all of Kevin’s thoughts about comics, anime, TV shows, movies and more over on Twitter. You can also watch the fun and silly videos Kevin is making over on his TikTok.