At five issues, the King in Black event is still making its case in issue #2 as Knull takes over Earth surprisingly fast. Eddie Brock isn’t looking so hot, either. The main event continues to detail the big-beat moments that’ll allow our heroes to win or lose, while characters like Black Cat shine as well as Hulk even when things are incredibly dire. The event of the winter rages on today, but is it good?
It’s safe to say the Earth’s heroes are sick of Symbiotes, especially when it was revealed in the preview heavy hitters like Cyclops, Storm, and Thing are now drones of Knull. This issue opens where Venom #31 left off with Eddie hitting a car after being tossed off a building by Knull. This series is moving very quickly taking place only over a few minutes so far and Spider-Man takes over for this stretch as he attempts to save Eddie. Falling many stories tends to kill a person. This issue is all about rescuing Eddie before his life signs blip out and preparing for plan B.
This issue has a few familiar elements when it comes to doomsday story arcs, like characters arguing about trifles or characters preparing teams to combat the bigger threat. These elements keep the story tethered to Marvel universe threads like Krakoa and the underworld, which keeps the event feeling up to date and connected with the various stories. Big shocking moments continue to be a theme for writer Donny Cates, who offers up at least one major surprise in this issue. Much like the way this story weaves into other storylines, this big moment will appeal to dedicated Marvel readers.
The art is up there with event-level work, but we already knew that since this is the same team behind Absolute Carnage. It’s abundantly clear Ryan Stegman is having the time of his life with cool layout designs, splashy pages galore, and plenty of goopy Symbiote detail. Inks by JP Mayer give the book that darker tone that suits the horror themes. The colors by Frank Martin get to play in reds and oranges quite a bit in this issue, and there are plenty of smart choices here. Take for instance a huge explosion that goes off behind Spider-Man, which is the main light for the shot, and to heighten the feel Martin brings a bit more orange into the Spider-Man costume.
Fans of what Cates and Stegman have done with Venom will appreciate the use of Dylan in this story, too. Anyone with half a brain who has read most of these stories knows this character is the linchpin behind everything, so it’s good to see the character brought into the main narrative so quickly. How he’s used is entertaining since he’s mostly been hidden away and waiting for this event.
The use of this character does hinder the enjoyment of this issue, however. With so much table setting going on, such as characters zipping about preparing for their next line of defense, one might expect a plot-progressing series of events, but instead Dylan negates a major one. It involves Iron Man taking on a Symbiote dragon so as to steal it and give it to Eddie. Likely we’ll see Iron Man wearing the thing for the event, but it still stands as a lot of bluster for no payoff in this issue. As they say, it’s about the journey and not the destination, but nullifying a major turn of events neuters the acts of the issue.
To that end, it’s becoming clear the narrative is more interested in relaying that every character is useless in the fight against Knull. It’s all building towards a hero story that’ll likely have Venom being the only thing that stands against Knull with Dylan by his side, which is incredibly limiting. Most events have at least a few plots running, but so far this main event series seems to be singularly focused on pointing out Venom is the only hero who can do a damn thing. That’s frustrating since there’s so much potential to play with all these characters. It’s not so much a subjective taste thing, either — give me Venom as the central hero any day, but so far the narrative seems more interested in proving over and over the same point to prepare us for the triumphant turn in the third act. So far it’s not giving us enough characters to root for or enough story to cling to.
King in Black is playing out as a gloomy and depressing event with little to root for or get excited about. The tie-ins have been incredibly well done, but so far the event isn’t doing enough, especially in a second issue that is more about setup than progressing the plot. Knull continues to be a mystery as well. That said, the book looks great and hits those blockbuster notes we desire — it’s just not presenting a narrative that’ll keep your interest.
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