Marvel’s King in Black event has, to date, been….confusing. King in Black began as far back as November 2020, and seems to finish in March of this year. Now, depending on who you ask, long-form, event-type narratives are not necessarily a bad thing. Whilst the quality of their content is disputable, major ‘events’, such Civil War and the Norman Osborn era of The Avengers, were published cohesively enough across various titles that there is a general consensus on where they start and end in the Marvel sliding timescale. By comparison, there is absolutely no sense of cohesiveness in King in Black. Granted, the pandemic has gone a long way to wreak havoc on the publishing schedules of the comic industry. However, this does not explain the extent to which King in Black has become a disorganized, bewildering mess.
I start with this because there is so much I like about King in Black: Marauders #1. In my review of Marauders #17, I wrote how writer Gerry Duggan needed to utilize more of its cast outside Kate Pryde and Emma Frost. In this issue, he does just that! Co-leader Bishop is finally given some attention in King in Black: Marauders #1, rather than standing idly in the background, ready to make a comment in the service of plot formation. Here, we see the character try and make the tough decisions in a moment of crisis, as he tries to consolidate his pragmatism with his naturally pronounced compassion for those in need. Dugan’s writing of Bishop in this issue makes it clear that he knows the character, which makes it all the more baffling that he hasn’t done more with him earlier. If King in Black: Marauders #1 is anything to go by, we should be seeing great things for Bishop going forward.
Crewmates Iceman and Pyro also get some needed attention in this issue. The banter between the two Marauders is great fun. The combination of fire and ice is an age-old classic, and this case is no different. One of the most compelling elements of King in Black: Marauders #1 is that it shows how the personalities of these two characters intertwine with each other. Iceman’s darker side complements the lighter side of Pyro, and vice versa.
Artist Luke Ross does a very good job of capturing the essence of the team in this issue. His detailed interiors balance emotional character work with wonderful, stormy backgrounds. The coloring of this issue is equally impressive, as Carlos Lopez crafts beautiful ocean scenes. Just looking at the visuals of this comic made me feel damp and chilly!
The biggest weakness of King in Black: Marauders #1 is the King in Black part. A major plot element of this issue, which I will not go into detail with for the sake of spoilers, would have been served so much more justice in the main Marauders run. Here, it is overshadowed by questions such as, “where does this take place in the Dawn of X timeline?”, “wait, where does it take place in the King in Black timeline?” and “what the heck is going on?”.
It seems slightly unfair to judge a single issue on the basis of its part in a tie-in. However, the context does ultimately affect the strength of the narrative. The main threat of the plot is underwhelming — Knull and his symbiotes have lost their edge after popping up incoherently across various titles for the best part of three months. This is not the fault of this issue’s creative team, but it does sadly diminish the quality of the story it has set out to tell.
King in Black: Marauders #1 shows the making of a strong Marauders issue. Unfortunately, its strengths are overshadowed by the mismanaged event it takes place in. That said, if the best elements of the plot are anything to go by, readers are in for some great stuff in the future of the main Marauders series.
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