Here we are at the penultimate issue of King in Black and you are not ready. Generally speaking, the penultimate issue in a comic series needs to do a few things right while also not falling for the trappings of so many comics before it. The biggest requirement is to set the stage for the finale and raise the stakes. Doing that while also supplying adequate stakes and action is key and a major failing of so many comics before this one. For the most part, this book pulls that off and then some, but how does it stand on its own feet? As always, let’s take a look at this single issue and how it reads.
This issue opens with Dylan, Eddie Brock’s son, inside Knull’s head. It’s a dark place not dissimilar from the Alien movies and how the black monsters hung to the walls. Knull is making Dylan a proposition, as supervillains do, to have him join forces with him. Dylan is an obvious threat to Knull so why not bring him onto his side? As Knull asks Dylan to join him, a mysterious voice speaks to Dylan to give the young kid a pep talk. It’s a believable situation since Dylan is still just a kid and could use some support while being asked to join the devil and aid him in his evil deeds. This builds to a major turn in the battle against Knull and an entertaining twist or two to enjoy.
If you haven’t been reading the tie-in stories, some of the build-up to the superheroes involved in this story might be lost on you, but know the turning point is made all the more exciting thanks to what these characters have gone through. As this issue’s plotting stands, it has a three-act structure to it that creates a good journey for readers. There is a satisfying setup, turn of events, and then a conclusion.
That conclusion is going to need to be on every X-Men fan’s pull list. Avoiding spoilers here, but it’s a badass moment for an original X-Man you won’t want to miss. This character reveal is satisfying on a fan level, but also how Cates set them up in the earlier pages. They do fall prey to a trope we’ve seen them go through a thousand times, but it’s a cool surprise.
Another major factor in why this issue works is new information about Knull and a possible weapon against him. Marvel fanatics will instantly know what it is Cates refers to — and it’s a big idea that could mean big changes for Marvel — but casual fans will likely be intrigued with how this changes Symbiotes. Cates and Ryan Stegman have done an incredible job building on the Symbiote mythos and specifically Eddie Brock aka Venom’s part in that. It appears they are setting up a new chapter for the character here that you won’t want to miss.
The art by Stegman knocks every splash, every shocking moment, and every character empowerment shot out of the park. Inker JP Mayer and color artist Frank Martin continue to do an excellent job layering in darkness and atmospheric weirdness to the book that makes it feel quite unique. The scene inside Knull’s mind at the beginning of the book, for instance, uses cool blues and a fleshy texture that’s strange and creepy but then it all turns red when Dylan makes his move.
There are standout pages throughout, but another that is excellent is Knull screaming “No!” It’s a single panel at the bottom of a later page and you can feel it in your bones how what is about to happen is going to change things for Knull forever. His eyes cast in darkness, his mouth impossibly wide, he’s practically screaming through the page at us. Behind him, we can see his Symbiote dragons falling and it’s as if this threat is coming for him next. It’s a great panel that could have easily been a double-page splash.
King in Black #4 is a great turning point issue setting up the finale by introducing a new layer to the Venom epic. This event has maintained a clear focus, allowing the tie-ins to handle more complicated matters, which has allowed this issue to serve up exciting twists and unexpected moments. For that, King in Black is good jaw-droppingly loud comics.
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