With Venom entering the upper echelons of the Marvel pantheon thanks to his box office success, it makes sense that this recent universe-wide crossover would focus on the symbiote antihero. Having picked up only tie-in one-shots connected to the arc, this trade provided an excellent way to read the main five issues of the miniseries in a nicely collected book. While there is a lot to like in this self-contained narrative, it ends up feeling one-dimensional and superfluous, mercifully gifted with excellent visuals from Ryan Stegman.
The series focuses on the villain Knull, the King of Symbiotes, as he attacks Earth in search of Eddie Brock’s son. With his army of dragons and beasts in tow, the Avengers and X-Men join together to help Venom repel this onslaught in the hope that they can starve off the darkness Knull promises to bring to our planet. Writer Donny Cates is a fine comic scripter, having done a number of earlier Spider-Man adventures focusing on the symbiote characters, yet this story arc is so straightforward that there is little real narrative direction beyond the core alien invasion premise.
Cates attempts to give Eddie Brock a more heroic foundation, but his conflict relies on the modest foundation structured around saving his son from Knull. It’s not a bad place to focus Brock’s characterization, but it doesn’t break new ground or give us fresh insight into his psyche. The same can be said for Knull, a character that never developed beyond being a one-note evil invader. Thankfully, the villian’s arc comes to an end here, and does leave Venom with a new role to play in the Marvel Universe with this ostensible foe’s demise. In fact, the end of this arc seems more like table setting for a future story featuring Venom. With Marvel having completed an alien invasion crossover last summer with Empyre, this arc seemed more of the same with a darker tone and would have likely benefited from space between those previous events.
Ryan Stegman’s pencils, complemented by JP Mayer, Frank Martin and Jason Keith on inks and colors, are the standout elements of this story. With the narrative itself being your straightforward alien invasion comic adventure, the detailed and frightening art gives this trade weight. Nearly every page is pinup worthy, giving the action energy and bearing. The Marvel mainstays incorporated into this narrative to give Knull foreboding encumbrance, are effectively designed to live within the dark world Cates has crafted.
This TPB includes some of the variant covers as well as a useful lineage chart connecting various creations Knull has crafted to conquer light. Having missed some of the earlier narrative involving this villain, this information was helpful to an unfamiliar reader.
If anything can be said for this mini, it’s that it got me interested to see what the future holds for Venom. King in Black wraps up Knull’s threat to the Earth and gives Eddie Brock a new role to play in the future of the Marvel Universe, which may provide fertile ground for future tales. While this narrative was far too simple for my taste, the incredible (and often terrifying) art from Ryan Stegman makes the whole read worthwhile.
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