If you’re looking for a wide-spanning King in Black reading experience, you might want to pick up King in Black: Avengers. This collection is thick, running 200 pages and features stories with Black Panther, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Wiccan, and Hulkling. It features stories of all-out war, quiet and disturbing horror, and vacations gone wrong. It’s an eclectic mix of characters but also some of comics’ best creators.
This book starts off with Geoffrey Thorne and Germán Peralta’s Black Panther tale and drops us into a Wakanda under siege. Thorne writes a great Black Panther who is always calm, tactical, and a fantastic leader. Wakanda is losing the fight to Knull and the Symbiotes and only Black Panther has a way out of this mess. There are a lot of emotional elements in the narrative, like the status of Storm, or Shuri’s less than calm leadership during the hardest moments. Peralta shows a wide range of artistic abilities from intense close-ups on aces to giant beasts. Thorne even weaves in a story within the story that adds to the overall fight.
Next up is Danny Lore and Mirko Colak, Stefano Landini, Roge Antonio, and Nico Leon’s Captain America story. This story goes heavy with captioning to get inside Steve Rogers’ head. It’s a bit much at times, as if you’re reading a novel, and it can pull you out of what Captain America is doing as he saves lives in the city streets. Even still, the message is strong and the voice is on point for Cap.
Following this is a Ghost Rider story by Ed Brisson and Juan Frigeri that feels like a natural extension to what Brisson was doing with the character. Of all the tie-in stories, Brisson and Frigeri use this to advance the Ghost Rider story and not simply show a few fights against Symbiote dragons. This story is also packed with cool-looking demons, familiar faces like Mephisto and a whole lot of attitude. It’s rad to see Ghost Rider literally ride a dragon, for instance, and it’s fun in a lot of ways.
Next is the exceptional Immortal Hulk tie-in by Al Ewing and Aaron Kuder. This one-shot is a great horror comic. Featuring no dialogue or captions, the Symbiotes Knull has unleashed on the Earth are plentiful, but here Hulk only has to deal with one. That one, however, is ferocious and wild and incredibly dangerous. Kuder draws some gnarly stuff when it comes to the Symbiote eating the flesh of human victims. There is a horror that resides in the things Hulk does to it too, and we also get another showstopper transformation of the Hulk to Joe Fixit that’ll make you feel sick. In a good way. There is also a bizarre nature to how Kuder draws the Hulk’s face which is childlike, but embellished and weird. It’s an unnerving sight. For even more on this particular issue, read the review.
The second to last story is Christopher Cantwell and Salvador Larroca’s Iron Man/Doctor Doom story that uses Santa Claus in a surprising way. Yes, that’s right, Santa Claus. This is an interesting one-shot that seems to have sprouted from a clever idea on its own merits due to it not connecting to King in Black too closely. The major connection is Iron Man’s new black costume, which has combined Symbiotes into his technology using Extremis as we saw in King in Black #2. Outside of this and New York being totally taken over, this issue is more about Iron Man and Doom taking care of a Santa problem while Tony contemplates his failure as the world is lost to its heroes.
This book lives and dies by its dialogue, from Doctor Doom’s posturing and attitude to Tony’s smart tongue and self-deprecation. Cantwell plays around with their egos as well highlights two of the smartest characters in Marvel Comics can work together with a little wrestling. It’s a bit odd how Doctor Doom enters the story, as he’s sort of just in the right place at the right time, and the hijinks ensue due to them coincidentally seeing Santa fly by. Given folks are being taken over by Symbiotes, though, it makes sense Santa may have lost his way. Suspension of disbelief is required since things like why Symbiotes can suddenly fly aren’t explained. But hell, Santa is in this book, so it’s easy to let that go.
The art by Larroca works well thanks to Iron Man and Doom looking quite cool throughout. The armature and how it looks to connect via multiple pieces looks solid and logical. Iron Man’s black and gold suit is well done and colored by Guru-eFX. Larroca is one of the best at drawing technology and it shows here. Santa’s purple energy effects are well done too, and these along with Iron Man’s blue glow create a great contrast with the darkness of the city covered in Symbiote goo.
Wrapping up the book is Tini Howard and Luciano Vecchio’s Wiccan and Hulkling story. This story does a good job of showing how Knull is attacking other places than Earth. It’s also a great feature to show off the true love between Wiccan and Hulkling. You’d think after Empyre they’d get a break, but apparently not! Their youthful love is a unique aspect not often explored too, which gives it a spark other stories in this collection don’t have.
This is a great collection that shows off how each hero featured fought against Knull and his army in different ways. This collection also has some of the best stories in the entire event — that’s including the main book — and plenty of fabulous art and character work to go with it.
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