This week, Marvel‘s latest massive crossover comes to a conclusion with the final issue of King in Black! Does the symbiote-soaked storyline’s swan song satisfy or stall out?
We’ve got a review for King in Black #5, as well as a Rapid Rundown of other new releases from the House of Ideas, all ahead in this week’s installment of The Marvel Rundown!
King in Black #5
Writer: Donny Cates
Penciller: Ryan Stegman
Inker: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin
Reviewed by Zoe Tunnell
King in Black is finally over, and like any big crossover event I ask myself: “Was it worth it?” Sometimes, such as with X of Swords or Empyre, the answer is ‘yes!’ Unfortunately, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman‘s goop-covered finale doesn’t quite stick the landing on an already-messy event.
Picking up where KiB #4 left off, the issue opens on Knull in a face-off against The Silver Surfer, joined by the requisite small army of Marvel heroes. Before the brawl can begin, however, Eddie Brock, newly empowered by the Enigma Force, shows up to finally have the showdown with Knull that has been building since Venom #1 way back in 2018. The culmination of nearly three full years of Venom comics and a previous crossover event in Absolute Carnage, the fight should serve as the big emotional catharsis for Eddie Brock’s journey. Sadly, instead, it feels closer to fanfic with a budget.
The moment that let me know exactly what this issue was bringing to the table happens shortly after Eddie’s arrival, when he summons Mjolnir out of Thor’s hands alongside the Silver Surfer’s board (now in sword form!) and merges the two into a cartoonishly large battle-axe. Now, I’m a fan of ridiculous shit in comic books, they’re comic books after all, but ending a crossover event with Eddie Brock ascending to godlike power and turning two of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful weapons into an action figure accessory can’t help but strike me as something closer to a writer pushing their favorites as The Best, Coolest and Strongest in lieu of an emotionally satisfying moment of excess.
The rest of the issue is a series of callbacks throughout Cates’ run with the character, running the gamut from echoing lines from Venom #1 to putting Knull through the same plummet to Earth Brock went through at the beginning of the event. I’m sure this parade of varyingly deep cuts is a lot of fun for long-time fans of the run, but as the finale of a five-issue event it feels more self-indulgent than compelling. Similarly, lines like “I do not think things will ever be the same” or a groan of a title-name-drop delivered entirely straight just make the whole thing have a weightless, toys-smashing-together energy that just didn’t work for me.
Stegman’s art, usually a consistent highlight, doesn’t make it through unscathed. I can’t say whether it is due to rushed scheduling or just something not clicking with the title, but something about Stegman’s linework is off in King in Black #5. Loose and messy, it gives both big impact splashes and quiet character moments a lack of cohesion, only amplifying the problems present in the script. However, Frank Martin‘s colors are a highlight, with the finale finally breaking free from the overwhelming dreary blacks and reds that have dominated both the event and tie-ins and shining a very literal light on the story that is very welcome.
While King in Black #5 isn’t the end of Cates and Stegman’s run — one more issue of Venom is on the way — it is the conclusion of the event itself, and in that context it can’t help but feel like a disappointment. With very little spotlight on anyone but Eddie Brock and Knull, a parade of callbacks to the creative team’s Venom run, and a general sense of rushed messiness, it is a deeply unsatisfying conclusion on it’s own merits and emblematic of the worst excesses of the creators involved.
Final Verdict: SKIP.
- Avengers Mech Strike #3
- Every now and then I like to hop onto a book I haven’t been reading already, just to see how it goes. This week, ‘Avengers but make it giant robots’ felt like the right speed for where my pandemic brain is at the moment, and Avengers Mech Strike #3 did not disappoint. This issue is basically non-stop robots vs. monsters action, with some dinosaurs and a bunch of wibbly-wobbly science thrown in for good measure. Jed MacKay‘s script treats the situation as serious without ignoring how ridiculous the whole thing is, and while it’s sometimes a little hard to differentiate between the giant primary-colored robots, Carlos Magno and Guru-eFX do an otherwise great job of making sure everything is visually exciting and easy to follow amidst the chaos. I’ll definitely be going back to read the first two issues of this book. —JG
- Marauders #19
- I have a grievance with this issue of Marauders. The title of this story is “Fire and Ice,” and at one point Iceman and Pyro are tasked with creating a distraction for Kate while she swims from the Marauder to nearby Madripoor. The two of them tout their abilities as a duo (calling themselves ‘The Two,’ because no one would take them seriously if they called themselves ‘Fire and Ice’) and then…it cuts away to a nearby ship for their reaction to the distraction, and then follows Kate to Madripoor. We never get to see what Iceman and Pyro make! Comics is a visual medium! Show us the crazy distraction they make! I have no doubt that Stefano Caselli and Edgar Delgado would have knocked that out of the park! The rest of the issue, in which the Marauders (with help from the Morlocks) save the residents of Lowtown from the Reavers, is fine, but it suffered from the disappointment of not getting to see what would surely have been an awe-inspiring visual. —JG
- Venom #34
- Remember when tie-in comics came with disclaimers, warning you if you should read a certain issue in preparation for what you were about to read? Those were certainly the days. This issue leads directly into King in Black #5 and I wish I would have… somehow… known this. You’ll almost certainly be lost without this pretty essential tie-in, which explains why Eddie is suddenly the most powerful being in existence. Iban Coello has done a hell of a job with his run on this title, with really explosive and expressive art that has rivalled Ryan Stegman’s, and has me excited for his next project. There’s a pretty big ending here for Venom fans, so walk in fresh. —HW
Next week: What if Peter Parker became Venom?