This week The King in Black, Marvel’s current line-wide event, reaches its midpoint as the heroes of the Marvel Universe rally around a newly-arrived Thor! Has the series lived up to its considerable hype so far? 

We’ve got a review of The King in Black #3, as well as a Rapid Rundown of other new Marvel titles for the week, all ahead in the latest installment of The Marvel Rundown!

The King in Black #3 Cover
The King in Black #3

The King in Black #3

Written by Donny Cates
Pencilled by Ryan Stegman
Inked by JP Mayer
Colored by Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Art by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, & Frank Martin

The King in Black has moved along at a fairly steady pace since kicking off at the beginning of December. After the apparent death of Eddie Brock and the revelation of Dylan Brock’s powers at the end of last issue, things move quickly in the story’s third installment, as plans are devised, new players enter the field, and Knull is finally shown to have a weakness.

Donny Cates begins to tie together threads for many of his past series with this issue, and he does so in a fairly satisfying way. One needn’t have read all of those past books in order to follow and enjoy what’s happening, but it’s clear that some of the events of the issue might have more resonance with those previous stories in mind. Thor takes center stage in this issue as he faces off against Knull himself, and the battle between gods is intense in its brutality.

Page from The King in Black #3.
From The King in Black #3.

Also in the center of things is Dylan Brock, whom Cates presents as a confident kid who’s also clearly reeling from the loss of his father. With Eddie gone, Cates has Spider-Man take on a guardian role for Dylan, which suits the character extremely well. The issue also features some nice narration from an unidentified, omniscient narrator; their identity is fairly easy to suss out pretty early, though it didn’t diminish the reveal at issue’s end that that was the case.

With basically wall-to-wall action in this issue, Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin get a lot of room to strut their stuff. Stegman’s storytelling throughout is strong, with striking page layouts and energetic figures. Mayer’s inks are appropriately thick (the series does have ‘black’ in the title), though occasionally the mass of blackness combined with Martin’s muted colors make it hard to see some of the details of what’s happening. Still, the team hits the big moments when they need to, such as Thor’s arrival, several punishing blows during their battle, and the aforementioned last page reveal.

Page From The King in Black #3.
From The King in Black #3.

If there’s a weakness overall to The King in Black, it’s one that was mentioned back when the first issue came out: the villain himself is kind of dull. Knull is apparently a primordial blackness who just wants to kill everyone. Okay, then what? Marvel is coming off of a pair of really strong events, the linewide Empyre and the X-book’s X of Swords, both of which featured well-developed villains with interesting perspectives and objectives beyond ‘destroy everything.’ Does Knull have plans for what he wants to do once everyone and everything have been killed? If so they haven’t been made clear through three issues of this series.

Still, as an action comic that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower to enjoy, The King in Black is hitting its marks with ease. It’s sure to be enjoyable for readers who have been following Cates’s previous work on Venom and other books, and it’s fairly accessible for new readers as well. It’s not breaking any new ground in the field of comics, but it’s doing a pretty decent job moving around the ground that’s already been plowed.

Final Verdict: Browse.

Page From The King in Black #3.
From The King in Black #3.

Rapid Rundown!

  • Avengers #41
    • I’m all for a good old-fashioned tournament arc, but I find it hard to get excited about this story. It’s probably the biggest arc of this series so far but, despite that, it still feels like the stakes are non-existent and I really, really don’t care about the Phoenix at all. I like Javier Garron’s artwork but the story is seriously lacking, almost uncharacteristically so for someone like Jason Aaron. I do like the approach of tackling each issue from the perspective of a different Avenger, here telling the story through the eyes of Black Panther. It gives the story a chance to delve into the mind of a character and it gave this issue the momentum it needed for me to get to the end of it. —HW
  • Cable #7
    • Cable’s back on the trail of those missing mutant babies after his little excursion to Otherworld, and the book hasn’t missed a step. This remains one of my favourite X-books, and so much of it is due to the Summers family dynamic on display. Sure, the book’s called Cable, but it’s great seeing him interact with Rachel and his parents, especially very closely on this particular case. And based on the ending here, it looks like he’s not done teaming-up with people from his past. This is easily my favourite post-X of Swords issue. —HW
  • X-Force #16
    • Underwater horror is one of my favorite subsets of that genre, and the team of Ben Percy, Joshua Cassara, Guru-eFX, and Joe Caramagna handles it beautifully here, blending character-driven humor and legitimate thrills to deliver a truly fun, truly horrific story. A certain cameo towards the end is at once totally logical and also a welcome surprise. I’ve dipped in and out of the current X-Force series since its launch, but this issue might be the one that gets me to stay on-board. —JG

Next week, the symbiote madness continues across the Marvel Universe!