Back by popular demand…well, not actually demand per se, but no one actually ever said we should stop. Anyway, here we are- Webshooters, Glenn and Steve, ready to tackle thee comics event of 2020- the King in Black. It is a testament to the talent of Donny Cates that he has been able to build upon last year’s event Absolute Carnage and bring us another Venom centric event. Typically, a big Marvel event explodes from the pages of the Avengers or the X-Men; this time, though, Venom is the tent pole and the tale spins into the other books of the MCU. While the actual event hasn’t started yet, Symbiote Spider-Man gets us started with an ancillary tale involving a symbiote. Sit back and enjoy Webshooters as they get back to work.
Peter David, Greg Land, Jay Leisten, Frank D’Armata, and VCs Joe Sabino
As the name indicates, Peter Parker is in the black symbiote costume. Writer Peter David spins a yarn from yesteryear in which Knull’s machinations are already in motion. Filled with shadow demons and lots of cameos, Peter must deal with a symbiote crisis….and working for J. Jonah Jameson.
So the much anticipated King In Black event masterminded by Marvel’s current MVP Donny Cates is finally here. This has had a lot of build up and hype and oddly enough we’re not starting off with this event with the first issue of the main tie in miniseries, but a tie-in mini series that is a continuation of a series of minis by a different writer entirely. Once again taking us back in time to the black costume era, Peter David tells a story about an untold tale of a symbiote invasion courtesy of Knull before the current one going on in the present. Interestingly this mini presents this previous invasion as an extension of the present day one where Knull’s invasion is not only affecting the here and now, but all of time. It’ll be interesting to see how this idea is expanded on in the main series but I really like it. It’s no big secret that Peter David is a big Doctor Who fan (there’s a Bad Wolf reference in his Friendly Neighborhood run of yesteryear) and this attack across time is definitely something that fits in the universe of that show. You know what you’re getting with Peter David and that’s good solid writing, and this first issue is no different. It’s an interesting start with good action and a lot of understandable confusion from our favorite web slinger. There’s some great cameos that I’m going to be interested in finding out how they play into the larger narrative. On their own, the characters seem like an odd fit here, and it’s almost like Symbiote Spider-Man’s various mini’s have become a way for Peter David to just write whatever character he feels like writing on that particular day. Nothing wrong with that, of course, because he always does it well, and like I said, I’m interested to see how he pulls all these different threads together in what is a very promising start.
It’s really hard to know where to start with this one. There are multiple storylines and fun cameos all over the place. Quite simply, it’s not really a Spider-Man story. Of course Peter is in the book- he works for the Bugle, he’s in costume, he quips, and even shares his thoughts through thought balloons ( a clever way to show this is in the past). However, the mystery here is front and center. The story begins with a mysterious character in need of a host for some unknown reason- that host becomes Alistair Smythe. Peter and Ned Leeds are called to report on this at Ravencroft. From there, we have my favorite scene in the book with Kang and Uatu, the Watcher. Kang has apparently turned hero and plans to use the Watcher’s knowledge to aid him in his task. His plan backfires and Uatu is able to tap into his data banks of past and future events. The scene ends with ominous words from Uatu, “it sees me.” Could it be Knull? Who knows, but I’m in.
From there, Land gets to work on some fun action scenes as the possessed Smythe has turned everyone in Ravencroft into shadow demons of some kind. Peter fights them off until he comes into contact with the leader, Mister E, who calls Peter, “brother.” Nice touch since Spidey is not aware of the Symbiote connection at this point. As the battle continues, the Black Knight shows up to help Spidey, putting a sword through the mystery man. As they chat, the antagonist slinks off. From there, the action returns to space where Rocket Raccoon picks up a stranded Kang….to be continued.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of this story. As I said, it isn’t so much a Spidey story; it somehow feels bigger. For what it is, though, it’s fun. I loved the cameos, the action, and multiple storylines are deftly handled. I hope the mystery unfolds naturally, revealing something authentic about Knull. For now, I’m good. Peter David is excellent and I’m sure he has a great plan in store for us. And, hey, I’m a sucker for a good Watcher story.
I am a little confused, Glenn. I thought Mister E was a member of the Twelve. Did I miss something?
You either like Greg Land or you don’t and that can very depending on how ‘Landish’ his art can get. I think his work across the previous two Symbiote Spidey mini’s has been very good and this is no exception. He draws all the characters very well and his black suit Spider-Man is striking. In this issue he draws some pseudo-symbiotes and does a great job there and draws an imposing version of the guest villain this issue and a suitably furry badass depiction of another guest at the end. I’ve never had too much of an issue with Land’s art and with this being their third mini together, it seems he and David have a good flow going in terms of creative back and forth and it shows in the narrative.
As always, Greg Land produces crisp lines and beautifully rendered pages. I don’t always love his work, but he has definitely grown over the years. His pages with Peter fighting are excellent and far more fluid than his work of old. For me, his best pages were with Uatu and Kang, especially the page with Uatu rifling through the years of Kang’s experience. It moves closer and closer on his eyes leading to an explosion on Kang’s ship. It builds tension expertly leading to the destruction of Kang’s ship. Land also does a great job with a flying horse and an anthropomorphic raccoon. He does a lot of character work here and does it very well. I like his relationship with Peter David; they are definitely in lock-step here.
Come back next week to find out what happens in the explosive beginning to the King in Black! Click on the Pop Culture tab to follow the event.