I actually like the whole King in Black storyline, and I’m not a huge Venom fan. Knull, the Lord of the Abyss, the god and creator of the Symbiotes, has arrived at earth and all across the Marvel Universe, things got dark in a hurry. Never has so much black ink been spilled than on the five issues of the main series and many other cross-over books. Several collectors have mentioned that the ending was not maybe as dramatic as some may have liked, but I thought it was a solid story from Issue #1 through 5. Perhaps my favorite part of the epic battle is Jean Grey in Issue #4, conjuring memories of the classic X-Men days. It is well written, well-drawn, and, for five issues, keeps up the action. A bonus for those of us not fully ‘Venom-ized’, is that issue #1 has a fantastic evolution and timeline of Venom/Knull as the last two pages. This is almost required reading. That is, to fully get your head around this tremendous adventure in cross-overs, one-shot comics, and mini-series books.
The Big Event Leads to the Cross-Over
Oh my, how far the idea of cross-overs and major events have come over the past 40 years. I often think of the start of total Marvel Universe immersive action as the 1984 Secret Wars 12-issue mini-series. Issue #8 has long been a collector and investor favorite because of Venom, but issue #1 has recently made huge strides in value.
With the King in Black Event, we have a five-issue set of self-titled books which paint the main story battle lines. The beauty of this is that, when Knull travels to Earth and encases it in darkness and black goo, he also brings an endless hoard of dragons and begins to turn regular people and superheroes alike into Knull-controlled symbiotes. It plays across the world, as one might expect. It worked to have this event naturally impact storylines like Guardians of the Galaxy #10 and also to pop into S.W.O.R.D. #3. Simply more Marvel marketing genius.
What to Buy and What Not to Buy
Have you stayed away from all of it? Let me suggest where you might look to buy King in Black stories for fun and investment. If you are a Venom fan, it seems like you would have to follow the main King in Black issues. Other than having a huge variety of characters appear, there was not anything truly earth-shattering that makes me have to own it. There’s an exception, since some of the variant cover art being amazing. Marvel Unlimited lists 15 other King in Black titles you could be looking at buying. That’s not even counting the cross-overs into other ongoing series.
While I have not read all of the one-shot books, I did not find any of the issues I read spectacular. The King in Black: Black Panther issue is another episode in the tiring trend that when Marvel needs a full field battle scene they send the villain army to do battle with Wakanda. We get the usual splashy pages where black dragons take out scores of Wakanda warriors only to eventually defeat the villains by advanced technology.
What was hideous (and I can’t believe other positive reviewers actually read this book) was the King in Black: Ironman/Doom issue. There should be a disclaimer on this book. Unlike the rest of the King in Black books, this one is a farce. Santa is converted into a Knull-controlled symbiote. He sings evil Christmas songs through the painful story. Like when he sings, “Jinnnngle Killlll’ rather than jingle bells. Evil-controlled Santa then delivers stunning lines like, “Experience my Paindeer.” The only pain felt was mine. I want my $3.99 back.
Where is the Value?
There are some solid books with good storylines and artwork that are worth your money. One mini-series (three issues) that has gotten very positive reviews and includes some characters that I didn’t know before, is the King in Black: Thunderbolts books. They are a group of former criminals brought together by the Kingpin to save the city and, potentially, the world. Things don’t go very smoothly, but it is one of the more interesting chapters of the King in Black cannon.
The two gems of this entire event are the Black Cat series and the Return of the Valkyries. Black Cat starts her own series. These first issues follow her interesting and critical role in defeating Knull (sorry for the spoiler). Felicia Hardy is a complicated, wonderful character and is amazingly relatable for being a master thief. Her key role in dealing with Knull sets her series on a solid path within the Marvel Universe. A path as another wonderful anti-hero.
The best news is that a Black Cat live-action movie has been discussed for the fall of 2021 distribution. Buy this before the movie buzz increases values. The other gem is the four-issue mini-series, King in Black: Return of the Valkyries. The storyline is well done. The art is solid. The characters also play a critical role in the defeat of Knull. What I find very interesting is the appearance of New Mutant Dani Moonstar. She holds her own against the symbiote dragons (mostly) and joins forces with the Valkyries in issue #2. It has the hint of letting this character stretch and find her own rhythm. Her role within the legion of Valkyries is promising and seems to beg for more attention. These four books are worth getting both for the read and for the speculation. The King is dead, but some of the treasures will live on.