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Best Shots review: King in Black #2 "beautifully apocalyptic" Venom story

King in Black #2
(Image credit: Ryan Stegman/JP Mayer/Frank Martin/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

The dark god of the symbiotes, Knull,  continues his conquest of Earth in King in Black #2. After an explosive first issue, the series at the heart of the crossover continues to show the carnage wrought by this new supervillain. Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman tell the story of heroes knocked down, scrambling to find a way to strike back at a villain that seems fully prepared for anything they can summon. The result is a comparatively quieter issue that brings in a nice amount of humor without undercutting the stakes. 

King in Black #2 credit

Written by Donny Cates
Art by Ryan Stegman, JP Mayer, and Frank Martin
Letters by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10 

The issue, entitled 'Fall,' begins right where King in Black #1 ended – with Eddie Brock falling to his seeming death. Miraculously, and to the disdain of Knull, Eddie survives his fall, but only just so. Peter Parker arrives on the scene to help his fallen ally, but quickly realizes he needs help to keep Eddie alive. Ryan Stegman's pencils nicely capture the frantic nature of Parker's emotion, and JP Mayer's inks help heighten the emotion in Stegman's artwork without losing the details. Frank Martin's color art is beautifully apocalyptic, with burning red skies and nice touches of blues and greens to help add depth to the inky blackness of Knull's symbiote filled world.

(Image credit: Ryan Stegman/JP Mayer/Frank Martin/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

At Eddie's request, Peter finds Eddie's son, Dylan, and brings him to the base of the Fantastic Four. Donny Cates' script picks up a touch of humor as the heroes discuss the dire situation they find themselves in. The humor here is less about witty banter, and more about the heroes' experiences with end-of-the-world threats. When Valkyrie calls Knull "The King of the Abyss," Namor scoffs at the title. When Tony suggests a battle plan, Cates and letterer Clayton Cowles stretch the bubbles just enough to capture the speaking rhythm that shows Tony's playfulness and willingness to take risks. This lightheartedness allows the tension and the comic to ebb and flow without undermining the seriousness of the story. It also allows the brief quiet moments with Dylan to really strike home. 

Dylan has wanted to help his father and contribute in some way to the fight against Knull and now is forced to see his father intubated. These smaller moments with Dylan help punctuate the story and keep the stakes fresh in the reader's mind, and they're also the only bits of the comic that give this story an identity.

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King in Black #2

(Image credit: Ryan Stegman/JP Mayer/Frank Martin/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

King in Black #2 preview

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King in Black #2

(Image credit: Ryan Stegman/JP Mayer/Frank Martin/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))
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King in Black #2

(Image credit: Ryan Stegman/JP Mayer/Frank Martin/Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics))

There's a been-there-done-that sensibility to King in Black #2 that really brings the book down. Part of this is that neither Knull nor Eddie have much to do this issue, as Cates and Stegman focus on the heroes that make up the story's supporting cast. In fact, outside of Dylan and Peter, none of the heroes seem to have a real connection to Knull or the symbiotes and that makes the whole issue rather nondescript. There's little here that helps differentiate this story from any other superhero team-up. Crossover events aren't known for their character work – in fact, you kind of expect the characters to be reduced a bit to their powersets and visuals in this kind of tale, but this issue feels like you could plug it into any event and make it work. 

Two issues in, King in Black has yet to have a moment that really sticks with you after you read it. Future issues will need to focus on the heart of the story, otherwise this becomes just another event.

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Robert Reed

Writer in Los Angeles (formerly Omaha, Nebraska). Reader of Comics. Spammer of Bowser Bomb.