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King in Black begins with Aliens homage in Web of Venom: Empyre's End

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

With Marvel Comics' summer event Empyre now wrapped, a new cosmic threat looms on the horizon - Knull, the dark god of the symbiotes, who arrives in the event series and crossover King in Black.

Bridging the gap between the two series is the one-shot Web of Venom: Empyre's End by writer Clay McLeod Chapman and artist Guiu Villanova, in which a group of galactic heroes will take on the forces of Knull as he heads toward Earth.

Newsarama spoke to Chapman ahead of Web of Venom: Empyre's End's November 4 release to find out how Knull's arrival ties into his previous work on the symbiote stories Absolute Carnage and Scream: Curse of Carnage, and what it all means for the dark times ahead.

(Image credit: Philip Tan (Marvel Comics))

Newsarama: Clay, Web of Venom: Empyre’s End bridges the gap between Empyre and King in Black. What can you tell us about that?

Clay McLeod Chapman: First off, just to say it... Thanks so much for having me on to chat about Web of Venom: Empyre's End. I'm dying to share it with folks and I really
appreciate Newsarama helping spread the word.

As far as that gap you mentioned - I personally like to think of it as a cosmic gap, a span of outer space where the fine folks at Marvel realized there was an
opportunity to tell a story.

My editors reached out to me and asked if I'd be interested in filling that extraterrestrial expanse with a story and I totally leaped at it. I don't want to give too much away, but there was an opportunity for me to bring one story to an explosive, terrifying conclusion and kickstart another story with a cosmic bang. 

Who wouldn't jump at that?

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(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Web of Venom: Empyre’s End #1 preview

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(Image credit: Marvel Comics)
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(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Nrama: You first got into the world of the symbiotes during Absolute
Carnage, and you wrote
Scream: Curse of Carnage. What’s it like now working on the arrival of Knull?

Chapman: I think of Knull as if I've been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. I have been feeling the early onset of Knull for a year or so now, and the symptoms have only gotten worse... and now, after finally visiting the doctor and getting my x-ray, oh... I've come to learn I have only a few months to live.

In fact, I should've come in for a checkup a lot earlier because, as the ol' symbiotes like to say: God is coming... and now he's here and there's no comic-chemo that's going to eradicate this scourge from my body.

(Image credit: R.B. Silva (Marvel Comics))

Nrama: Speaking of which, what can you tell us about the titular King in Black and his part in this one-shot?

Chapman: I don't want to sound flippant about terminal illnesses here, but when it came to Knull, I did often think of him as a form of cancer.

The King in Black is something of an all-pervading force, an entity that is so corrosive, it consumes absolutely everything in his path... He feels unstoppable. The characters in play within this one-shot are left with a sense of hopelessness when they first realize he's coming, that they're doomed - but then they rally and fight back. That's all they have at the end of the day - to fight back.

Even when the odds are against us, you fight. Knull to me is that relentless illness that will consume every last living cell if - if - you let it. Because that's all anyone can do at the end of the day, right? Fight.

Nrama: What threads might we see picked up from your Absolute Carnage stories?

Chapman: I feel extremely fortunate that Marvel has let me play with so many different symbiotes... Scream. The Life Foundation fam. These fellas won't make their way into this particular story, but in the vein of "Goonies never say die," I'll say you can never keep a good symbiote down.

Nrama: What makes artist Guiu Villanova the perfect collaborator for this story?

Chapman: Guiu has such a handle on action, it's downright absurd. A writer - or maybe I should just cop to it and say myself - never knows how outlandish their action sequences are until the artist articulates them.

Guiu has the uncanny knack to boil my doggerel down to a finite gesture, distilling the narrative to its absolute essence... and making it look balletic.

This is an action-heavy story and he turned it into a symbiotic Swan Lake. I love it.

Nrama: What are your goals when you set out to write a tie-in like this? What are the challenges versus a standalone story?

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Chapman: I was given a particular cast of characters to play with on this tie-in, so it felt like an ensemble story from the get-go. I knew it would be set in a cosmic environment, so those two elements – large ensemble, outer space setting - sent my imagination adrift in Ridley Scott-terrain.

I'm such a sucker for Alien, that I felt like this would be a fun opportunity to serve up an homage to that film while exploring certain themes: The fight for survival, the will to live during times of hopelessness, banding together to overcome a faceless foe.

As far as challenges go - that gap you mentioned at the beginning - I knew I had a small narrative canvas to fill and make my own. The A to B were essentially in place, so I had to figure out how best to connect them together and make it feel like it was mine.

And terrifying. I wanted it to be scary.

Nrama: On that note, what’s it like collaborating on this King in Black
event? Can we expect more symbiote stories from you down the road?

Chapman: For me, I always like to tell stories that feel intimate and personal... King in Black is a massive event, but Empyre's End is a small corner of this expansive storyline.

I got to focus on this one particular moment in time, one that could have been potentially overlooked by more grander-scaled stories, and tell the tale of this
fated crew who just-so-happened to be in the way of the apocalypse. And as far as what to expect down the road? Well, all I'll say is...

Never scream never.

Nrama: Bottom line, what do fans need to know going into King In Black:
Empyre’s End?

Chapman: Bottom line? Let's have fun... We're all gonna die. Didn't you hear? Knull is on his way! So let's pop in Galaxy of Terror and warm ourselves up to the end of times.

King in Black is imminent - here's everything we know about the King in Black crossover.

George Marston

Newsarama staff writer who learned to read from comic books and hasn’t shut up about them since.