Review – King in Black #1 (Marvel Comics)

King in Black #1 (Marvel Comics) main cover (detail) by Ryan Stegman
  • Writing - 8.7/10
  • Art - 9.5/10
  • Overall - 9.1/10

King in Black #1

Writer: Donny Cates
Pencils: Ryan Stegman
Inks: JP Mayer
Colorist: Frank Martin
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Maturity Rating: Teen+
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Release Date: December 2, 2020

The King in Black is here: the god of the symbiotes has arrived on Earth! As the Marvel Universe makes its stand, Knull will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

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“Hail to the King” King in Black #1

Well, if you have been following Venom or any of Donny Cates’ work, really, or have taken a gander at Marvel’s solicits from December on, you know Knull, the god of the symbiotes, is coming. Well, he arrives in all his glory in King in Black #1. Eddie Brock has warned the Marvel Universe of the coming of Knull. They are as prepared as they can be. But can even the full might of the Marvel Universe stand up to Knull? Eddie Brock has a plan and it might be up to Venom to save the day. But will it all be over before it even begins in King in Black #1?


King in Black #1 (Marvel Comics) variant cover by Ryan Stegman
King in Black #1 (Marvel Comics) variant cover by Ryan Stegman

Marvel is heading into another huge event; it doesn’t seem like the lackluster Empyre was that long ago, and isn’t X of Swords still going on? Anyway, Knull is here to take over literally everything in King in Black #1. If you have been following Donny CatesVenom run (or really, any of his Marvel stuff) it has all been building toward the arrival of Knull. The ultra-powerful god of the symbiotes has made his fateful arrival. Cates makes his entrance feel epic even if you haven’t kept up with his Venom run or do not know what a Knull is. Cates does a masterful job of building tension and excitement as Knull makes his way to Earth. I got the same feeling as when Thanos finally arrived on Earth in Avengers: Infinity War.

Now King in Black #1 can be a bit confusing. If you have not been following Venom at all, all the crazy symbiote stuff would be its only major downfall. There is a lot going on in this story that can get you lost or questioning things. There is a handy chart at the end that explains what has happened previously and other characters of interest. But it can all be a bit overwhelming.

Thanks for the Venom

Cates douses King in Black #1 with an epic, yet melancholic type feel. It is action-packed and has that blockbuster type feel you expect from the story, but there is also this infinite sadness that permeates through it. In most of Cates’ works, you get that melancholy feel, and it seeps through in this issue. I have always loved how he taps into a moodiness and evokes more of a morose tone with his work (I am looking at you, Silver Surfer: Black). 

He matches that moodiness with excitement and adventure well, though. It is also great to see Cates get his hands on an epic event and put all the heroes in it. I am supremely interested to see his take on different heroes in the Marvel Universe.

Cates does a great job of making the scope feel epic and bombastic, yet small and intimate at the same time. It works effectively to pull the reader into the story. You get that big-story feeling but also a small tenderness, as well. He gives you characters and a story to latch onto while all this craziness is happening. Cates turns Eddie Brock/Venom into a character you can root before and get behind. He does not leave Brock in the dust and makes him the main crux of the story.


Ryan Stegman might have been born to draw King in Black #1. The sheer massive scale, fights, battles, and just the epicness of the issue are captured incredibly well by Stegman. If you have seen any of his work then you should be excited to see Stegman get to handle such a huge event in the Marvel Universe. He gets to draw all the major characters in huge fights against symbiote dragons. That is all you really need to know.

Stegman has a keen eye for detail and his layouts only increase that epic-scope feeling. JP Mayer on inks truly brings Stegman’s pencils to life. Tight bold lines bring every little detail to the forefront of the page. Frank Martin paints King in Black #1 in a dark, foreboding tone. 

There are some truly stupendous two-page spreads throughout the issue. I mean, from a visual standpoint, the book just looks incredible. The whole team just works seamlessly well together. Each page is just a visual feast and is exactly what you expect from a book of this magnitude.


Knull is here in King in Black #1 and his arrival does not disappoint. With so many events happening recently in the Marvel Universe, it can be easy to get burnt out. You could possibly see this issue and all the tie-ins and think “I should skip this”. I wouldn’t blame you and maybe, yeah, you should skip those tie-in issues. But King in Black #1 absolutely delivers; from art to story, it builds something truly epic! I was not really too excited about this event. I mean, with Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman, I knew it would be good, but it truly lives up to the hype.

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