King in Black #5 Closes Out Marvel’s Face-Melting Crossover Event


The final issue of King in Black brings the heavy metal sensibilities as the battle against Knull for the fate of the Marvel Universe ends.

Ever since Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman took the reins on the Venom ongoing comic book series back in 2018, Eddie Brock and the Marvel Universe had received the ominous warning that “God is coming.” After three years of steady build-up, the culminated in Cates and Stegman’s epic crossover event King in Black, paying off years of comic book storytelling across various titles Cates penned at Marvel. With its fifth issue, King in Black comes to a mighty conclusion, delivering the hard-rocking thrills as Venom leads the superheroes into a final confrontation with Knull, the dark god of symbiotes, bringing the story to a show-stopping, if somewhat abrupt, finish.

After four issues of Knull steadily gaining ground, the heroes have made their desperate last stand against the symbiote god. All the final combatants have assembled and the story’s stakes have come to the forefront as Venom, Thor and Silver Surfer lead the charge for the fate of the Marvel Universe. And over the course of the climactic battle, sacrifices are made, bloody defeat is doled out, and the life of at least one fan-favorite character has been irrevocably changed forever.

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At this point, Cates has more than proven he’s got a strong, natural grasp on his extensive cast’s various voices, with Venom front and center befitting the overall premise of this story. Similar to his and Stegman’s finale to the previous crossover event Absolute Carnage, this closing chapter is largely a fight issue and a hard-hitting, brutally charged one, at that. Cates still manages to keep sight of his characters’ emotional core and this finale is an all-around improvement over Absolute Carnage‘s climax, though it does still feel like it ends a bit abruptly overall. The upcoming Venom #200 serves as Cates and Stegman’s swan song on the title and will likely serve as a true ending to the larger story they’re telling. Still, it’s surprising to see how sharply things come to a close in King in Black itself.

Stegman, working with longtime inker JP Mayer and color artists Frank Martin and Jason Keith, really takes advantage of the added page count to stretch his artistic muscles and cut loose. The action is big and bombastic and as the tide of battle ebbs and flows, the artwork is genuinely gripping and exhilarating. This is most evident in several splash images delivered by the art team while, fortunately, the issue isn’t overwhelmed by shadows as some of the preceding issues and tie-ins had. Stegman and the team keep their panels relatively clean and easy to follow, and the violence itself is visceral without coming off as particularly unsavory in its execution. And while the quieter moments are few and far in between, Stegman distills all that raw emotion to remind readers what the heroes are fighting for.

RELATED: King in Black: Knull Officially Names the Most Powerful Knullified Hero

Better paced than Absolute Carnage, King in Black came out the gate swinging and kept the escalating action and stakes over its five issues before finishing just as it had started, in a final blaze of glorious thunder and fury. As was with the previous event, readers really stand to benefit and experience the complete story if they’ve also been following with Venom and that certainly remains evident here in this finale. Full of swagger from cover to cover and moving as fast and tight as a bullet, King in Black ends on a bombastic note that dramatically redefines one character’s place in the Marvel Universe.

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