King in Black: Planet of the Symbiotes #1 Review

Writers: Clay McLeod Chapman & Frank Tieri
Artists: Guiu Vilanova & Danilo S. Beyruth
Colors: Dean White & Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Cory Petit

Release date January 13 2021
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

When you have a comic book event, you better believe there will be event tie-ins, one-shots, and specials to go along with that event. What I would like from these adjacent books are for them to be really fun/good self-contained stories that still take place in the event’s orbit, or good stories that tie-in closely to the main book’s core story by adding to it or proving itself an essential/beneficial read along with it. There hasn’t been that many tie-ins so far for King in Black that I really enjoyed to be honest. I was really hoping this one would win me over. Well, it does in deed make up what most of the previous tie-ins couldn’t deliver. What surprised me coming out of this book was how much I liked both stories almost equally. So lets get into what I liked about our special two-for-one comic.

I’ve been very outspoken on this site about the character Scream (Andi Benton) and my enjoyment of her last ongoing book. The creative team behind Scream: Curse of Carnage return, with Clay Chapman and…wait, that art isn’t Garry Brown. Or Mooneyham. Huh, its Guiu Vilanova on the art. I was very accustomed to the likes of Brown and Mooneyham who both drew the interiors of Scream’s last run, and I wouldn’t have given benefit to doubt when it came to seeking anyone else on the visuals. Vilanova has recent history with not only Venom-related books but especially tie-in and side-stories leading towards Knull’s arrival.

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Well, his art hits, I will say that. It says a lot that I had to get to the end of the book and see the credits before I even realized someone besides Brown or Mooneyham was drawing the macabre visuals Chapman’s symbiote books have become known for. Like in previous books (see also Absolute Carnage: Separation Anxiety) Chapman (with Vilanova) create nightmarish body-horror imagery out of these alien costumes, showing fans exactly how far these creatures can be taken with crazy imagination and reckless abandon. Sure, we’ve seen the four Life Foundation symbiotes merged into one composite being before, but not like this. This story even plays with something as small as how Hybrid fires a “web line”…even THAT has a dark little twist to it. This story may be a one-and-done, but it still feels and reads exactly like how Scream’s previous comic run read. I was happy with what I got, but being one-half of an anthology issue, its over quickly. Does this story feel like it’ll have much of an impact on the Knull event? No…but the next one might…

Our next story, written by Frank Tieri and drawn by Danilo Beyruth, takes us back to Ravencroft Asylum. Ravencroft was featured heavy during the Absolute Carnage event, both within the main book and its tie-ins, and unexpectedly, even after that story’s end, the facility continued to stay active in the Marvel Universe. Marvel seems intent to mold Ravencroft into something more than just rip-off Arkham. Ever since its return to comics, its become much more than just the recurring prison that housed Carnage during the 90s. The institute is currently ran by supervillains, given power and authority by Wilson Fisk (Mayor Kingpin), its head warden is a heroic werewolf, and it houses the dilapidated remains of Cortland Kasady. Cortland is both an ancestor of Cletus Kasady and the very 1st inmate of Ravencroft…well rather the reason there was a need to build Ravencroft.

In a very short time, this location has developed a lot of character and we’ve explore much lore behind it. Again, the shortcoming of this story is the fact that this story has to be told in a short page count. Considering how big a deal Cortland Kasady is in context to Ravencroft, Carnage, and Knull all at once, his resurrection really needed more page time. When the cavalry arrive in the form of John “I’m a werewolf, I don’t wear pants” Jameson and Misty Knight, the action is cut short. Both of these featured stories could have benefited from more page count, but considering that Tieri’s act suggests that our newly arisen Cortland will spell trouble down the line, I wonder if this second story should have just been a full issue of a Ravencroft comic or even a Web of Venom installment, taking place during the Knull invasion.

This double-feature anthology serves as a better tie-in to our Knull event than most of the ones we’ve been treat to so far. The first story is a viscous fight sequence which those who enjoyed Scream: Curse of Carnage will really enjoy, although its over too soon. If you haven’t read that run, and you come away from the first half of this book, you really owe it to yourself to give Curse of Carnage a try. Being a self-contained story, it doesn’t follow-up from where that run ended, but this book still has its tone and look; Vilanova really does this character justice. Meanwhile the following story may have more significance to the overall Knull story in the end. It sets up a new threat loyal to Knull and lets him loose. In fact, the second story brings together a lot of elements from various stories, including Web of Venom: Cult of Carnage, Absolute Carnage, Absolute Carnage: Lethal Protectors, and Ruins of Ravencroft. Every one of these aforementioned books took place during or very closely around Absolute Carnage, and there’s a feeling of things coming full-circle where elements and characters all shared from these books are involved or witness to Knull’s newest servant. It results in a nice bridge between Absolute Carnage and King in Black.

Final Thoughts

The first story is very much a standalone tale while the second story teases a future threat, courtesy of Knull. Despite the very different writers and artists on each story, I enjoyed both stories pretty much equally. King in Black could definitely use more content like this.

7.9/10

2 thoughts on “King in Black: Planet of the Symbiotes #1 Review

  1. Thanks for the review, I couldn’t agree more. Of all the tie-ins, this one actually connects to Knull storylines that matter from Absolute Carnage and does so pretty well. Like you said, the Scream story was great but over too soon, and I actually like how Knull revives Cortland Kasady into the new symbiotic villain, Plague. The artist and colorist really shine with Plague’s look and powers.
    I just wish Marvel had cut out all the other tie-ins and used this as the only one for the event. Since it’s actually about Knull and the symbiotes and has far more to do with the event than the rest. The next issue looks like it’ll be a lot of fun and I can’t wait.

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  2. I greatly enjoyed the issue, but I agree that the stories ended far too quickly and could have benefited from full-sized issues or even miniseries tie-ins.

    Scream’s story was a nice family reunion for the Life Foundation symbiotes, but considering this is the first time they’re interacting since Scream and Donna killed the others’ hosts I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed, especially since there’s no explanation as to how the Life Foundation symbiotes survived being immolated by Sleeper and Hawkeye. I’m also disappointed by the lack of tie-in to the events of Scream: Curse of Carnage – here’s hoping Big Mother makes a comeback in Scream’s second oneshot.

    As for Cortland Kasady, part of me is relieved that he didn’t just become a new Carnage like some had predicted would occur, but he seems a tad on the OP side – at least to me – and… well… given Eddie’s dead it makes his vow to avenge Cletus a bit moot. Part of me hopes he lasts long enough to meet Dark Carnage, but another part of me wonders why Knull doesn’t just reanimate Cletus again.

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