King in Black #5 Review (Spoilers)

Writer: Donny Cates
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Colors: Frank Martin & Jason Keith
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles

Release date April 7 2021
Review by D. Brown (WolfCypher)

This is the big finale that we’ve been waiting for, everyone. The huge showdown and last possible chance at a turning point for our heroes. Eddie Brock is back among the living with an insane power boost, and Knull is ready to make waste of all of Earth’s heroes who charge before him. Everything has been thrown at our villain, but now that the force which opposes Knull has found its host in Eddie, the final bout between The King in Black and the Comeback King is about to begin.

There will be spoilers. Obviously.

And despite that opening paragraph, which I had some fun typing up, and I hope came across as hype-inducing and energy-pumping, I really felt like this conclusion fell flat.

This whole event felt like it should have had a major focus on Venom (ie: Eddie) and Knull, and lets be honest…both of these characters felt squandered. If anything, Knull was at his best only during the first issue, and Eddie book-ending things by being vital and playing a big role here, at the end. As for all the in-bewteen issues? Knull did very little, and came off as generic a villain as they get. Meanwhile, Eddie lies dead in a coma for most of this event, having his own misadventures over in his core title (Venom #31-34) where it turns out nothing he does in that book, the very little he accomplishes, even mattered in the end. A combination of a deus ex machina empowering Eddie and a very swift, very “get it over with” endgame battle with Knull, and I’m not shy to say…it’s fine?

I mean, the art is good, the dialogue, as long as it wasn’t from Knull’s mouth, was just as good…but this finale was nothing exceptional. It’s a pretty point A to point B to point C story. Eddie shows up as the new Captain Universe, with the most lackluster look he could conceive…(here’s a chance to give us something new while hosting these Godly powers, and he just takes on his normal, Venom look…a huge disappointment considering every other host of Enigma Force have had exotic designs)…then stampedes the big bad and now he readies himself for his next new status quo.

Enigma Force Eddie fights Knull with extreme ease, tearing through an entire horde of symbiote dragons like paper and easily overpowering Knull, stripping Knull of his symbiote armor and dropping him from a skyscrapper. Here is where I would find some enjoyment in this particular situation if we hadn’t seen this exact scenario played out about three times already. Sure, its a callback to Knull dropping Eddie at the beginning of the event, but then we have an entire issue of Venom dedicated to this fall, a Knull tie-in where the sames happens to Scream, and we see Eddie fall not once more, but TWICE in Venom #34. Its supposed to be this cathartic, well-deserved payback moment, but it instead feels like an overdone meme that has lost its humor.

In fact, everything that happens during this epic conflict fell flat on me. Enigma Eddie is written as so overpowered, Knull isn’t able to lay a single finger on him. There isn’t anything in this issue or any comic related to this event I’ve read so far that explains why exactly the Enigma Force even needed Eddie for this fight. I mean, it’s a Godly powerful force that can amplify any host it chooses, and it denies the cosmic powered Silver Surfer, it never considers the once-planterary threatening Jean Grey, or even the Mighty Thor…who I really need to get back to in a minute*…to go for powerless normal-man Eddie Brock, just to revive the character, return him to his status quo by the events end (in preparation for a new status quo), and give our hero an out-of-nowhere big epic win. Just…why did the Enigma Force have to have Eddie? I don’t get this. It’s never explained. It’s all just epic, cool moments. It’s a good thing this event really drove up the Silver Surfer arrival. He showed up to…stand there, because now, it’s finally Eddie’s time to do something in this severely Venom-less Venom book.

*Oh, Thor…since the very beginning of this run, Thor had been majorly played up as this huge counter to Knull; someone who actually weakened Knull during the “Age of Beowulf” eons ago. This run established very early on how much of a boon the God of Thunder would be against the King in Black. Our prior event, Absolute Carnage, made constant reference to Thor’s absent, suggesting that he would have been the ultimate “trump card” during that crisis, and during this event, Thor shows up (finally), and proceeds to make no real progress against our King in Black. Years of build-up, years of feeding us the idea that Thor is this huge boon to stand a chance against anything Knull-relevant, and Thor just…tries and fails spectacularly.

This is to really sum up how dire and nigh-unstoppable Knull is by this point in the event. But that unstoppable, unwinnable atmosphere gets undone pretty quickly once Enigma Force Captain Universe Eddie drops onto the scene, and we are witness to the most one-sided ass-whooping that immediately invalidates whatever extreme threat Knull was advertised as for three years. And then he’s thrown into the sun. And that’s that.

Yeah, I’m not sure how this could have gone down, but this lackluster engagement could have been…more. Like, it wasn’t even close, Eddie just owns a villain who was built up to be God-level since the very beginning of Cates Venom series.

By the end of the book, the Enigma Force leaves Eddie, and his actual Venom symbiote finds him. Blink and you’ll miss the transition, since his Captain Universe-powered look is no different from his standard Venom look. Eddie is now the Hive of all symbiotes. With Knull definitively dead and gone, the free symbiotes call out to him, and he is the new King in Black.

This issue really proves something I’ve already said in some of my previous reviews, and I don’t know that many different ways to say this. This is a razzle and dazzle, visual spark, all sound and fury until we get to the “big epic end” or the “nothing-will-EVER-be-the-same-again” twist. The longer we got into this event, the more the spectacle and big teases awaiting the end of every chapter diminished on me. And considering how long this event has been playing out, almost everywhere in the Marvel books, I’m over this. What good that even means, since this event is now close enough to over (the event title is concluded, but there remains Venom #34’s followup…Venom #200, the true ending). This issue is mostly a series of impressive set-pieces that carry us to the end, where the book sets up an interesting position for Eddie. But none of it felt earned. The appearance of the Enigma Force felt too eleventh hour. Yes, I know it had been hinted at right before King in Black officially kicked off. But it would have been nice if during the three years of hyping up Knull like the unbeatable boogeyman we were promised, we had gotten teases of this light far before one-story arc prior to this event. Knull ended up winning as soon as he touched down on Earth, and then did nothing, save for one battle right before our entry into issue five. Eddie dies, then wakes up as a God and wins with no struggle.

Final Thoughts

I’ve enjoyed enough of Donny Cates run on Venom, especially his Absolute Carnage event, but for the long three year Knull saga that the Venom book quite honestly was, it wasn’t worth this. A swift and easy win from a hero who has had almost no presence in this event book, hosting the ultimate MacGuffin power, our big bad, fearsome, God-intimidating Knull is rendered void in the most undeserved conclusion. All things considered, Knull has left me knumb.

6/10

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