Symbiote Spider-Man: King In Black #1 Review

by Charles Martin on November 18, 2020

Symbiote Spider-Man: King In Black #1 Review
Writer: Peter David
Penciller: Greg Land
Inker: Jay Leisten
Colourist: Frank D'Armata
Letterer: Joe Sabino
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Even Symbiote Spider-Man, in his little retro alternate universe, gets to deal with the coming of Knull.

In this issue, Knull manifests as a vague, ominous shadow creeping over Ravencroft and in particular, Alistair Smythe, the Spider-Slayer guy. A call to his usual partner in crime, Jonah Jameson, brings intrepid reporter Ned Leeds and photographer Peter Parker to the Institute. Shadow demons come out, leading Pete to costume up and face a strange new enemy that claims kinship with him -- or at least his symbiotic suit. And the Black Knight shows up at random in the final act.

Meanwhile, off in SPACE, Kang the Conqueror kidnaps Uatu for vague intelligence-gathering purposes. The cosmic plot thread entangles Rocket Raccoon by the end of the issue. While the cosmic folks are clearly destined to be drawn into Spider-Man's story soon, so far, their connection remains opaque.

I've read the previous Symbiote Spider-Man miniseries thanks to Marvel Unlimited. And my main takeaway from that experience is gratitude that, as far as I understand the MU subscription model, none of my money has gone to these creators or given Marvel the impression that I want to see more of their work.

So you can gather that I didn't jump into this issue as a particular fan of Peter David, Greg Land, or their take on black-suit Spidey. 

King in Black #1 extends their usual repertoire: Lazy plotting, Boomer dad-jokes, polished but stiff art, and a retro feel that extends past the post-dated setting to afflict the storytelling in negative ways.

This is a 2000s comic through and through, with words and art that would be world-beating if they were published around about 2003. The sheer technical competence of the work keeps me from plunging my rating into the basement, but the undeniable familiarity of the storytelling -- combined with the indulgent, digressive way the plot develops -- keeps me from describing this issue as anything more than thoroughly average.

Greg Land is at his Greg-Land-iest best here, delivering highly-polished characters but flubbing the dynamic motion the action scenes require (and as ever, the roster of stock character designs he uses is punishingly small). Jay Leisten and Frank D'Armata help him out, embellishing his work with top-notch inks and colours. Mr. D'Armata in particular carries a lot of weight in the second act, ferrying black-suit Spidey through a lot of grey settings with smart highlights and subtle colour modulations to keep the visuals interesting.

Peter David's script is solid insofar as the individual lines are well-crafted. (With the possible exception of some of Spidey's quips -- how many modern readers are prepared to catch a "Lamont Cranston" reference?) Things grow steadily more problematic as the scale expands, though. Some of the scenes come together well; some do not. And the plot of the issue overall is terribly scattershot.

Symbiote Spider-Man's foray into the King In Black event arrives as an archetypal example of the consciously retro work these creators have put into their previous SSM series. Technically skilled and unabashed about its throwback nature, this comic is a litmus test for reader taste. If you prefer 15-year-old Marvel comics to the publisher's contemporary offerings, this may be a delight. If you think the company's evolved in positive ways since then, though, you're probably better off skipping this one.

Our Score:


A Look Inside


Charles Martin's picture
Greg Land doesn't deliver too many examples of the Generic Land Female Face here -- but that's because this issue is a sausage-fest, not because he's expanded his range.