ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘King in Black: Black Knight,’ Issue #1

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King in Black Black Knight #1 - But Why Tho?
Content Warning: King in Black: Black Knight #1 and this article discusses addiction.

King in Black: Black Knight #1 is a one-shot tie-in to the King in Black event. Published by Marvel and written by Si Spurrier with art and colours by Jesús Saiz. Letters are by Cory Petit.

The King in Black event focuses on Knull, the God of Symbiotes, returning to Earth. He has unleashed millions of symbiotic creatures upon the world, spurring a call to action from every hero who can fight.

This issue starts with Dane Whitman, aka Black Knight, hanging in the clutches of one of the symbiote dragons. Not only is he struggling with his enemy but Dane is also struggling against the murderous rage that his Ebony Blade sword possesses him with, The dragon drops him in mid-air, depositing him in Shanghai. Here he is greeted by Chinese heroes Aero and Sword Master (last seen in Agents of Atlas). But losing the Ebony Blade may lead Black Knight to be as much of a danger to himself and his allies as the symbiotes in the sky above him.

This comic feels like a long epic full of multiple chapters, seeming longer than the 34 pages suggest. The issue is well-structured as it is deeply entrenched within the King in Black event, managing to further that story as well as Black Knight’s. Taking place in China allows Spurrier to suggest how the symbiotes are attacking other parts of the planet. The fight scenes are exciting and dynamic, with a rewarding surprise at the end of the comic.

The title character of King in Black: Black Knight #1 is taken on a powerful journey within himself and geographically. Spurrier’s writing of Dane is fantastic. When he first appears, it feels like he is at the lowest point of his own self-esteem and his reputation. He is badly coping with his addiction to the Ebony Blade and the control it has over him. There are numerous references to his former status as an Avenger and established hero before the Ebony Blade consumed him. His attempt to battle the monster who picked him up concludes with a comedic moment that represents just how far he’s fallen. When he loses the sword, his self-control becomes even more fractious. That rage within him bursts to the surface. But as the story progresses it looks like the future will change for the character.

It is interesting that Black Knight is used as a character within the King in Black event, as his troubles are very similar to that of someone possessed by a symbiote. His relationship with the Ebony Blade is symbiotic itself, the curse within it controlling him like a parasite. For years, Black Knight has wielded this weapon, but the more blood it sheds, the more its curse consumes the user. There is a revelation about the magic of the sword that changes Dane’s view of it, resulting in a deeply emotional scene. The book is a rollercoaster for him and his addictive relationship to the blade. While he is repulsed by it, he needs it to defeat the villains. He believes he is the only one that can wield it safely, while clearly showing that he is unsafe doing so.

The other characters are also beautifully written by Spurrier. The small cast allows the comic to explore the three protagonists to a greater extent. Aero comes to Black Knight’s aid as he falls and brings him back to Earth. With the former Avenger incapacitated and unreliable for much of the comic, it falls to her to act as the big hero of the book. Spurrier brings energy and confidence to her, standing out heavily considering Dane’s fragility. 

Sword Master is great in King in Black: Black Knight #1 too. His command over his own divine blade creates much friction between him and Black Knight. While Whitman is repulsed by his weapon, Sword Master is devoted to the mission its avatar has set him. He is a young, rookie hero, not quite as honed and experienced as Aero. 

The way both the heroes view the protagonist is so intricately written by Spurrier. They look at him like he is broken and useless, disregarding his heroic career. The parts where he tries to act like a classic hero, full of bravado, usually result in something bad happening.

The dialogue is absolutely fantastic, completely fitting the character and tone. There is dry humour to so much of it, bringing a smirk to the reader’s face. Black Knight is often glib and self-deprecating. There is fake braggadocio to his words. While funny, it is also sad. The self-deprecation suggests just how low his confidence is. The two heroes that join him in this issue constantly call him insane, sometimes even scared of him. Throughout the issue, there is this narration, written and lettered in the style of an Arthurian Tale. Spurrier’s wry humour is laced within it, and the twist regarding it is hilarious.

The art is stunning as well. There is a photorealism style to Saiz’s work. Each character is given beautiful details to their costume. Black Knight’s armour looks as grand and ornate as it should, out of place with the location and timezone he is. There are markings on the hilt and blade of Sword Master’s weapon that make it different from the Ebony Blade. There are numerous cutaways to huge celestial beings and they look epic in their scale and designs. The symbiote dragons are huge and smooth in texture, but also contain that signature fluidity that comes from those creatures.

Saiz’s use of colour is also gorgeous. When Black Knight is overtaken by rage, the panels turn to a powerful, almost uncomfortable red. The colours shine and glow, fitting the realism of the art style. This is most evident in flashback sequences, showing characters such as Knull and Merlin. A blend of white, silver, and light blues is used for these pages, but there is a shine to the figures within them. They beautifully contrast with the red that serves as the only other colour in this sequence. As an opposite to Black Knight, Sword Master and his weapon are accompanied by green energy. 

The lettering is superb and works within the story itself. The joke surrounding the narration is accentuated by the regal font used by Petit (the same font often used by Thor and other gods in Marvel/DC comics). 

King in Black: Black Knight #1 is a fantastic single issue that serves as a massive turning point for Dane Whitman. A character whose tale has been continuously passed on by writers in limited series and tie-ins finally gets a small amount of closure. So much ground is covered by Spurrier, but the reader never feels lost. There is a comfortable mix of comedic dialogue and heavy subject matter.  The allegory to addiction is evident, explored by the writer in a sensitive fashion. One starts the comic laughing at Black Knight, then transitions into feeling sorry for him. The use of Aero and Sword Master was a wise one. Not only are they great characters that deserve more coverage, but they are newer heroes that do not know Black Knight. This book changes how they regard him. It shall be interesting to see what the future holds for all three characters.

King in Black: Black Knight #1 is available where comics are sold from February 3rd 2021.

King in Black: Black Knight #1
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TL;DR

King in Black: Black Knight #1 is a fantastic single issue that serves as a massive turning point for Dane Whitman. A character whose tale has been continuously passed on by writers in limited series and tie-ins finally gets a small amount of closure. So much ground is covered by Spurrier, but the reader never feels lost. There is a comfortable mix of comedic dialogue and heavy subject matter.  The allegory to addiction is evident, explored by the writer in a sensitive fashion. One starts the comic laughing at Black Knight, then transitions into feeling sorry for him. The use of Aero and Sword Master was a wise one. Not only are they great characters that deserve more coverage, but they are newer heroes that do not know Black Knight. This book changes how they regard him. It shall be interesting to see what the future holds for all three characters.