Here we go! Marvel’s Venom event is spreading like a gooey symbiote across the entire Marvel line this Winter! Donny Cates’ entire run on Venom (apparently) has been building to this! The King in Black has made landfall on Earth and things are looking dire for the Avengers!
I’ll be reading through the King In Black, main series, tie-ins, and miscellaneous related storylines to put them in as accurate and order as we can, see what’s absolutely essential, and see what you can skip. We’ll be adding to and revising this list weekly as the event unfolds. I’ll review what I can and we’ll have some fun along the way! So, without further ado, check out the reading order and reviews below for the King In Black brought to you by TFAW!
There is a long history surrounding Venom, Spider-Man, Eddie Brock, and the other spin-off symbiotes. However, if you’re looking for what is purely essential to our big baddie, Knull, the following would be my suggested reading:
Marvel Tales: Knull: The latest (12/3/2020) in the Marvel Tales line of character-focused anthologies gives you the quickest, most straight-forward background on Knull before you begin the King in Black. You get VENOM (2018) #3-4, VENOM: CARNAGE BORN, and VENOM (2018) #25 all for $7.99 cover price. Some of these issues have already skyrocketed in after-market value due to speculators gobbling them up, so this or digital is going to be the cheapest and quickest way to get up to speed.
Marvel Tales: Symbiote Spider-Man (1/6/2021): This anthology collects Secret Wars #8, Amazing Spider-Man #256-258, and Venom Super Special #1 “Things Undreamt of…”. If you’re not familiar with the Venom symbiotes origin and entrance into the Marvel Universe, this will give you a primer and also give you some background into Peter Parker’s time with the symbiote before it separated.
If you’re familiar, you can skip it, but the In-Hyuk Lee cover is worth a buy alone.
If you want a more in-depth look, take the following route:
Thor: God of Thunder by Jason Aaron (2014): This run is fantastic in its own right, but Cates took the history of All-Black the Necrosword and tied it into his latest run on Venom. Again, speculators and collectors have sent single issues for this run through the roof and it was already desirable before Cates came along. So, the collected editions or digital may be your best bet.
Venom by Donny Cates vol. 1 (2019): Obviously, as an event spinning out of Cates’ Venom series, the prior issues of Venom are going to be important. However, the most essential of those issues are 1-12 which are collected in vol. 1. Between issue 12 and Absolute Carnage, there isn’t much directly applicable to Knull and the King in Black event, but it’s good stuff nonetheless.
Absolute Carnage: Finally, Absolute Carnage is just short of essential reading prior to King In Black. Lots of events from Cletus Cassady’s latest killing spree are referenced just in King In Black #1, but I have a hunch it will continue to be relevant. The collected editions that are most essential are Absolute Carnage, then Venom vol. 3 Absolute Carnage. That will give you the closest approximation to reading order, however, those don’t put the issues in the proper order:
- Absolute Carnage #1
- Absolute Carnage #2
- Venom #17
- Venom #18
- Absolute Carnage #3
- Venom #19
- Absolute Carnage #4
- Absolute Carnage #5
- Venom #20
The Main Event!
Atlantis Attacks #5 (12/2/2020): This issue is almost entirely unrelated to the King In Black story line and only alludes to King In Black on the very last page. Then it instructs you to go read King In Black: Namor #1. It’s entirely unessential to the King In Black story line and should frankly be skipped. I was debating whether or not to even include it here, but for the sake of completeness of this list, it’s here with a warning not to read it.
Symbiote Spider-Man King In Black #1 (11/18/2020): Not entirely essential so far as it takes place in the past. This deals with Symbiote Spider-Man’s run-in with a very obscure Marvel villain, Mister-E (get it, “mystery”?). Not sure if it will actually be brought forward to the future to become relevant to the event. But Kang’s involved so we’ll see.
The King in Black Namor #1 (12/9/2020): This tie-in is non-essential much like Symbiote Spider-Man. This looks like a flashback to some sort of underwater symbiote relic in Namor’s past.
Looks like there are five issues in this series, so my tune might change if something earth-shattering that affects the main storyline occurs. Namor does mention the Black Tide in King in Black #2 and hints that they will return in the present day to beat back Knull.
You could read Namor #2 here if you wanted as it doesn’t really reveal anything spoiling King In Black #1 or #2.
The King In Black #1 (12/2/2020): Yes, essential. What can I say!?
It would seem to me that Knull has to arrive on Earth before the events of Union can occur.
The Union #1 (12/2/2020): This issue is not essential. As a man who crawled out of the mud in Bristol, England, I have a soft spot for Captain Britain, Excalibur and all manner of British super-teams and super-groups (Cream, Led Zeppelin, ELP, etc.). However, objectively, this issue was tough to read. The whole issue was told through the narrative lense of a TV network PR push to launch the United Kingdom’s latest super hero team and the meta pitch was not lost on me. Only the last few pages are even referencing the events of King in Black. But, hey if you’re looking to get into a new British super hero team that may or may not stick around, this is your cup o’ tea. Or as us Brits say, “cuppa!”
King In Black: Immortal Hulk #1 (12/16/2020): While not essential, this is an enjoyable tale of a yuletide skinny Hulk, battling symbiote dragons for a little alone time with some toys. An issue devoid of dialogue, but not devoid of heart!
King In Black: Black Cat #1 (12/16/2020) : This issue was far better than expected. While not essential, it is an interesting premise where Black Cat is seeking to pull off one of the most dangerous heists of her career. I mean, who steals from the god of all symbiotes!?
King In Black: Symbiote Spider-Man #2 (12/16/2020): I was thinking about putting this up right after Symbiote Spider-Man #1 at the top of the list, but I have a feeling like some of the elements being revealed in series like this one and Namor aren’t supposed to be seen until a certain point in the main King In Black and Venom series. In issue #2, Black Knight’s involvement and particularly his weapon become slightly less random of an inclusion in this storyline than it looked at the outset. Essential? Not yet, but perhaps in the next issue or so, it will be.
King In Black: Return of the Valkyries #1: You only really need to have read King In Black #1 prior to this issue and can read it any time after that. It’s not essential….yet. Jane Foster pulls a new Valkyrie to the in-between place from what I think is a form of afterlife. Not quite Valhalla. If this Valkyrie becomes a big player in KIB, this will get upgraded from non-essential.
Venom #31 (12/9/2020): Yes, essential. Eddie Brock’s fate hangs in the balance as he battles Knull!
King in Black #2 (12/23/2020): The Union #1, Immortal Hulk, Black Cat #1, and Symbiote Spider-Man #2 could arguably all be read after Venom #31 or after King in Black #2, but I would prefer to resolve the massive cliff-hanger at the end of Venom #31 as soon as possible if I wasn’t following this event’s release week-to-week and reading it after-the-fact. This issue is essential. Upon its release, this was the most significant issue so far in the event.
King in Black: Spider-Woman #7 (12/23/2020): The official Marvel checklist places this issue after King in Black #2. However, it makes no reference to the spoilerific events of King in Black #2, so it can really be read at any time before or after King in Black #2, so far. This is not essential. If you want to see Jessica Drew wail on Carol Danvers and vice versa, you can pick this up, but this is the ongoing story of Jessica’s illness that already existed in the Spider-Woman series, with a smattering of Symbiote dragons.
King In Black: Namor #2 (12/30/2020): As I said above, this could be read right after Namor #1. The Swift Tide, joined by a young Namor, continue their hunt for an ancient stone relic. Meanwhile, surface-dwellers send an underwater team to examine the very same stone. There is a lot of discussion about the evil held in the stone as a shadow or void. These are the same key words being thrown around in King In Black when discussing Knull’s power and his kingdom. So, while issues #1 and #2 aren’t yet essential to the main King In Black storyline, I have a feeling that this series is going to tie in strongly to the main event.
King In Black: Iron Man Doctor Doom #1 (12/30/2020): For some reason, Immortal Hulk and Iron Man Doctor Doom have a Christmas theme. That theme seems to be entirely related to the time of year of release for Immortal Hulk, but Iron Man Doctor Doom uses the yuletide theme to greater effect in my opinion.
Don’t dismiss this issue out of hand, as Doctor Doom would say, though. It’s essential in my estimation. Somehow simultaneously funny, ridiculous, emotionally impactful, and significant to the main event.
This needs to be read after King In Black #2.
Venom #32 (1/06/2021): Eddie deals with the fall out from King in Black #2. Essential read.
King in Black: Spider-Woman #8 (1/6/2021): Again, this issue is not essential. According to the official Marvel King in Black checklist, this goes here, but it can be read right after Spider-Woman #7 above any time before King In Black # 1 or 2.
King In Black: Symbiote Spider-Man #3 (1/6/2021): Still much ado about Black Knight’s sword. I still have a hunch it’s going to be very important, but nothing expressly essential in the book as of yet the week of publishing.
Guardians of the Galaxy #10 (1/06/2021): not essential.
King in Black: The Union #2 (1/13/2021): Not essential.
Gwenom vs. Carnage #1: not essential.
King in Black: Thunderbolts #1 (1/13/2021): The official order puts this after Planet of the Symbiotes, but I think the Thunderbolts need to show up at Ravencroft before Knull does. Not essential.
Planet of the Symbiotes #1 (1/13/2021): essential read.
S.W.O.R.D. #2: Not essential.