Review : When A Special Is Anything But – ‘Captain America: King In Black Special’

by Richard Bruton


A truly terrible entry in the Captain America mythos, dull, ponderous, completely boring, and guilty of over-telling a paper-thin story.
The score of two? Well, the art’s not awful.


Every so often, I think to myself that it would be good to pick up some new superhero #1’s – sadly, one of those this month was Captain America: The King In Black Special.

I stopped reading much Marvel and DC a while back. It’s not that I don’t like superheroes, it’s just that I got tired of the convoluted storylines with all the reboots and revisions, and I simply didn’t have the time, energy, or inclination to put in the hours of research needed to have any chance of understanding the comics. From that point onwards, the only superhero comics I really enjoy are those things that sit alone and unencumbered with the continuity – Matt Fraction & Aja‘s Hawkeye, Tom King and Mitch GeradsMister Miracle, that sort of thing.

But… every so often I wonder if I’m missing out. So, every so often I take myself into a comic shop or online store and grab some first issues to see what’s happening.

Unfortunately, one of those happened to be Captain America: The King In Black Special. And oh boy, this is EVERYTHING that turns me off modern Marvel and DC writ large.

Personally, I’d go for boringly dramatic, but hey.

For a start, this whole ‘King in Black’ thing is just the most pointless, overblown thing. Last I recall, the whole symbiote thing was some friendly alien romper suit that went skin to skin with Spidey for a bit before switching to a psychotic alien bodice with a nasty habit for mayhem and taking over other people as Venom. After that, we had the inevitable multiple Venom knockoffs, more senseless, more brutal, and absolute proof of the law of diminishing returns.

But now, because someone somewhere at Marvel decided that the simple idea of just being an alien symbiote wasn’t complicated enough, we now get the stupid event series, the King in Black, where we discover that all these symbiotes were created by one big bad, a beginning of the Universe sort of nasty.

And big event series get to have lots of special issues that turn out to be not that special at all really.

And talking of specials that aren’t special at all – Captain America: King in Black Special.

Cap’s broken free of the control of the King in Black, but he’s tormented by what he became – which is all the explanation you get for why Cap’s in the middle of an existential crisis.

And we know he’s in the middle of an existential crisis because, whilst he’s doing the jumping and fighting thing along with Falcon and Winter Soldier, he’s doing it all whilst having an internal conflict – which plays out in overblown, overly dramatic thoughts from Cap, alongside a continual doom, doom, doom, going on through his thoughts as the evil side seeks to take him over again or reminds him that it could, or something.

The worst thing about this is that it just bored me. There’s nothing worse than that. There’s barely any story (Cap struggles with recovering with possession – Bucky and Sam tell him he’s okay – so he is – the end) – but it’s told as though it were this magnum opus, something that really thinks it’s big, important, epic event stuff. And oh boy it really isn’t.

This also does that bloody annoying thing of show AND tell…

Artist draws Cap going into action – writer feels the need to add Cap voiceover telling us just that.
Artist draws Cap picking up sound grenades (they were a thing earlier in the issue, so no need to explain them again) – writer feels the need to give us the Cap voiceover… “I grab sound grenades.”

Look, it’s always best if it’s show don’t tell, tell don’t show can work, but show AND tell is just bad storytelling.

It also takes four artists to do what is a reasonable job of not looking terrible. That’s it though, there’s nothing particularly memorable here, nothing outstanding but nothing jumping out and screaming terrible either.

And then it was all better and everything was okay again. The end.

And then, just as I’m resolving myself to just getting to the end of the book without falling asleep. we get the ending and I’m now bored and annoyed. It’s one of those bloody awful endings where Cap, who’s been beset by his demons (real and imagined), sees the looks of love and trust in the eyes of Falcon and Bucky and just… gets all better. That’s it. He gets better because Sam and Bucky told him he’s great.

Yes, the comic equivalent of that ‘and then he woke up and it was all a dream’ endings. Lazy, lazy stuff in a book that completely bored me even as it completely overtold a really thin storyline.

Captain America: King In Black #1 – Written by Donny Lore, art by Mirko Colak, Nico Leon, Stefano Landini, Rogê Antoniô, colours by Erick Arciniega, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna. Published by Marvel Comics.

%d bloggers like this: