King in Black: Scream (#1) – Clay McLeod Chapman

1 out of 5

I essentially got this issue by accident. I have no outward interest in the Scream character, or the King in Black event, so that should be taken into account for this review: I had no baseline desire for this book, and the fact that it made its way into my read pile was met with more of a “I might as well go through this” attitude as opposed to openness to really get into it. I don’t enjoy knocking something down, so it seems fair to put that out there.

Alas, another implicit take on ‘no baseline’ is that I had no expectations for this, and it all it really did was remind me: why I don’t read a lot of mainline hero books.

King in Black focuses on symbiote demigod (or somesuch OP entity titling) ‘Knull,’ and his descent upon, and symbiotization of, the Marvel U. Scream is, I believe, a Carnage offspring of some sort who’s been kicking around for some decades, and at this point, Scream is wedded to a human named Andi, and this one-shot pits the character firstly against some Hobgoblin hybrid named “Demagoblin” (the random ass naming conventions are also why I don’t read a lot of mainline hero books) and then eventually against Knull for a few pages. It’s one long fight.

We don’t learn anything about Scream. We don’t learn anything about Demagoblin. We don’t learn anything of consequence about Knull. Scream / Andi has dual narration – both voices talk to one another – but there’s no reason for this in the story; there’s nothing – again – learned from the two talking to one another. They might as well be a single narrator. I also prefer for show and tell to both be used in comics: narration telling me something; visuals showing me something in addition. Here, Clay Chapman is just offering running commentary – you can, essentially, skip the text and not miss out on anything. To be fair, many comic books are written this way, and the dialogue / writing isn’t notably bad or anything.

Art-wise, Garry Brown’s jagged lines have a kind of Klaus Janson roughness to them, which definitely works for our various demonic entities, and I dig the hand-drawn sound effects and the way Brown pushes the stretch-and-squish nature of the symbiote, but there’s a big inconsistency in tone – some moments are inked heavily for effect; some are more cartoonish – that doesn’t sync up with the script in any clear way for effect, and there’s not a great sense of space or motion. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg does what’s possible with a whole bunch of goopy yellow / brown / black-clad figures, but given that lack of space, backgrounds are just flashes of flame or vague architecture, and so the whole book is without any kind of great eye-direction or highlightable moments.

I don’t envy creatives that are tasked with one-shot event books – I imagine you’re not given much lead time for plotting something (as you might when sketching out some longer form story in an ongoing), and there are likely constraints on what kind of info you can or can’t or must deliver, and so we end up with a lot of things like this: long fight scenes where nothing much happens. Given more of a tolerance for the generalized house style of storytelling in Marvel / DC (and the like) books, or having more of an interest for these characters or story, could definitely improve another reader’s perception of this issue.