Black Knight (Marvel)
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artists: Luca Pizzari and Kev Walker
To say that Marvel has released a storm of number one issues is an understatement. It’s more of a Category 5 hurricane and even that may be selling things short. Like every major reboot, there are the truly mainstream titles such as the various Avengers and X-Men titles, then the slightly more off beat books, like Guardians of the Galaxy, and then there are the outliers. Black Knight is one such outlier.
The outliers are probably the most interesting books of any reboot. They are the biggest risk and have the most to gain, serving as a place for experienced writers to experiment or for new writers to prove themselves. Many weird and awesome things come out of these books. In the case of Black Knight, I have yet to make up my mind whether this series will be awesome, or just a cool idea that fell flat. Were I writing about issue 1, I would say that awesome things were in store for readers. Now with issue 2 however, I’m less certain, and that is indeed unfortunate.
After Secret Wars, former Avenger Dane Whitman, the Black Knight, has found himself as king of Weirdworld, a land that is quite aptly named. The world is filled with all kinds of bizarre lifeforms that seem to be in a constant state of war. On top of that the Uncanny Avengers have shown up with a bone to pick with Whitman. Needless to say, Whitman isn’t too keen on answering to Steve Rodgers or any of his other former teammates. A fight ensues and it’s about what you’d expect out of a super-powered slugfest.
Where I think this issue excels is giving the reader Black Knight’s backstory, at least as it pertains to his current situation. Readers have to keep in mind that several months have passed for the heroes between the end of Secret Wars and the beginning of these new books. As each book opens, events have transpired that have yet to be explained, and Black Knight does a better job than most at giving the reader at least some idea of what has happened, without giving everything away. Because of his relationship with the Ebony Blade, it’s very possible that Whitman, like the Black Knights that preceded him, is going insane and being consumed by the blade. The story does an excellent job of showing the audience just enough make them believe that either option is possible. Maybe Whitman is going crazy or maybe it’s a case of him taking something too far before falling completely under the control of the Ebony Blade. Either way, I’m interested to see where things lead.
Most of the time when a book has two separate artists, it’s a bad sign. It typically means that the book is late or that one of the artists is having problems. In this case, having two artists on the book, Luca Pizzari and Kev Walker, was actually a creative choice. Kev Walker has been brought in to do the flashback scenes, while Luca Pizzari remains the primary artist and does all of the current scenes. Both artists do an outstanding job. I’m a big fan of Pizzari’s costume design for Black Knight, which is reminiscent of older designs, but is still very much its own creation. This issue in particular makes great use of light and shadow. More than a few panels, from each artist, use lighting to convey a sense of what is going on in the book, more than just providing illumination. At various times when the blade is starting to exert its influence on Whitman, he is shown more in shadow, often even when his comrades are far better lit.
My biggest complaint about this issue comes from one thing, the presence of the Uncanny Avengers. Both titles are on issue 2, for crying out loud. I barely have a feel for either book, let alone how I feel about a guest appearance of this scale. If they had just appeared in flashback, or even had their appearance contained to this single issue, I would feel much better about things. But instead, there will be at least one more issue in which the Uncanny Avengers are poking around in a book that isn’t theirs. Marvel, let the reader come to care about the character and understand the situation they find themselves in before bringing other teams into the book (outside of flashbacks). To be honest, if issue 1 hadn’t been so strong, this would have made me drop Black Knight right away.
As it stands, I will probably give Black Knight until issue 5 to wow me. If the Uncanny Avengers aren’t gone by then, or the concept falls flat, then I’m out. There is considerable story potential in this book as well as strong visuals to support it; it just needs to be given a fair chance. 3/5 Death Stars