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You're not ready for what's about to happen to Venom. Here's why.

This content was paid for by New York Comic Con and created by Looper.

After this December, you'll never look at Eddie Brock the same way again. At least, that's what Marvel Writer Donny Cates says — and if anyone knows, it would be him. 

Since 2018, Cates, artist Ryan Stegman, and the rest of the Venom crew have been weaving a multi-faceted, symbiote-infused storyline that culminates in Marvel's latest mega-event, King in Black. Cates promises that, by the end of the story, both Brock and the symbiote known as Venom will be in a very, very different place.

"The events of King in Black change Eddie Brock in a profound way," Cates said during a special broadcast that aired in October as part of the online-only New York Comic-Con 2020. "This is a fundamental change to Eddie Brock and his place in the larger universe and his place as a Marvel character going forward."

But it's not just Venom who's getting in on the action. In King in Black, a cosmic god named Knull is headed towards Earth with an army of symbiote dragons in tow, and it's going to take the combined forces of all of Marvel's top heroes to take him out. Want to get ready for Knull's impending invasion? Here's what you need to know.

How we got here

Since its debut in 2018, Cates and Stegman's Venom has been one of Marvel's best-selling titles. If you've read it, you know why. Not only has the Venom team been telling one of the most audacious, over-the-top superhero stories in years, but it's also re-defined and complicated Venom and his underlying mythology in ways that Cates has been dreaming about since he was a kid. And more than that, it's actually been setting up Knull's arrival on Earth since the very beginning.

"Ryan and I think of Venom Rex, which is the name of the first volume, then Absolute Carnage, and now King in Black as the Knull trilogy," Cates said. "A lot of the things we set up in Venom Rex are heavily paid off in King in Black. A lot of things were asked that were never answered, a lot of pieces of certain people's origin stories are going to be touched on here."

However, while Venom and its spin-off titles — like the event mini-series Absolute Carnage and a series of one-shots called Web of Venom – have been leading the charge, the Knull saga hasn't been confined to the symbiote-focused books. Pieces of Knull's backstory can be found in Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Immortal Hulk.

A mini-series Cates wrote called Silver Surfer: Black is key to the mythology, too. "Silver Surfer: Black was absolutely engineered to place certain characters in certain situations by the end of it so they would be crucial keys to locks that needed unlocking in King in Black," Cates explained.

Still, it's King in Black that ties the whole thing together. That was always the design. "We had this entire story leading up to the King in Black, it was years in the making," Cates said. "We had those plans when we first pitched this first arc." Now, at long last, those plans are finally coming to fruition — and the Marvel Universe is going to suffer greatly for them.

Who is Knull?

While Venom is King in Black's hero, it's nothing without its titular king. So, who is this dangerous mystery man? As it turns out, he's not just an evil cosmic force. He's also the creator of the symbiotes himself, meaning that, to Venom, he's basically God.

According to Venom lore, when the Celestials created the universe using the "Light of Creation," they woke up Knull, who preferred the darkness. So, Knull struck back. Wielding a living sword called the All-Black, Knull took the fight to the Celestials, beheading one before retreating to an artificial planet that served as his home base. From there, Knull began his conquest, creating monsters that he used to destroy planets and subdue gods, who he'd then recruit into his army.

After a brief tussle with the time-displaced Silver Surfer, Knull lost the All-Black in a battle with a god, but soon found a new source of power: While licking his wounds, Knull realized he could create parasitic entities that he called symbiotes from the Living Abyss, and quickly raised a whole new army. However, Knull's victory was short-lived. After Thor killed one of Knull's symbiote dragons, Knull's subjects began to think for themselves. The symbiotes rebelled and imprisoned Knull inside his own throneworld, which they called Klyntar — the symbiote word for "cage."

And so, for a while, Knull was subdued. Spoiler: It didn't last.

Setting the stage for King in Black

During the Absolute Carnage event, which Cates and Stegman also wrote and drew, a cult worshipping Knull injected the body of Cletus Kasady — the villain better known as Carnage — with remnants of the fallen symbiote dragon. As Knull spoke to him from afar, Carnage began harvesting pieces of the Living Abyss from anyone who had been bonded with a symbiote, hoping to restore Knull's power.

It worked. While Venom defeated Dark Carnage, Knull broke free and destroyed Klyntar, made himself a new sword, and created new dragons from the symbiote's remains. He then began the long voyage towards Earth, destroying planets and recruiting more soldiers along the way. Now, he's almost reached his destination — and, when he arrives, heaven help anyone who stands against him.

"What's really cool about King in Black is because there's been so much time with Knull going on the warpath and Eddie becoming a bigger part of the entire Marvel U and being closer tied to characters like Captain America and Spider-Man and the Marvel U as a whole.... what you're going to see in King in Black is a united front of the entire Marvel pantheon," Cates said. And if you're still not convinced that Knull is a real threat, wait until you read King in Black #1. Cates promises there's a moment there — you'll know it when you see it — that proves that Knull is no laughing matter.

A personal story — and a terrifying one

"This is by far the most brutal thing we've ever done," Cates said, referring to King in Black. "The amount of graves that are going to have to get dug for this.... You know that mass burial ground in Absolute Carnage? That ain't gonna be enough."

King in Black's spin-off issues, of which there are many, sound just as wild. In one, we'll flashback to when Namor was a teenager. In another, Doctor Doom and Iron Man team up to take out a symbiote Santa Claus. "That's bananas," Cates said. "I can't believe that they got away with that."

Still, while King in Black features all of Marvel's heavy hitters, Eddie Brock and Venom are still the story's main focus. "What does this event mean not just to Marvel but to the central character, and how does he come out of this changed?" Cates asked. "Who is he after the events of King in Black, and what does the Marvel landscape look like after this has happened?" King in Black will answer those questions — and more — once its five-issue run concludes.

The main Venom title will continue running during the event, too, with Iban Coello handling the art while Stegmen works on the miniseries. There, we'll get new insights into what it's like for Eddie Brock to be the Venom symbiote's host. "It's really pushed the boundaries of just what it is to be attached to a symbiote, in not just a physical way, but also what that mental link looks like and what that space really looks like and feels like when you're connected to this larger hive," Cates said, citing The Dark Tower, The Matrix, and Event Horizon as influences.

But King in Black is just the beginning...

As Cates made clear, there's no real way to prepare for the mania that is King in Black. But if you're looking to catch up before the event begins, Venom Rex is the place to begin. "I'd read that, and I'd read Silver Surfer: Black, minimum. And Absolute Carnage," Cates said.

Don't forget about the other titles, either. While Venom and King in Black will contain the main story, which begins in early December 2020, the event will cross-over into a number of other ongoing Marvel titles, including Deadpool, Daredevil, and Spider-Woman.

Don't expect the story to be over when the dust clears, either. While King in Black is the culmination of Cates' Venom run so far, it's far from the end. As the writer noted, the issue of Venom that directly follows King in Black is number 200, which Cates called "a really, really, really special issue." He said, "It's going to be the beginning of something new, of something you've never seen before from Eddie, that you've never seen before in the dynamic between him and his family, him and his symbiote."

In other words? Get as ready as you can. There's a lot of Venom in Marvel's future, and when all is said and done, he's never going to be the same.

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