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Appearing in 1st story
- Alistair Smythe (Continuity Error) (Bonds to Mister E)
- Mister E (Impersonates Spencer Smythe; bonds to Alistaire Smythe)
- Kang (Nathaniel Richards)
- Ravencroft Institute Staff (Controlled by Mister E)
- Monica (First appearance)
- NASA (Mentioned)
- Louis Tuttle (Mentioned) (Deceased)
- The Watcher (Uatu) (Apparent death)
- Grigori (Mentioned)
- Orson (First appearance)
- Daredevil (Matt Murdock) (Mentioned)
- Black Cat (Felicia Hardy) (Referenced)
- Ned Beatty (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Avengers (Mentioned)
- Knull/Mister E's God (Vision)
- Lamont Cranston (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Ranger Rocket
Races and Species:
- Shadow Realm (Mentioned)
- Hell (Invoked)
- Spider-Man's Black Suit
- Spider-Slayer (Mentioned)
- Kang Armor
- Duelling Banjos (Mentioned) (Topical reference)
- Ebony Blade
- Rakk 'N' Ruin II (First appearance)
Synopsis for 1st story
At Ravencroft Institute, Alistair Symthe is awakened to see his deceased father, Spencer Smythe, sitting at his bedside. Alistair asks how his father can be there when he's dead, "Spencer" admitting that he's just borrowing the form of Alistair's father to communicate with him. "Spencer" asks if Alistair remembers Louis Tuttle, Alistair remarking that they'd gone to college together before Louis joined NASA. "Spencer" remarks that Louis had been his previous host, now sadly immolated, but that he'd thought highly of Alistair. Alistair asks what the entity impersonating his father means by "host", the entity replying that it needs to bond to someone in order to exist in that realm. Alistair surmises that the entity intends to take him as its next host, the entity agreeing before saying it can give Alistair back the use of his legs if he agrees to bond to it; and that all he needs to do in return is synthesize a formula, inject himself with it, and introduce it to the clinic's ventilation system. Alistair agrees and shakes the entity's hand, and it promptly vanishes.
Observing these events from the Blue Area of the Moon, Uatu the Watcher laments not being able to break his oath of non-interference. Breaking the fourth wall, he exposits on the history of his species before lamenting how the mortals of Earth fixate on trivial matters while ignoring those of importance. As he declares his omniscience, he is abruptly engulfed in a beam of blue light - cutting him off from the space-time continuum, something he admits he didn't see coming, noting that this should prove interesting.
In Manhattan, a young boy runs out into a crowded street after a wayward balloon and is nearly run over by a truck. Spider-Man snatches him out of harm's way and gently scolds him, telling him to stay close to his mother. As the boy tells his mother that Daredevil saved him, Peter Parker transforms his alien costume into civilian clothes and chuckles to himself at the sorry state of his life. Entering the Daily Bugle Building, Peter is told by J. Jonah Jameson to accompany Ned Leeds. Following Ned, Peter asks where they're going, and Ned replies that Alistair Smythe claimed to be working on a cure for paralysis victims. As Peter sarcastically remarks that Alistair seems intent on reforming, he thinks to himself that maybe Alistair is being sincere about his redemption and that sometimes one has to wait and see.
Awakening strapped into a memory-scanning machine, Uatu finds himself the prisoner of the time-travelling despot Kang the Conquerer, who declares his intent to download Uatu's knowledge of the Multiverse into his computer. When Uatu asks why he would want to do that, Kang remarks that he's trying to save the universe. As Kang initiates the download, Uatu realizes he can use his psychic powers to hack into Kang's ship's AI and download its databanks. Doing so, Uatu witnesses an ancient war between Darkness and Light, before seeing into a future where darkness has consumed everything. Gazing into the Abyss, to his horror Uatu feels it gaze also into him - witnessing a vision of a primordial god of darkness. Uatu's psychic powers overload Kang's ship and cause it to self-destruct, leaving Kang adrift in space and lamenting having tried to save the universe.
At Ravencroft Institute, Alistair's nurse informs him that his guests have arrived before witnessing him inject a syringe into his arm. As she demands to know what he's doing, he informs her that he hooked a tank of it to the sanatorium's ventilation system and that everyone should have been exposed by now. As the nurse doubles over, coughing, Alistair quips that his plan is going off without a hitch. Outside, Peter Parker's spider-sense goes off and he looks up to see a solar eclipse occurring, and is incredulous as to why one would happen with no warning. Inside, Alistair stands - controlled by the entity that had impersonated his father - and gloats to the nurse that what she's witnessing is the Shadow Realm echoing back through the timestream and rewriting history. As the nurse, the other Ravencroft staff, and Ned Leeds are engulfed by living darkness, the entity remarks that his master will not regret giving him a second chance.
Entering the asylum, Peter calls out for Ned only to be confronted by the entity's shadow slaves - recognizing Ned as one of them. Peter transforms into Spider-Man as Ned lunges and slashes him across the chest, knocking him back. Deciding to make a break for it, Spider-Man punches Ned - who reacts in surprise at being hit. Leaping over the other shadow slaves, Spider-Man rips open the elevator door and scales the shaft - noting that the higher he climbs the more his spider-sense warns him he's in danger. Noticing the shadow slaves following him, Spider-Man evades a descending elevator and opens the door where his spider-sense's signal is strongest. Spider-Man confronts Alistair Smythe, accusing him of being behind everything, but to his shock Smythe is engulfed by an entity of living darkness, which introduces itself as "Mister E". Calling out the bad pun on "mystery", Spider-Man is shocked when Mister E suddenly embraces him, jubilantly calling him "brother", but takes advantage of the distraction to sucker-punch him.
Mister E leaps out a window, Spider-Man following only to be snared by tendrils of living abyss. Adhering to the wall as a shadow, Mister E asks Spider-Man why he attacked him when they're brothers, both worshipers and children of the same god. Quipping that he doesn't remember hearing about Mister E in church, Spider-Man breaks free; Mister E commenting that Spider-Man is stronger than it thought. Mister E urges Spider-Man - or rather, the symbiote posing as his costume - to listen to it, but Spider-Man angrily snaps that they're not brothers and attempts to punch him again. Mister E phases through his fist, remarking that he won't be caught off-guard again. Solidifying around Spider-Man's arm, Mister E again asks why its brethren attacked it, Spider-Man retorting that beating up bad guys is what he does. Headbutting Spider-Man, Mister E scoffs that it and its brethren represent the natural order, and that their kind existed at the beginning of the universe and will endure to its end, while humanity is nothing more than a blip in the cosmos. Releasing Spider-Man, Mister E tells his symbiote to stop playing games and pretending to be something it's not. Dazed, Spider-Man realizes that in order to hit Mister E he has to rely on instinct and his spider-sense, closing his eyes. Misinterpreting this as a surrender, Mister E approaches him only to be sucker-punched into the wall of the asylum. Growing to a massive height, Mister E snarls that he's done playing games, only to be impaled through the chest by a black-bladed sword. Looking up to see the Black Knight astride a winged horse, Spider-Man asks what he's doing and the Black Knight replies that he's saving the day like he always does. Dismounting, the Black Knight asks Mister E if it's responsible for the eclipse. Mister E cryptically replies that while creation moves forward time, uncreation moves backwards; expelling the Ebony Blade and vanishing into the shadows. As the Black Knight retrieves his sword, Spider-Man asks him what they should do next; the Black Knight admitting he isn't sure.
Drifting through space, Kang is picked up by a spaceship and finds himself being held at gunpoint by a surly bipedal raccoon, who introduces himself as Rocket.
Knull, the KING IN BLACK, has set his sights on Earth – but as avid Marvelites already know, his hand has been at work at the edge of the Marvel Universe for years! IN THIS SERIES, witness one of Knull’s earliest attempts at birthing life from the darkness of non-creation! From superstar creators PETER DAVID and GREG LAND comes a titanic tie-in tale to this year’s winter epic KING IN BLACK!
- Alistaire Smythe first appeared and fought Spider-Man in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #19, which was after Spider-Man got rid of his symbiote costume. King in Black Handbook #1 briefly touches on this continuity error, but does not offer an in-universe explanation for it.
- Uatu comments that the ancient war between darkness and light happened eons before he came into existence, but this is contradicted by his presence in Silver Surfer: Black #4.
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