(w) Frank Tieri (a) Angel Unzueta (c) Rachelle Rosenberg & Dono Sanchez-Almara
If you could point to one weak spot in Marvel’s catalog, it would be the horror genre. Sure, there are a couple of characters that dip their toes into it, like Blade or Morbius, but overall the Marvel Universe just does not lend itself to that genre. However, with The Immortal Hulk’s foray into body horror as well as the surprisingly quality storytelling of the Absolute Carnage event, it would seem that the industry’s biggest publisher would try their hand at a genre that, to be frank, several publishers do much better. However, Ravencroft #1 proves that when it comes to things that go bump in the night, Marvel is probably the last place to go.
As a character drama, Ravencroft does a decent job shining a light on its two leads, Misty Knight and John Jameson. The creative team must be commended for giving these two – normally bit-players in Marvel’s books – a chance to try and carry a title. Frank Tieri finds both of their voices right away, making them familiar for longtime readers and allowing new reader to understand them from the get-go. Ditto for artist Angel Unzueta, who uses their body language to not only convey how they typically are, but also how they may be feeling in a given moment. This extends to the expressive faces, which enables readers to engage with the two emotionally. Unfortunately, this is where the praise ends.
If Marvel’s marketing team hadn’t billed Ravencroft as some sort of haunted house horror title, it’d be easy to chalk this issue up as a success. Or at the very least, it’d be seen as an average book. However, the solicitation uses language like this:
But will Ravencroft return the mentally unstable villains of the Marvel Universe to upstanding citizens and give John the redemption he’s looking for, or will they fall prey to the hospital’s seemingly sinister nature?
That sinister nature ends up being the Kingpin. Yes, Wilson Fisk is a great character, but to make him the driving force of conflict is a rather uninspired choice. Tieri and Unzueta do include a brief snippet featuring some creepy monsters lurking in the vents and underneath Ravencroft, and they really should have been the focus of the issue. Perhaps they’ll pay a bigger role in coming issues, but don’t hold your breath.
Visually, Ravencroft appears too sterile and clean cut, a far cry from intimidating visage of the institute’s exterior. On a couple occasions, the art team show flashes of the building looking more like DC’s Arkham Asylum, but those moments are fleeting between pages of high-tech computer rooms, television monitors, gray and silver board rooms, and brightly lit cell-blocks. Ravencroft is almost a complete visual disappointment. Again, there is a bit of visual dynamism in those few glimpses of the horrific monsters lurking in Ravencroft’s underbelly, but it is too little to make this book anything other than bland.
Ravencroft #1 is a disappointment for readers looking for a bit of horror from the House of Ideas. Sadly, there is nothing spooky about this book beyond a fantastic (and deceptive) cover. The use of Kingpin – who is already well saturated in Marvel’s books – leaves readers wanting more. When you consider that their distinguished competition has an imprint (Hill House) and subimprint (Sandman Universe) dedicated to the genre, and that even Archie Comics is able to put out effective horror books, it makes Ravencroft’s shortcomings maddening.