Ravencroft is a series that was not on most people’s radars. That’s partly due to the institution being an often unused location, but also because it’s a miniseries that spun out of Absolute Carnage. Then Frank Tieri revealed an interesting and long backstory to the institute via Carnage and Sabretooth one-shots, making for an intriguing set up to its own series. The backstory entwined with American history and captured the imagination like Lovecraft or Frankenstein. Collected in trade paperback this week, Ravencroft delves into the institution after the Kingpin had it rebuilt. There are monsters in its closets and now fresh supervillains in its cells, a perfect recipe for a heck of a problem for Marvel mainstay heroes.
The series starts out great. It opens above Ravencroft and slowly pushes in as Misty Knight details who she is and what her relationship is with Ravencroft now that it is open. Artist Angel Unzueta does a great job revealing the cold and strange location. It has an old feel, but also feels new thanks to the revamp done by Kingpin. John Jameson is another key character, who is quickly revealed to be a questionable party even though he’s involved in running the place.
The series opener is economical with its time. It establishes the characters, a few different settings while establishing the cold and odd nature of Ravencroft. Even though it is old, the new finish on the place matches the dread and despair that permeates the book thanks to the blackness at the edges of panels.
The series integrates some superhero mainstays like the Punisher, but it does its best work in the fourth issue when it reveals a secret truth of Ravencroft. The hidden past is what makes this location so intriguing and writer Frank Tieri does well to capture the magic of that.
The series can test your patience, though, dragging out endless monster attacks in the middle of the back. The last issue doesn’t pick up till the last few pages but gets back to a solid pace to wrap things up. The issue balances Punisher and Misty fighting with J.J. Jameson and Harry Osborn getting interrogated well enough. Ultimately the back and forth feels unnecessary past a point, which is made more evident when the epilogue ends up being the best part of the issue. It’s a lot of noise that clouds a reveal you won’t see coming, but that’s part of the problem. The final issue hinges on a reveal that has no bearing on the actions of the characters in the moment.
The art by Angel Unzueta is fabulous throughout. Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg, this book has an eerie vibe that builds towards a cosmic power made more interesting thanks to the visual reveal in the end. The use of light and shadow is quite something, too. There’s a level of detail that suits the monsters in the dark scenes. Misty, meanwhile, shows off-panel a new power that sparkles thanks to the use of yellow and how the color washes things out. There are little details throughout that are fun to zero in on.
It’s an opportune time to read this book as the epilogue ties directly into King in Black. In these scenes, writer Frank Tieri sets up some interesting threads to be explored later along with some nice reveals. It’s a satisfying conclusion thanks to a lot of what we learn at the end, positioning Ravencroft itself as an important place. It’s unfortunate these details weren’t woven into the narrative along the way, but I guess that’s because this series narrative was more of a fast-paced action sequence with dramatic turns to get in closer with the heroes.
Overall, this is an interesting read that will assuredly play into future stories. Ravencroft isn’t just a place, but an idea that can work. This book proves that, but it does take a while to get there through some pointless shooting. Read this knowing the last few pages are rich with ideas. The book as a whole is a solid read, though the pacing ranges from excellent to slow as molasses.
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