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Best Shots Review - Ravencroft #5 "doesn't deliver anything visually or narratively captivating enough to make it work"

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Ravencroft #5
Written by Frank Tieri
Art by Angel Unzueta and Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by Joe Sabino
Published by Marvel Comics
'Rama Rating: 5 out of 10

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

When taken as a campy thriller, Ravencroft #5 is fine. It's difficult to tell if that's what the book is supposed to be, though. It has all the trappings — monsters, mayhem, violence, the baggage of Ravencroft's legacy as an institution — but neither writer Frank Tieri nor artist Angel Unzueta lean heavily enough into it to really embrace what could have been a full-blown American Horror Story experience. In this final issue, Misty Knight and Frank Castle fight their way through legions of Unwanted (the vampires) while captive werewolf John Jameson continues to obfuscate the location of Jonas Ravencroft's journal to keep it out of the Unwanted's claws.

That is, at least, until they don't. Mayor Wilson Fisk — a.k.a., the Mayor formerly known as the Kingpin — turns up in the nick of time to clean house with a cadre of backup, while Norman Osborne taunts John into taking matters into his own clawed hands. This issue moves at an absolutely blistering pace because nothing really happens; people get beat up by vampires until they don't anymore. There's some subterfuge in the final pages that suggests a larger nefarious plot is in play, but it feels like we're back where we started months and months ago during Cult of Carnage, with a new setting. There's a sort of Resident Evil energy here, where you know that to a degree you're going through the same motions with some new faces every game, but Ravencroft #5 doesn't deliver anything visually or narratively captivating enough to make it work. 

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

I sort of miss Cult of Carnage, though, which relative to Ravencroft had a stronger grasp of where on the horror spectrum it wanted to fall; the art was moodier and more stylized, and John Jameson's haggard exhaustion in particular went a long way in selling the tone. Here, artist Angel Unzueta’s human characters have an almost Uncanny Valley vibe, with odd Lichtenstein-esque textures that feel a bit out of place. The way humans are illustrated compare to the Unwanted, and both compared to the backgrounds, make everything feel like it's coming from a different book — Rachelle Rosenberg makes the Unwanted seem gaunt and eerie, but the humans' faces seem almost mannequin-smooth next to them, and the backgrounds fall flat compared to the much heavier shading and texturing on everything else. 

(Also: if you're going to be illustrating a book featuring Misty Knight, please learn to draw her hair as something other than a textureless black polygon with bangs attached.)

From top to bottom, nothing about Ravencroft quite makes sense — the dialogue here is more focused on pithy action one-liners than developing a strong sense of character. With the exception of possibly Norman Osborn, you could swap the names and faces in most scenes and have exactly the same energy Ravencroft #5 currently has. The final moments come seemingly out of nowhere to serve as the set-up for yet another event? A new Carnage series? Who knows. You probably could have opened whatever book that’s coming next with the last few pages of this issue, and had it make as much sense and create the same amount of emotional investment. If you love campy horror films, this may be fun; if you're looking for a more character-driven foray into the grim catacombs of Ravencroft, this is not the book for you.