It’s not Halloween season, but we can still get our fix for scary stories though Marvel Comics’ Ruins of Ravencroft: Sabretooth #1 (on sale January 15.) Writer Frank Tieri borrows from the winning formula of his Absolute Carnage tie-in and applies it to a fresh set of characters. Here, he also adds new layers to that successful model. This self-contained story leaves the reader feeling satisfied while it plants seeds for the series’ next chapter.
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist (modern day): Angel Unzueta
Artist (flashback): Guillermo Sanna
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lantham
Absolute Carnage drew widespread praise because it masterfully combined the horror and superhero genres. To capitalize on this success, Marvel is producing more stories in the same vein and Tieri has been tasked with spearheading several centered around Ravencroft. Focusing on the mysterious institute further establishes the comic’s connection to Donny Cates’ event series because it was also featured there. But Tieri’s script reads like a horror movie, helping the series feel like an organic spin-off.
From the first page, Tieri satirizes tropes of the very story he’s about to tell: a mad scientist experiments, hoping to make monsters. Artist Angel Unzueta shows sketches of Frankenstein in a Ravencroft laboratory, and Misty Knight quips that she expects someone to shout “It’s alive!” The tongue-in-cheek beginning draws us in because it shows that Tieri isn’t taking this issue too seriously. Even when he includes other clichés, like a foreboding door and a monster mash, they work because Tieri is giving us a fun B-movie set in the Marvel Universe.
The first few pages lead us to believe the issue will focus on Reed Richards, Misty Knight, Wilson Fisk and John Jameson, a motley crew who decides to explore the haunting facility. Instead, most of the story features flashbacks to Ravencroft’s beginnings. Here, the horror aspects shine. Tieri’s script and artist Guillermo Sanna’s visuals combine to deliver delightful jump scares. When Sabretooth threatens a doctor, Logan, a surprising patient in Ravencroft, jumps into the panel and onto Sabretooth’s back before stabbing him in the throat. A few delayed reveals, like one character’s transformation into a werewolf elevate the consistent sense of dread that permeates the issue.
Likewise, Sanna builds the suspense while Sabretooth talks to an unseen patient. When we see it’s Wolverine, the sight of a lobotomized Logan is unsettling. Sanna uses vacant eyes and a slack mouth to depict Logan, who lies helpless in the confines of a straitjacket. Seeing the powerful hero in such a vulnerable state further establishes the hopeless mood of the scene.
Ruins of Ravencroft is a series of one-shots and, to an extent, that’s a shame. With this issue Tieri leaves us wanting more and it’s likely the next chapter will be its own individual story. But that’s the mark of a successful comic book and, at the end of the day, it’s why we keep reading them every week. Tieri’s script would work just as well as a goofy horror movie while the art team helps deliver some effective scares. With Ruins of Ravencroft: Sabretooth #1, Marvel continues to fuse horror and superhero stories and we can’t wait to see what other secrets are hidden in the spooky institute.
What did you think of Ruins of Ravencroft: Sabretooth #1? Where do you hope to see the seris go from here?