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Marvel Comics’ Ruins of Ravencroft: Dracula #1 (on sale January 22) infuses a classic monster movie with the superhero genre. Writer Frank Tieri tells a fun standalone story that smoothly sets up the launch of the upcoming main series, Ravencroft, by ending the issue on a captivating cliffhanger
Ruins of Ravencroft: Dracula #1
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist (modern day): Angel Unzueta
Artist (flashback): Stefano Landini
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letter: VC’s Travis Lanham
Tieri continues where the previous Ravencroft one-shots left off and maintains the same horror-based tone. Like its predecessors, this installment is primarily a period piece that takes us back to the ’40s. Tieri chronologically jumps through time and the story feels dynamic because it shows how Ravencroft has deteriorated over the years.
Whereas last issue showed Nathaniel Essex’s mad science, this story villainizes the United States government, who’s willing to do whatever it takes to win World War II. Naturally, this desperation leads to more evil experimentation. From there, the plot naturally connects to Captain America, the government’s greatest success story. Tieri masterfully weaves various parts of Marvel history together and, even when he brings Dracula into the fold, he gets you to suspend your disbelief. In the Marvel Universe, it’s easy to buy into a world where the Count threatens to use his influence to sway the outcome of the war.
The art team brings the legendary vampire to life by paying tribute to the classic 1931 movie with Bela Lugosi. A few scenes feel like they’re ripped right from the film. When the Count attacks Cap and Bucky Barnes, he takes the form of fog. After Bucky questions the toxic cloud, Dracula ominously says, “…What mere fog can transform into death itself?” Here, flashback artist Stefano Landini depicts the vampire as his natural self, with his dagger-like fangs. In an issue full of borderline campy moments, this one is the most cinematic.
Likewise, when Dracula and Captain America duke it out, the Count delivers another enjoyably cheesy line that’s elevated by the art team. Dracula says that Cap is just a man, while he is “very much…not.” The line is separated into two panels, and, at the ellipsis, Dracula transforms into a bat. Colorist Rachelle Rosenberg exquisitely leads the reader to associate the red on Cap’s shield with Dracula’s affinity for blood; the weapon serves as the Count’s background during this transformation. The combination of the striking art and the entertaining dialogue delivers a story that’s in the same vein as the classic horror movies we know and love.
With that being said, Dracula’s involvement is underwhelming. His fight with Cap ends anticlimactically, and it takes a backseat to other narrative threads, like Jonas Ravencroft’s attempt to take his facility back from the government. The inconclusive battle leaves the reader wanting more, so there’s room for a sequel someday. Still, it’s disappointing to see Dracula feel unimportant in a book where his name is in the title.
As the last issue of Ruins of Ravencroft before the main series’ debut, Tieri clearly sought to earn the readers’ investment in the upcoming story. Mission accomplished. By the end of the issue, we see that Ravencroft is alive and well with a state-of-the-art-facility. Its new staff, led by John Jameson and Misty Knight, offers intriguing dynamics. We’ve seen Jameson and Knight butt heads throughout these one-shots, so we’re left wondering how their relationship will progress from here. Plus, a shocking addition to the faculty at the end of the issue sets the stage for even more mayhem within the walls of Ravencroft.
Ruins of Ravencroft: Dracula #1 doesn’t quite deliver the cover’s promise of a thrilling fight between Cap and Dracula. But it’s still a fascinating tribute to the horror movies of old and it organically builds the world ahead of next week’s Ravencroft #1.
What’d you think of Ruins of Ravencroft: Dracula #1? Where do you hope to see Ravencroft go from here?