Friday, January 29, 2016

Tomb Raider Issue #1: Season of the Witch: Survivor’s Guilt! Comic Review

by The World Weary

Authors: Gail Simone
Illustrators:Nicholas Daniel Selma
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Genre: Video Game Comic
Series: Tomb Raider Season of the Witch

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Rocky Start

This article features spoilers for Tomb Raider (2013) and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition.

It has been a long time since I’ve read a Lara Croft comic. I remember the first one I ever bought. I was in an airport in Germany at the time, and while I was waiting for my flight I found a little newsstand with some comics off to the side. I quickly browsed through, not expecting to find much, until my eye caught the (then) famous Tomb Raider logo. Having been studying German, I bought the comic and read it over and over on the plane ride to London, trying to make sense of a whole new set of words that I had just barely begun to scratch the surface of. Self-imposed German lesson aside, I was genuinely excited to be reading about the world’s #1 video game heroine. It was the summer of 2000, and Lara Croft was at the top of her game. The Playstation and PC series of games were HUGE, and everything from feature length films, to action figures and comics, were all planned for the titular Raider. Over a decade later, Lara has come back to the forefront of gaming in a big way.

2013’s Tomb Raider, the second reboot of the franchise to date, was a massive critical and commercial success, and what better way to follow a massive success than to get the marketing train rolling again? Action figures, comics, books, they all made a comeback. Obviously though, these new things had to tie in with the new Lara. She wasn’t a femme fatale, ass kicker anymore, but rather a balanced and studious young woman who happened to get caught in a crossfire of mysticism and barbarism that changed her forever.

Following her escape from Yamatai, Tomb Raider #1 picks up with Lara and Sam living together in a small apartment. Both are plagued by horrible nightmares from their time on the island, although Sam seems oddly reluctant to talk about it. After another night of tossing and turning, Lara awakes to a call from Jonah, who urges her to come to the American southwest and find him. Feeling responsible for her friends’ mental scarring as well as her own, Lara packs her bags and begins her next big adventure without even realizing it.

The story isn’t much to behold. Granted this is the first issue, and there’s going to be a whole lot more set up to come, but I still felt a little cheated by the information I was given. You’re never really told much of anything. What happened right after Yamatai? Did the international press react at all to the deaths of an international team of several men and women after their mysterious disappearance? Did Lara, Sam, or Jonah try to go public with their findings? Where do Lara and Sam live? I still have so many questions! The story isn’t necessarily bad, but that’s because there’s really not a whole lot going on. The most interesting part of the issue was Lara’s horrible, PTSD driven nightmare. Simone and her artist Nicolas Daniel Slema did a great job of visualizing Lara’s fears in her three dead comrades.Sadly, this scene is kind of spoiled by a really horrible Shining reference at the end, but it still wasn’t bad. Honestly, the cliffhanger ending wasn’t too bad either, as it (hopefully) set the pace for what could become a riveting series.

Simone seems to have real difficulty with fleshing out her secondary characters though. Most of the time, I felt those characters were only there to serve as the bridge between game and comic. Both Jonah and Sam seem to be able to change their motivations and attitudes in a way that best serves the story. In one moment (MINOR SPOILERS), Jonah seems to want to kill Lara, and five or six panels later he helps her for no reason other than she’s the main character (NO MORE SPOILERS). There’s another character, but he’s so annoying and stereotyped, I don’t even want to talk about him.

Alongside these mostly inconsistent characters is some equally inconsistent art. For the most part, the panels all look good. Lara looks great, and a lot of emotion plays across her face, but sometimes, and this happens to most of the characters, their faces turn into freakish masks of inhuman anger.

Whenever a character is shocked by something, or just generally angry, their faces contort in the most insane way possible. Their mouths are always as wide open as they can possibly be, allowing you uninhibited viewing of their trachea. Typically, I wouldn’t really mark something down for this, but the scenes where the horror mouth is used a wholly inappropriate. In one case, the character in the frame is muttering the phrase “Dear God in Heaven” so you’d think that the art would accurately reflect someone murmuring. NOOOOOOOOOoooo. This poor character, instead, looks like they had a pineapple shoved up their ass with no warning, forcing them to cry to the heavens and appeal to whatever god they worship for relief. This happens three times in this issue, and every time it annoyed the crap out of me.

Simone is a good writer. Her previous work notwithstanding, you can tell she is by her clear and purposeful inner monolouge for Lara. When I read Lara’s thoughts, I could hear Camilla Luddington reading them. This is absolutely the best part of the issue, and it makes me happy to know that someone who can handle the character is writing for the series. Now if the side characters could be improved, and we the readers could find out what the hell is happening, I’d say this series could eventually live up to the Top Cow series, and hopefully, the 2013 video game.

Score: 6.0

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