In Dark Horse’s latest relaunch of their prolific TOMB RAIDER title, the story takes place right where Rise of the Tomb Raider. With a creative team consisting of Eisner Award winning writer Mariko Tamaki and artist Philip Sevy, the publishing company is hoping to maintain the level of success the title had under Gail Simone in the past two years. Does the first issue of the latest series maintain the excitement that the transmedia franchise is known for or is it another video game adaption dud? Let’s find out!
This review is going to start out with a confession, I have yet to play Rise of the Tomb Raider. While I have played the previous game and read Gail Simone’s previous run on the title, I am not caught up with the TOMB RAIDER franchise. And yet, TOMB RAIDER #1, the first issue of Mariko Tamaki and Phillip Sevy’s run is a perfect jumping on point for both long-time fans and new readers interested in the adventures of Lara Croft.
The story begins in media res, we see Lara running through a cave with circular panels highlighting the sounds she hears as she passes through. After falling through the cave, Lara focuses in on her hearing which leads into a flashback and the background of her current adventure. The issue establishes Lara in a hotel, grudgingly attending an archaeology convention where we are introduced to a key character, the painfully awkward Professor Robert Demur. Bored over the panel, Lara goes to meet her friend, Joslin, for a brief fight training where panels are once again used to highlight the sense of hearing. When returning to her hotel, Lara is confronted by the aforementioned professor’s assistant and in classic TOMB RAIDER fashion, things fall apart and the adventure begins.
As I mentioned earlier, I have yet to play the recent Rise of the Tomb Raider game before reading this series. Why would I read a sequel series before its predecessor? Last summer, I had the opportunity to read Tamaki’s Eisner award-winning series, THIS ONE SUMMER, and I was blown away. Her storytelling abilities attracted me to this issue of TOMB RAIDER and it did not disappoint. In the plot summary, I brought up the constant presence of sound throughout the issue. With art beautifully depicted by Sevy, the team uses Lara’s sense of hearing as a narrative device. This allows the writer to focus on Lara’s awareness of the world around her and with the in media res, readers can sense that she is evolving throughout this series and will be using abilities and skills she gains throughout this series. I found this especially enjoyable because it is very similar to how Lara evolves skill-wise throughout the video game, or at least she did in the prior one. Hopefully, we’ll see more experimentation with the senses throughout the future of this series.
Art-wise, I don’t believe I have had prior experience with Sevy’s work. After reading this issue, I found it absolutely delightful. His style fits really well with the world that Dark Horse and Square Enix have been building for Lara Croft. What really stood out for me was his depiction of Lara Croft herself. Sevy’s depiction of her in both passive and active sequences gives a great insight to her as a character. In mundane, educational settings, Lara is portrayed as bored and uncomfortable where she looks truly alive when going through the cave and the training scene. It’s something I never noticed in a TOMB RAIDER comic before and I really appreciated it.
All in all, this is one of the strongest first issue of a series I have read in a long time. My one complaint would be the stiff dialogue in the middle of the issue but otherwise, this is looking to be a major story in the lore of this franchise. TOMB RAIDER #1 is a must-have for your pull list and is only looking up from here.