Thursday, 27 February 2014

New Beginnings - Tomb Raider #1

by Matt Puddy

Crossovers between various mediums are becoming an every day thing for us. There are the obvious comic book adaptations the become multi-million dollar budget films that are well into their prime at the moment, and vice versa, comic tie-ins to big films such as the impending Godzilla HC.

There are some occasions where video games have been made into films as well (although I grimace at the thought of the big screen debut of Doom), and there have also been some successful game franchises that have been transported into comics. A recent success story has been the well known Mass Effect series, but many of us remember the hugely successful Tomb Raider comics from Top Cow a decade or so ago. Last year brought us the impressive debut of a new, reimagined young Lara Croft which was surely the start if a new series for the franchise, so it's very appropriate that the next stepping stone in her story is a return to comic books.

The Top Cow era
Lara Croft is possibly one of the best known video game characters and is quite likely the most recognisable female character too. So much so that I don’t have to describe her intellect, rugged resourcefulness or the plethora of other talents. This new version has dumped the pneumatic chest in favour of a more believable protaganist ready to reclaim her place from the Uncharted usurper Nathan Drake. As a strong, modern female character, who better to write for her than Gail Simone?

Tomb Raider: Survivors Guilt picks up a short time after the 2013 multi-platform game (now out on PS4 and X-Box One too). Having made her way off of the island, along with a few of her companions, Lara is finding that she is suffering from recurring nightmares linked to her ordeal. She has also fallen into the role of “den mother” to her group of friends, as she holds herself responsible for both what happened on the island and ensuring their safety now that they are back.

Sam, one of Lara’s companions, is also struggling but trying to deal with it herself. It’s only when Jonah calls that things go awry. Thrust into desert conditions deep in the US - territory that is almost alien to Lara - and accompanied only by a leering and sleazy guide (perhaps an avatar of the ageing mysogonisticmale gamer associated with the early Tomb Raider games), things get twisted beyond belief. Between the almost incoherent jabbering from Jonah and the freak tidal wave appearing inland, Lara is once again forced to fight to survive, losing another friend in the process. She is left with a conundrum of what is happening, with talk of missing artifacts and four imposing guardians.

The artwork is also a bit of a mystery. The cover by Dan Dos Santos is a fantastic, well-rendered picture with a smooth, detailed finish. If honest I can’t tell if it’s hand drawn or computer generated, but it looks great and also follows the continuity of the game, right down to the ice pick. Inside though is the polar opposite from Nicolas Daniel Selma. It’s full of simple, open linework making it easy to read. Even with such a basic approach in its style, all of the characters are easily recognisable and so is the island, meaning that fans of the game will immediately connect with the progression from the game and beyond.

Dark Horse is a publisher that I normally think of for teen and slightly more mature comics, but it has really felt that on this occasion the level has been played down to fit a much wider audience. Gail Simone still plays to her strengths though, with the fierceness of Croft on display once again, with much more to come. Hints at a the larger story are dropped in this first issue, meaning that the mystery is the ideal Lara Croft adventure. With the news that this is considered to be an in-canon bridge between the first new Tomb Raider game and the eagerly awaited sequel, this should be another hit title for Dark Horse across a good range of readers. Highly recommended to fans of the franchise.

Matt Puddy is intrigued by the prospect of a new Heroes miniseries.

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