One of the things I’ve admired about the Tomb Raider reboot has been the narrative, and, by that, I don’t just mean the creative plots but also the character arc that they’ve put Lara on. For the most part, the games do a great job of connecting that narrative, but the Dark Horse comics have given us a bit more introspection. It’s loose connective tissue that doesn’t necessarily affect the integrity of Lara’s arc, but it does fill in some gaps.
The first story written by Mariko Tamaki is split right down the middle into two parts, totaling 12 issues. The first half feels a bit unfocused, involving a magical mushroom that supposedly grants immortality. The second part is where I think that Tomb Raider franchise, as a whole, has stumbled, but the story told here exemplifies how not to beat a dead horse. A big part of my frustration is Himiko/Sam/Yamatai fatigue. Sam was a love/hate character for me in the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot. She was the fun, impulsive, and effervescent mirror to Lara, coming from a similarly privileged background. She gave Lara an emotional anchor that wasn’t romantic. She was the person Lara fought like hell for. She was a damsel in distress. Instead of giving her some grit and having her redeem herself, she was all but forgotten in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and the bridging comics have essentially continued that damsel in distress narrative thread. Just when you thought Sam’s story was concluded, Tomb Raider Volume 2 picks that thread up again, and while it seems to be the concluding chapter on Sam’s ordeal, it feels less like salvation than it does a relief from an overwrought half-thought.
The second story collected here, Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade, is a much better fit, both storywise and in its utilization of the comic medium. The focus on Lara’s single-mindedness and the trauma of her father’s death and the Trinity link is enlightening and compelling. Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly take us on a journey that feels like an expansion pack of a Tomb Raider game. There’s explosive action, moments of grand discovery, and quiet introspection. More than anything, it feels consequential. Lara feels changed, bringing her closer to her characterization in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and it launches us into the final story collected in this volume.
Lanzing and Kelly return to pen Tomb Raider: Inferno, and it picks up more or less right where we left off in Survivor’s Crusade. Lara’s on the quest to find the Tomb of Eden, supposedly the origin of the myth of the Garden of Eden. There, she encounters a Trinity operative that may just prove to be her equal, an assassin with conviction. The Tomb of Eden is a pretty remarkable place, but its revelation kinda falls a bit flat under the weight of its supposed grandeur. What it is is only vaguely hypothesized and I’m not quite sure how Lara ends up concluding that it’s “Pre-Cambrian” seeing as all the fossils we see are at least 250 million years younger than that era… Despite my gripe about the general background about the tomb, the tension feels earned. The Tree of Knowledge is the McGuffin here, and we get some intense internal strife for Lara. The end has a great scene between Lara and Jonah, which hints at how their relationship will continue to mature.
The art by Phillip Sevy and Ashley A. Woods is generally good with different strengths. Sevy illustrates Volume 2 and Inferno while Woods is the artist on Survivor’s Crusade. Sevy’s work in Inferno is his best work on the series, in my opinion. The action is easy to follow, and the expressions are nuanced and believable. The landscapes are detailed enough to convey isolation and scale, and Lara’s dreamscape is beautifully rendered. Woods’ work excels at conveying the grandeur of the tombs and landscapes, but her character work is a little less detailed and, at times, less polished than I’d probably prefer. Michael Atiyeh’s colors keep the tone consistent throughout the proceedings, while Michael Heisler’s lettering is easy to follow and has a very natural way about their placement that makes the story very accessible.
All in all, this is a worthy addition for fans of the Tomb Raider reboot. It’s priced decently for the amount of content you get. It doesn’t really break new ground here, but it uncovers some new details in exploring the paths already trodden.
Creative Team: Mariko Tamaki, Jackson Lanzing, and Collin Kelly (writers), Phillip Sevy, and Ashley A. Woods (art), Michael Atiyeh (colors), Michael Heisler (letterer)
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
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