I’m not a gamer. Never have been. Probably never will be. It isn’t that games don’t interest me. Rather, it’s just that – in many cases – it seems like a heavy investment of time to understand the universe, a hearty investment in capital to get a system up and running, and a headstrong commitment to honing one’s skills that just aren’t necessarily applicable elsewhere. (That’s my two cents, and I’m sticking to it!) I’ve always been drawn to these various characters and worlds, and there’s none that has interested me more than Lara Croft. Part of that is because I’m like any red-blooded American male (meaning I can dig a hot chick running around in Daisy Dukes), and part of that is because I’m kinda/sorta fascinated by action heroes requiring their smarts to get ‘em out of tough places. Croft fits the bill, and that’s why I checked out this newest comics’ incarnation from Dark Horse.
Want to know more? Stay tuned after this brief qualifier …
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoiler necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
Lara Croft knows something is wrong. She can sense it. That, and she’s been having these nightmares about her impending doom. Something has gone horribly wrong, and, unless she can put the pieces of her dreams together in a way that makes perfect sense, she and her friends are likely to suffer some horrible consequences. As it turns out, she isn’t the only one being plagued by these visions. When she tries to help an old friend Jonah from his own haunting experiences, she’s nearly washed away for her good deed! (Trust me: the pun will make perfect sense if you read the book.)
When you think about characters that come and go from pop culture, Lara Croft is fairly new to the game. She’s only been around for a few decades, but, in the time, she’s certainly made a name for herself. She’s had video games and books about her. She’s also had a relatively successful run in the comic books. And there have even been a few blockbuster-style motion pictures exploring her mythology and her adventures. She definitely appears to have ‘staying power’ (as the executives say), so it’s only fitting that someone give her some more time to gain an even stronger foothold with audiences.
As for the latest comic book, novelist Gail Simone certainly knows a thing or two about crafting stories for dynamic female leads. She’s cut her teeth on Wonder Woman and Red Sonja, so one might expect more than gets delivered in this opening installment. There’s a terrific theatrical-style action sequence that opens the story – let’s say it involves gunplay and a wrecked airplane teetering perilously from the top of a mountainous waterfall – but, sadly, the action pretty much starts and ends right there. To be fair, there’s also a great sequence which closes out the issue, but it’s all delivered with too many unanswered questions for it to logically make much literal sense. The rest of the book is dedicated to establishing this world with Croft and her allies, and perhaps it’s that curious absence of a true villain or any overwhelming quest that leaves me feeling a bit underfed.
Some of this lukewarm reception might be because artistically what Simone and artist Nicolas Daniel Selma have done is a bit of a deviation from what’s come before. Without putting too fine a point on it, the previous incarnations of Croft have been as much about her female attributes to some degree as they’ve been about anything; her assets were always drawn up with God-like inspiration, making her a lusciously endowed Amazonian made further appealing to fanboys by her Librarianeque spectacles. Big boobs. Tight pants. Tighter t-shirt. These were the norms for her time, and they’ve been left in the dust as it were in this new creation which clearly reaches for toned-down sexiness via toned-up arms. Unfortunately, the accompanying artwork here is largely blasé, allowing the heroine to kinda/sorta blend in with the background, and that’s never good for the lead to do. You want her to stand out – one might argue that was in part why game designers practically satirized those feminine assets to a degree – but here? Why Lara Croft could be the girl next door … well, if the girl next door makes good use of her LA Fitness membership.
For what it’s worth, I honestly didn’t much care for the Croft movies. (I personally thought not only was Angelina Jolie all wrong for the part but also the stories just didn’t seem to ‘understand’ the potential of a kinda/sorta female version of Indiana Jones.) It just seemed to me that, as a character, she wasn’t so much explored the way she should’ve been, and perhaps that was what happens when you cast a high-profile actress to play the heroine. (It all ends up being more about Jolie and less about the work.) I couldn’t say beans about the games, other than I know they’re out there, and they’ve definitely inspired a whole generation of cosplayers to go spelunking for some awesome selfies.
TOMB RAIDER #01 is published by Dark Horse Comics. The story is written by Gail Simone; the pencils are by Nicolas Daniel Selma; the inks are by Juan Gedeon; with lettering by Michael Heisler. It all comes with a cover price of $3.50, and that’s not bad for what you get in return.
RECOMMENDED. While it’s missing some of Croft’s traditional appeal – as well as an easily identifiable villain – TOMB RAIDER #01 isn’t what I’d call anything resembling a disaster. Instead, it feels like Simone and her crew are taking their sweet time to draw some distinctions between what’s come before as well as the direction they’re heading in artistically. You’ve heard the phrase, “This isn’t your father’s Oldsmobile”? Well, this isn’t your father’s Lara Croft. (Or maybe, given the youth of the franchise, I should better say, “This isn’t your big brother’s Lara Croft.”) This is a new era, a new beginning, one where she gets looser t-shirts and khaki Capris. There are strong hints as to where Simone may take us, but much of this is rendered so blandly (colors are a wash, and only the action sequences truly feel lifelike here) it’s really difficult to get excited about any of it.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics provided me with a digital reading copy of TOMB RAIDER #01 by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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About the reviewer
What? You don't know enough about me from the picture? Get a clue! I'm a graduate from the School of Hard Knocks! You can find me around the web as "Trekscribbler" or "Manchops". … more