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Lara Croft has been a staple of the Tomb Raider franchise for twenty years, starting all the way back in 1996 with the first game, simply titled Tomb Raider. Since then, she has gone through hell in ten more games, two big screen ventures, and two comic book series. This doesn’t include the countless one-shots, and mini-series which have seen our tortured heroine go up against mythical beasts, ancient monsters, and of course, mysterious tombs.
In celebration of Lara’s 20th anniversary, Dark Horse has relaunched her comic book series with a new creative team. In this new venture, written by Mariko Tamaki, Lara becomes entangled in a search for a mysterious mushroom that might hold the key to immortality. Her quest will take her to China, where she will search ancient jungles and lost caves, hoping to find the answer to life’s most persistent question.
When we first meet Lara, she is fleeing through a cave, chased by unseen adversary with weapons. The decision to start the story in a mysterious cave, with Lara wounded and hunted, is a clever one as it instantly captivates the reader, and makes them interested in the story. The strong art by Phillip Nevy along with the terrific colors by Michael Atiyeh make the caves atmospheric, and almost claustrophobic.
Once the reader is engaged in Lara’s story, the narrative goes back in time to tell you how she ended up in the cave. You learn that her past is scratching below the surface, hinting that she might be a lot more troubled than the persona she presents to her friends and colleagues. Lara meets an old professor with a passion for a mythical mushroom, supposedly located in the forests of China, that may hold the key to immortality. However, he isn’t the only person interested in this mushroom, as they are both about the learn the hard way.
The writing throughout the issue is strong, giving you just enough to connect with Lara as the main protagonist without drowning you in exposition. The decision to hint at rather than explain some of the issues troubling Lara is a good way to keep you interested in learning more about her in future issues. The art is strong as well, offering a fully realised world that Lara and her friends live in. There’s not any major set pieces that give the art a chance to fully thrive, but having seen Nevy’s capability at handling a dialogue driven narrative, it’ll be fun to see how well he copes with bigger scenes as the series continues.
Overall, Tomb Raider #1 does a lot of things right. It is instantly engaging, has a strong narrative, terrific artwork, and a suspenseful ending that builds tension towards the next issue. It manages to introduce Lara Croft in a way that makes her a fascinating character, without making her a stereotype of her own franchise. While the issue does not offer any major action set pieces, it does a good job at sustaining a mainly dialogue driven narrative. It accomplishes its task of laying the foundation for future issues well, and it will be interesting to see where the story progresses from here.
Tomb Raider #1 earns a strong 7.5 out 10.