I have 7 different covers for the 1999 Top Cow Tomb Raider #1. I’ve maybe played a Tomb Raider game once? Maybe? But for some reason I went all in on this thing, all the basic variants plus some retailer exclusives, including, and it doesn’t get any more 90’s than this, a gold foil Tower Records variant.
I have the preview book, the #0 issue, two copies of the Wizard ½ issue! All told, between the numbers zero and one I managed to amass 13 “different” issues of Tomb Raider.
I stuck with that series for a little over a year. Written by Dan Jurgens with most of the art by Andy Park, I bailed in the teens and then checked back in briefly when John Ney Rieber took over in the twenties. After that, according to my long box, I gave up the ghost.
I’m telling you all this to give you a frame of reference; I’m a guy who’s never played the games, laughed off the movies, but for some reason the basic Tomb Raider concept is attractive to me in comic form. So I was pretty excited about this Dark Horse launch; a concept I liked, in a back to basics approach, spinning out of a well-received game and written by Gail Simone, who’s responsible for Secret Six and my favorite run on Deadpool.
I wanted to like this book.
But I have come away underwhelmed.
This Tomb Raider features a 21 year old Lara Croft, haunted by the deaths of crewmembers on a previous expedition. Without revealing much more Lara gets a call from one of the other survivors and goes running to the States. Once there she finds her friend has gone nuts and some weird clues tie back to that doomed voyage. I don’t want to say much more, but if you’re bound and determined to pick the book up, know that there is at least one surprise in the latter half that leads to a sort of decent action sequence.
Unfortunately the rest of the book doesn’t fare as well. Between story and art Tomb Raider treads in nothing but familiar waters. There’s a dream sequence involving Lara being attacked by her former, dead, shipmates, there’s a sketchy old guy who’d like to get in Lara’s pants, and a friend who denies having the same creepy dreams but is clearly screwed up. The art (pencils by Nicolas Daniel Selma, inks by Juan Gedeon) is spare, not overly inked, but the figures come off looking stiff and posed. Whenever Lara is running or jumping there is no sense of motion, it looks like a picture of someone fake running cut and pasted on a scene. Speed lines abound in an effort to give the figures some weight and presence in their environment but it doesn’t work. The coloring (Michael Atiyeh) is flat and really ruins any sense of depth the pages might have. Backgrounds are spare and lightly detailed. The creepy old guy has a kind of funny line but then he repeats it a page later for no apparent reason, ruining it. There’s really no other humor in the book. Lara, as a character on the page is less than nothing; she’s haunted by loss and would do anything to help her friends. What depth. I understand that she’s young and inexperienced but give me something, some kind of intelligence or confidence or even a smart mouth. Most of her dialogue is reactions or questions, a lot of “We have to talk” and “What’s going on here?” Even her narration is bland.
You know, the more I write the more I dislike this book.
I’m gonna go read the 1999 Top Cow #1.
Well that was a lot better.
A T&A cash in book from Top Cow. Seven variants for issue one. But at least it had some energy! The art was detailed; the coloring was bright and fun! Lara came off smart, competent, sarcastic. There’s a faithful butler, some rich asshole throwing his weight around, opening sequence has Lara jump out of a speeding Jeep off a cliff to grab onto a waiting helicopter! And way more dense than Dark Horse Tomb Raider!
Now, to be fair, Top Cow Tomb Raider does feature an excessive amount of breasts. Just any excuse for Lara to wear a crop top or a bikini. Dark Horse Tomb Raider more believably puts a woman looking for her plutonic friend in an inhospitable desert environment in loose khaki pants and a t-shirt. Not even a super short t-shirt! Top Cow Lara would have probably searched the desert in Daisy Dukes and a ripped bra. And then she would have found an oasis and taken that small amount of clothing off to get in the water and then her nipples would have been obscured by a convenient palm frond.
Sometimes shit from the 90’s writes itself.
So Dark Horse Tomb Raider has that going for it, it’s not as stereotypically sexually offensive as one might expect. The problem here is that’s all it’s got. Everything else is bland; from art to dialogue to colors. My suggestion? Pass on this one. If you really need Tomb Raider comics, some guy has the first nine Top Cow issues for .99 on eBay.