By: Adam Basciano
“In this prelude to the exciting new entry in the Tomb Raider video game saga, lead game writer Rhianna Pratchett reveals the untold story behind Lara Croft’s earliest adventure. Join Lara and the crew of the Endurance as they prepare for a thrilling journey to uncover the lost kingdom of Yamatai. For over fifteen years, the Tomb Raider adventures have been some the most enduring and popular in the world of video games. Now, Lara Croft’s bold new re-imagining is further explored by some of comics’ most talented creators in this exclusive volume.” (Dark Horse)
I haven’t played a Tomb Raider game in decades. I remember enjoying the ones I did play though. I don’t care what anybody says; I really liked the two films that starred Angelina Jolie. With the game franchise recently rebooted a couple years ago, and a film reboot days away, I thought now would be a good time to get back into the franchise. Before I play the new games and before the new film comes out, I thought I’d check out her comic book adventures. Luckily for me, Dark Horse published this book that takes place before the game. Unluckily for me, and unfortunately for every person who’s already read this, it is the most boring graphic novel in all my years of reading comic books.
That’s not hyperbole on my part, it’s straight up fact. There is no adventure present in this book whatsoever. All you’ll really get in this book is essentially the ship crew of the Endurance preparing for a journey in the hopes they will uncover the lost kingdom of Yamatai. One of the positives of this book is that on a crew where ¾ of the people only care about making a hit reality TV show, Lara Croft actually gives a crap about the archeological significance of potentially finding this lost kingdom. We also get a sense of her father’s fame in the world of archaeology, and that Lara desperately wants to make her own way in the field, and carve out a legacy all her own.
There are two particularly interesting characters in this book. One is Captain Conrad Roth, a former Royal Marine and now commander of the Endurance. The flash backs and story about his mission and capture in Somalia, and how he got free, was one of the more intriguing subplots of the book. As to, was the character of Joslin Reyes and her flashback, featuring her partner getting killed in a bust of a drug den. She vows to get revenge for her partner and his family, and once she does, she quits and then takes a job as a ship mechanic upon meeting Conrad Roth. I thought it was great that the story highlighted two characters with interesting back stories, but those stories accounted for about 5 pages of a 48 page story. However, when the story promises to be the untold story of Lara Croft, but she does basically nothing in the story, Tomb Raider: The Beginning has to be considered a failure and a letdown.
The art for Tomb Raider: The Beginning is handled by two artists who do half the book equally. Nicolas Daniel Selma and Andrea Mutti are the artists. Their styles are quite similar that the switch isn’t overtly noticeable. The art is enjoyable and really well drawn for the most part. If I had to pick a favorite of the two artists, I’d pick Nicolas Daniel Selma. His art is more consistent, and out of the two artists, he draws a better Lara Croft. Both artists are capable of drawing an action scene as evidenced by the Somalia flashback and the drug bust shoot out. However, this was a rarity in the book because a large portion of it featured imagery of characters standing around talking. The best piece of art in this book is the cover. Brian Horton’s work looks stunning, and is a perfect match for the aesthetic of the game; I wish the entire book had been drawn like this.
I was so excited to read Tomb Raider: The Beginning, but in the end was largely underwhelmed. This book is the epitome of a cash grab tie in. While I am not opposed to such things, I do get upset when they are done poorly, which is most certainly the case here. If you’ve been away from the Tomb Raider franchise, and want to read this to get back into the swing of things, like I did…..DON’T! I’m sure you can glean all the pertinent information you need from cinematic scenes in the game, and by actually playing the game yourself. Despite my negative reaction to this book, I will read the subsequent comic book that followed this. I’ve been assured that it is much better then what I read here. So here’s hoping my next Tomb Raider comic book review and the forthcoming film will be a positive experience.