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Welcome back superhero enthusiasts, 1990s culture enthusiasts and comic book collectors! Today we go back to 1999 which was the year when the wildly popular Tomb Raider video game franchise made its debut in comic books handled by Top Cow Productions with Image Comics as publisher.
To put things in perspective, Tomb Raider started as a video game in 1996 which astounded millions of gamers worldwide resulting in huge sales for game publisher Eidos Interactive. This, of course, led to sequels which impacted console gaming and established Lara Croft as a video gaming and pop culture icon. From 1996 to 1999, Eidos Interactive released one new Tomb Raider game on consoles selling many millions of copies. Given the tremendous video game success achieved, Tomb Raider’s expansion into the comic book industry was inevitable.
With those details laid down, here is a look back at Tomb Raider #1, published in 1999 by Image Comics with a story written by Dan Jurgens and drawn by Andy Park.
The story begins in Iran, a nation that remains hostile to Westerners due to their government being led by fundamentalists with vested interest in terrorism. Two vehicles arrived at a very laid back town and immediately several armed men forcibly unmask the local women searching for a certain Westerner.
One Iranian soldier approaches a lady clothed and masked in black. Upon unmasking the said lady, the Iranian soldier discovers a lady from the West…the Tomb Raider herself – Lara Croft – wearing an extravagant looking necklace. The Iranian soldier puts his gun on Lara’s face and demands she takes the necklace off.
Lara Croft answers by firing her two guns at the Iranian soldiers hitting some while also forcing other soldiers to run away. Knowing she has to get out of Iran, Lara runs away from the soldiers and gets into a jeep forcing the man to drive the vehicle and move away. As the jeep moves out of the town, a truck full of enemy soldiers chases them…
To get straight to the point, this comic book debut of Tomb Raider and its iconic Lara Croft was clearly written to build up the initial concept the creative team came up with for the series. That being said, Dan Jurgens came up with the clever move to make Lara’s literary introduction action-packed and fast-paced, and his portrayal of Iran remains highly relevant to this day. Lara’s debut is a lively portrayal of the icon’s bravery, determination and special talent on acquiring treasure or items of tremendous value.
In relation to what I stated earlier, the rest of the comic book is a detailed build-up for Lara’s next mission which shows how she deals with powerful clients and why she still accepts million-dollar tasks even though she inherited her family’s huge wealth. While there is a lot of build-up and some exposition here and there, the script by Jurgens is not a bore Jurgens captured Lara Croft’s personality well and there is a good amount of spectacle that balanced well with the wordy exposition that came with the story build-up.
On the art, Andy Park’s work here is pretty good to look at. His visual take of Lara Croft does not involve realism at all as he gave her a look that make her look familiar with how women in comic books looked like in the 1990s. Park clearly is aware of Lara’s iconic status which explains his implementation of dynamism on the action scenes and the unexpected turnout of events that involved her. Still related to the protagonist’s iconic status, it is unsurprising to see Park show off Lara as a sexy action hero dedicated on her risky work.
As it was the debut issue of a monthly series, Tomb Raider #1 (1999) served its purpose to build up the comic book vision the creators came up with while managing to introduce Lara Croft in her illustrated literature form complete with enough pages of action and spectacle. Even though there is no grand event, this is still an entertaining comic book to read and its build-up never created a single boring moment. By the time I reached the end of this comic book, I got to familiarize myself with literary Lara Croft and more importantly, I got interested enough with this small showcase of what Jurgens and Park prepared. I got interested enough to find out what happens next.
Overall, Tomb Raider #1 (1999) is recommended.
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