Despite its many promising elements, “Tomb Raider” #1 is ultimately an unengaging first issue. Writer Mariko Tamaki shows her usual ear for dialogue and artist Phillip Sevy uses a number of interesting layouts, but the subject matter and the structure bog the story down. Unfortunately, the issue just takes too long to establish its stakes and introduce its plot; I wasn’t hooked by the last page. For the long-term outlook, there’s nothing worrying about this creative team, but the series isn’t off to an inviting start.
In all fairness, the dullness is part of the point here. After a rousing first sequence, issue #1 finds Lara at an archaeology conference, wondering to herself, “What am I doing here? In this ridiculous getup?” and doodling during the talks. From there, she’s off to a training session before getting caught up in a murderous plot at the conference. It’s clearly meant to be the lull before the storm, a necessary breather in any storyline, but it makes an odd choice for an opener. I kept waiting for the “why.”
This surprised me, because I generally love the way Tamaki’s scripts let the reader luxuriate and take their time. However, this issue felt simply slow rather than intentionally leisurely. It didn’t get me excited for the arc ahead or give me a real preview of what issue #2 will hold. Worst of all, it didn’t feel very “Tomb Raider.” Lara reads like someone whom adventure finds, rather than someone who seeks it out.
That said, Tamaki does capture some of Lara’s spirit. The reader really sees Lara’s transformation once the game’s afoot. In her interrogation of Professor Demur, she prods and pushes at him with reminders and questions like “So…?” and “Do you have records from your fieldwork?” It’s subtle, but Tamaki and Sevy show the interest lying just under her skepticism. However, there are also some more cliche concepts on hand; when the trainer who is going blind says, “There’s more to fighting than just what you see,” I couldn’t help but remember how many times I’d heard that sort of line before.
Sevy’s artwork is generally fluid, and he does his best to inject energy into the proceedings by mixing up the layout from page-to-page. From precise 9- and 16-panel grids during Lara’s training session to the jumble of different panel shapes during the discovery of a murder, Sevy keeps the reader’s eye moving. His faces are also generally expressive, though Lara kept making the same hand gesture. The colors from Michael Atiyeh are almost always appropriate for the mood, but there were a few pages where they dulled the scene and made the line work look stiffer and less alive. He just needs to add one or two more shades to the characters’ faces at times.
All in all, “Tomb Raider” #1 would be a good middle issue, but it didn’t leave me craving more. Personally, I like a first issue to have a touch of the sales pitch, a promise of what’s to come, and “Tomb Raider” #1 is missing that spark.