Comics, Gender, Reviews, Sexism

Tomb Raider Archives: A Powerful Relic in the Wrong Hands

Tomb Raider Archives Vol. 3

James Bonny, Dan Slott (Writers), Tony Daniel, Jonathan Sibal, Tyson Wengler, Romano Molenaar, Wilson Tortosa, Edwin David, Michael Choi, Joe Weems, Ryan Winn, Jay Leisten, Eric Basaldua, Leonard Kirk, Sal Regla, Francis Manapul, Kevin Conrad (Artists)
Dark Horse Comics
October 18, 2017

Tomb Raider Archives Vol. 3 is probably the best collection of Tomb Raider comics going… from a certain perspective. If, like me, you prefer adult Lady Croft, a pre-reboot vision of the character (with caveats, naturally), then this is the book for you. The book.

TOMB RAIDER ARCHIVES VOLUME 3 HC, Dark Horse via Top Cow via Core Eidos

Yes, it’s a problem that pre-reboot Croft comics were made entirely by men. But what can I do? Men defined her rebirth too, if they don’t write her newer comics.

The bulk of this collection is written by James Bonny. On Dark Horse’s website the volume is writer-credited to Dan Slott, which is a shame as well as an injustice—a more bankable name, maybe, but Slott wrote only one issue to Bonny’s fourteen (he wrote nineteen issues in all, but this volume misses his first four) and it is absolutely the worst of the bunch. Slott’s story comes last, a kind of epilogue set in the far-future, and I wish it hadn’t. Full of “meta” jokes (ha ha Tomb Raider was a video game!) about breasts (POLYGONS HAW HAW) and voyeurism, and the male protagonist of the latter half makes sexual jokes about Lara despite… being her great-great-grandson. Because she makes you think about her that way, amirite, lads?? Ha Ha Ha? No. This, I do not entertain. Leave my Lady be.

Screen Shot TOMB RAIDER ARCHIVES VOLUME 3 HC, Dark Horse.com

Bonny’s scripts take both the character and the concept appropriately seriously. Though the artists he works with do lean towards undercutting the good feeling I get from his scripted respect for Lara’s agency, his plots, character machinations and internal monologues give her the self-determination and fearlessness one would expect from an Adventurer and allows them to be believable. He gives Croft personal fears and vulnerabilities that aren’t allowed to diminish or enfeeble her. He breathes blessed nuance into an unbending thrill seeker, and keeps her adventures exciting.

Tomb Raider Archives is a Dark Horse release of comics that Top Cow (Marc Silvestri’s Image studio imprint) first published with a license from Core/Eidos in the years bracketing the millennium. Volume 3 covers 2003-2004; earlier comics in the series, though readable and interesting as products of their time, are not as good as these later issues. Bonny is really the magic ingredient, though a story set in Ireland shows how well a rotational cast of illustrators could have served the series if editorial had been really devoted to producing a fascinating product instead of a serviceable one. Wilson Tortosa and Tyson Wengler’s art partnership produces people and places that always look wet, and often aren’t meant to be. The Tower of Souls arc, lasting two issues, is set in a dank old castle in the pouring rain, rotten corpses occasionally lurching about. Perfect! Ideal! For once the slickness is appropriate instead of hornily mismatched (though the costumes could have still used some work). Proper aesthetic thematics, tonal changes between secret environments of different cultures and climates—a real leaning-in to the excitements of the archaeological adventure genre—would have been, along with a genuine commitment to non-objectification of our heroine, the crowning glory of a dashing, active read.