Having finally made it home safe from the island of Yamatai, Lara Croft's life has far from returned to normal between her constant nightmares and a deadly new threat. Gail Simone, Nicolas Daniel Selma and Juan Gedeon explore the consequences of her and her friends' close encounter with the supernatural in "Tomb Raider" #1, throwing Lara into a new adventure right off the bat. In true "Tomb Raider" tradition, the series gets an action-packed start and runs with it for a strong and dramatic debut.
Simone had a fine line to walk with the launch of this particular series; helming the spinoff title of a rebooted popular gaming franchise is no easy feat, after all. However, she manages to do so with a certain poise and grace that creates a compelling story for new readers as well as fans of the franchise. Using a flashback to the island as a natural segue between the game and the book, she presents an efficient yet succinct recap of the game's plot to situate new readers in Lara's world; yet Lara gets only this brief respite before getting thrown right back into the action, with new danger that is only loosely based in the events of the game (so far). The issue slows down just long enough to directly engage a new audience, but not so much so as to detract from the quick pace. Although an acquaintance with the game is beneficial, it's certainly not a requirement, and that's a fantastic way to shape this book.
What's more, this particular scene builds an atmosphere that's wonderfully ominous and suspenseful, while packing in some strong character moments that effectively flesh out a few personalities and relationships. The narrative hiccups a little with an opening sequence that's just a tad too long and some confusing dialogue out of Lara's guide Ray, but this hardly registers in the grander scheme of the story.
Nicolas Daniel Selma and Juan Gedeon take the book in a great new direction with their chosen style. Opting for a much more cartoony look, they disregard the painstaking realism of the game, but that only works in the issue's favor; this way, the book gets its own unique voice while maintaining its older gaming roots. With its thick dark inks and a sparing use of shading, no term suits the art better than the word "clean," culminating in an overall aesthetically pleasing effect. Additionally, their layouts are simply stunning. Using a flat white background, they position the panels in a fluid, dynamic way that -- again -- could only be described as clean; this comes across with spectacular effect in scenes like the very beginning, where the panels cascade down the page as Lara falls. As lovely and simple as the art is, however, the style does have its drawbacks; the visual cues and foreshadowing are a bit heavy handed, as with the mark on Sam's arm, and a few details look out of place, like the wrinkles on Ray's face. Michael Atiyeh only improves upon Selma and Gedeon's work, populating Lara's world with some truly gorgeous color that pops against the white backgrounds and blends well with the heavy inks.
Simone, Selma and Gedeon's "Tomb Raider" brings Lara Croft back to comics with a gripping, fast-paced new story. With a clear voice and style, this debut issue is both visually stunning and fun. Fans new and old will enjoy the latest chapter in Lara's story.