By Corinna Bechko, Randy Green, and Micahel Atiyeh
In case you’ve never heard of her before, Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, is arguably one of the most important female characters in video games. She stands tall alongside longstanding titans of the medium like Zelda, Peach, and Samus as one of the most enduring female characters the medium has produced. She’s also been plagued with something of a checkered history as a big part of her character popularity sprang from how incredibly sexualized she was, for the time. Nowadays the classic Tomb Raider games just look like an ugly assortment of polygons that vaguely suggest the human body more than anything else, but there’s no getting around that for years she was one of the key video game sex symbols. However, unlike similar women like Rayne or Bayonetta, Lara Croft really didn’t have much definition beyond her sex appeal. That all changed in 2013 when a rebooted game toned down the over titillation of the character and fleshed her out with an actual back-story. That game proved wildly successful and tie-in comics followed naturally. Said comics have so far all been absolutely terrible and Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen is no exception.
Actually ‘terrible’ is a bit too strong a word to describe this comic. It’s not so much bad in the way Dark Horse’s previous Tomb Raider comics have been so much as it is lifeless. The reboot game may have done its darnedest to give Lara Croft a personality and identity beyond just “hot female grave robber”, but basically none of her new identity translates over to this comic, which is a shame. Honestly, the book feels like a bizarre late ‘90s relic that was just accidentally published now. The basic plot is a bizarre sort of synthesis that’s 2 parts Indiana Jones and 1 part Scooby-Doo. After a completely superfluous cold open about Lara saving a friend’s pet, the main story involves her work at the British Museum. The decision to make Lara Croft an actual historian on the legitimate circuit is now and will remain forever baffling. There’s a sense it’s a choice to try to make her more credible, but what it really does is leave her caught in the ‘role model’ trap. This is where a writer feels the need to make-up for past mishandlings of a character or group of people and so believes they can’t show that character as being at all flawed or immoral. While the ‘role model’ trap has been omnipresent since Lara’s reboot it’s most crushingly oppressive in Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen. Its influence goes right up to the title and the fact that they felt “Tomb Raider,” the name of the series, had no place on this comic.
In any event, a priceless artifact has been stolen from the British museum so detective Croft is on the case. It’s pretty dull affair to be sure. As mentioned Lara Croft is too much of a flawless human to really be interesting in her deductions or her quest to capture the culprit. She really doesn’t have much personality at all, she’s just a flesh avatar going through the motions of a hero’s story. Overall, the story feels like it’s trying to play up the whole “Indiana Jones, but a woman” idea that’s been hovering over Croft for a while now and that was a bad call. Partially it was a mistake because “Indiana Jones, but contemporary” is a very dull pitch because you’re draining out all the cool, pulp effects from Indy’s universe. Worse than that, the comic clearly doesn’t get Indiana Jones the character, in that part of why Indy’s so great is that he’s a rough and tumble jerk for whom “archeology” was just a convenient way of saying “grave robber and whip enthusiast.”
The artwork doesn’t help matters. The reboot game may have gone out of its way to tone down the sex appeal in Lara’s design, but here she’s more or less reverted to her old character design. Artist Randy Green also has a bad habit of throwing her into needlessly provocative poses. The cold open of Lara climbing up a cliff side seems to only exist to facilitate peaks down her shirt and throughout the investigations she’s posing strangely. What is far worse however, is her facial expressions. For 90% of her appearances she’s depicted with a look of dull surprise and passivity, she’s basically wearing a neutral mask through the whole comic. Even putting all that aside the artwork is just very dull and boring. The coloring by Michael Atiyeh doesn’t help matters in this respect. The colors constantly look flat and unnatural.
Let’s not mince words here, there’s basically no reason to buy Lara Croft and the Frozen Omen. As a stand-alone story outside the Tomb Raider connection it’s a dull, underwritten adventure story that you’ve seen overdone well before now. It adds nothing to the Tomb Raider mythos and in fact only serves to subtract from the character of Lara Croft, it’s going backwards more than anything else. Worst of all, if you’re just really desperate for more Tomb Raider there’s a new game coming out in just 1 month, save your money and buy that instead.