Indie Comics Spotlight- Tomb Raider, Shadows of Oblivion and One-Hit Wonder
By Jonathan Pilley (@omnicomic)
Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Guilt #1
“We found Yamatai. But we lost most everything else.”
Lara Croft is one of the most enduring icons in pop culture today. She burst onto the scene way back in 1996 with tons of publicity and heralding a new age in lead characters. Almost countless games later, Crystal Dynamics recently decided to reboot the franchise and offer her a fresh start in Tomb Raider, a critically acclaimed return to roots for her and the franchise. Dark Horse is picking up that reboot torch and running with it in Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Guilt #1. The issue is written by Gail Simone, penciled by Nicolás Daniel Selma, inked by Juan Gedeon and colored by Michael Atiyeh.
Following the events of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is wracked with survivor’s guilt following her expedition to Yamatai, an island in the Dragon’s Triangle off the coast of Japan. She ventured there on the Endurance, yet what her and the crew experienced was something both mysterious and horrifying, leading to the loss of some lives. This engenders survivor’s guilt in Lara, fighting to live her life after those harrowing events. As it turns out, she’s not the only one faced with a daily routine that’s almost a chore and when you mix in a crazy natural phenomenon, things clearly aren’t going to be easy for Lara ever again.
It felt somewhat inevitable that Simone would make her way to the Tomb Raider property and she brings her unique touch to the work. Lara Croft is portrayed in line with her reboot, which makes sense because the book picks up where the game leaves off. Having said that, it’s not required that the reader play the game beforehand, but it does help as it provides a ton of context for what Lara’s going through. She’s somewhat shattered and not really knowing why leaves the reader at something of a disadvantage in relating to her troubles. It’s also a little odd to see Lara in what appears to be an apartment, considering she comes from extreme wealth and pomp. The story moves along quickly enough, with Lara seeking to reconcile the events on the island with the remaining survivors, despite the clear supernatural influences that seems to have followed them back.
Illustratively, the book looks a lot like Archer. Selma, Gedeon and Atiyeh combine to present characters who are accented by strong, black outlines that prompt the characters to stand out–almost a little too much. There’s little attention to detail in the backgrounds, but the characters look sufficiently broken as a result of the events on Yamatai. There are some good panel layouts throughout the book for the action, most of which help the book read almost like an in-game cinematic of sorts. Some of the character designs look a little too rigid, which makes the action seem to fall on the robotic end of the kinetic spectrum.
Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Guilt #1 is primarily going to be popular among those who played Tomb Raider. It picks up directly after the ending of that and is rumored to be leading directly into a sequel. Simone effectively maintains the redefined Lara’s persona throughout the book and really emphasizes the chilling effects the Endurance expedition had on the crew. The art is very character focused and does a great job showing off those characters, even if there are some panels where it feels they’re just sort of floating in space. Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Guilt #1 is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the franchise, but if you haven’t played the game you might not really get the full gravity of the story it’s telling.
Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Guilt #1 is in stores now.
Shadows of Oblivion: Better Days One-Shot
“You’re such a ninja wannabe.”
We all need saving sometimes. Not all of us though are afforded the luxury of having a very capable ninja and equally capable hacker teaming up to save us, let alone have the story told to others. It’s all good clean fun in Shadows of Oblivion: Better Days One-Shot. The one-shot is written and illustrated by Shawn McCauley.
The first story is called “Rescue” and it pursues the challenge faced by Cerberus trying to save Warangel. He’s accompanied by Gear, the tech wiz with a penchant for zingers and breaking through security systems. The second story is called “Gear,” giving readers a look at how exciting the aforementioned tech wiz’s life actually is. Both stores are set during the “better days” of the clan, years before the events of issue zero tore everything apart. Back when there were still heroes, and the line between good and evil was clean cut.
McCauley’s writing is very fast-paced and moves at an impressive clip. He doesn’t spend too much time giving the reader much background information on the characters; instead, he assumes you’ve already read the other books in the series or just want some good clean fun. Having said that, he still manages to show off a lot of the relevant characters through the actions and dialogue, really giving new readers a good grasp of the Shadows of Oblivion universe. That isn’t to say he clobbers the reader over the head with the characters either; in fact, the real selling point of the book might be the really clean art. From a broader standpoint though, it would’ve been refreshing had McCauley switched the roles in the first story; that is, have Warangel save Cerberus for instance.
Handling the art and writing duties probably gives McCauley something of an advantage, as he can more innately put to paper what his words conceive of. That is to say, his art really matches exactly what he’s going for visually since he’s the one thinking it up. The black and white illustrations add a different feel as well, something that actually works in the book’s favor and makes it that much more enjoyable to read. Characters are illustrated with anime sensibilities, including male characters who are extremely buff and female characters who are both vivacious and not afraid to show it. He also doesn’t show an aversion to using varied panel layouts, providing looks that are staggered and keep the action moving along at a good pace.
Shadows of Oblivion: Better Days One-Shot is a pretty lighthearted comic, thanks in part to its characters, but also thanks to the writing and art. McCauley clearly has a well-defined universe to play in and if you’ve read others in that universe, the one-shot will definitely mean a lot more to you. Barring that, the book still moves along briskly enough and gives characters that new readers can easily grab onto, making it a very interesting read for just about anyone really. There are some sexual overtones throughout the book that are primarily advanced through the appearance of the female characters though. A book worth checking out if you’re looking for something slightly off-kilter in a way and not really afraid to be humorous.
Shadows of Oblivion: Better Days One-Shot is available now via Comixology.
One-Hit Wonder #1
“That’s the idea doc…that’s the idea!”
Childhood actors get a lot of grief for all their troubles. Sure, they typically bring in ratings for their respective shows, but Hollywood has a way of chewing them up and spitting them out. Image Comics has a book that offers a slight twist on that story in One-Hit Wonder #1. The issue is written by Fabrice Sapolsky, illustrated by Ariel Olivetti, bonus art by Jean-Marie Minguez and lettered by The Wolfpack.
Like most child actors turned adults, Richie Reese is sitting on a therapist’s couch, talking about what it likes to be famous. Their session plays out like a script in a bad movie, up to the point where Richie pulls a gun on his therapist. That’s where the fiction ends and fact begins, as Richie pulls out a gun and shoots the therapist. From there, he’s tasked with another mission that involves killing a woman who’s a triple agent and working with the Feds to expose Charlie, Richie’s agent and handler.
Sapolsky’s premise starts off in a very interesting way, with a former child star upset that the audience has forgotten who he is. His subsequent killing spree is very much a reaction to that void and he manages to be very good at it. The thing is that talent comes with excessive hubris, prompting him to spout some really cheesy one-liners and interact with dialogue that’s pretty outrageous. Tapping into that zaniness is some pretty ridiculous action sequences, one of which is highlighted by rockets being fired from a car. The story feels a little trite and almost a little meta when it comes to Hollywood, as it seems to handle Hollywood as almost a satire of itself. That could be by design, but by and large the story just comes across as pretty vapid in the end.
Olivetti’s illustrations are very photorealistic and a little unnerving. The characters look about as fake as their personalities, but they do manage to effectively convey the action. Richie always looks angry, which could be a reality for him all things considered. Some of the characters have difficulty conveying the proper emotion, primarily because every character seems to show the same facial expression regardless of the situation. The art also feels a little detached from the story, as the script feels like it’s on one level and the art is on another level. There are quite a few pages with panels stacked one upon the other, some of which are a little busy to the reader’s eye.
One-Hit Wonder #1 is a book that is aiming to achieve something grander than what the story is actually about. It seems to be satirizing the Hollywood, starlet culture, but the characters and story come across as a lot less intelligent than that. Sapolsky spins Richie as a psychopath plain and simple, even if he’s hiding behind a motivation of rebelling against that same society that’s obsessed with him. Olivetti’s art is consistent throughout the book and harnesses a look similar to that found in photographs. One-Hit Wonder #1 will likely turn off a lot of readers because of the excess of violence, but even beyond that, the story doesn’t quite seem to live up to its own lofty expectations.
One-Hit Wonder #1 is in stores now.