Lara Croft’s on-page adventures continue to unfold in the second issue of Tomb Raider: Inferno. After being captured and restrained by Trinity forces in Tomb Raider: Inferno #1, Lara awakes to find herself dangling above a giant tomb, hundreds of feet underground. while Lara fears for her life, her captor, Nadija Katlego, reveals her lengthy backstory as a victim of the Bosnian war and a Trinity spy (of sorts). The rest of the issue delves into Nadija’s search for the “Garden of Eden” and the origin of humanity.
Writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly struggle in this issue. When compared to Tomb Raider: Inferno #1, you can almost hear their labored breathing within every narrating block and dialogue bubble in the comic. Lanzing and Kelly completely abandon the fluid and easy storytelling that comics are known for and replace it with forced, unnatural characterization and plotlines that just don’t work. While there are positive aspects to the issue (Phillip Sevy’s art, for example), much of what Lanzing and Kelly contribute to the series with this issue is unneeded fluff.
Perhaps the most obvious bit of unneeded fluff is the character Nadija Katlego. I don’t dislike the inclusion of Nadija into the story since she seems interesting enough. What I do dislike is the amount of panel-time Nadija’s character takes up. The vast majority of the issue is Nadija’s words and thoughts. The so-called star of the Tomb Raider franchise, Lara Croft, rarely gets a word in. I’m all for introducing new and unique villains but the hero of the series still has to have the spotlight. This is especially important if you have a series like Tomb Raider: Inferno, which is supposed to cater to new fans who are interested in Lara’s story after watching the recent film. There isn’t enough Lara Croft characterization to keep those fans, or even dedicated fans, interested.
The lines Lanzing and Kelly do give Lara are strange and don’t give readers much insight into what she’s thinking. Similarly, much of Nadija’s lines lack the depth that her character is supposed to have. Instead of coming off as poetic and intelligent, she comes across as a little cheesy, which, I know is the opposite of what Lanzing and Kelly had in mind.
The plotline of the “Garden of Eden” and the “Tree of Life” also feel a little ridiculous, though I think that’s because Lanzing and Kelly don’t explain the concepts very well. Nadija talks about it, but her dialogue is so steeped in super-villain undertones that it’s almost difficult to understand. While I think there could be hope for a Tomb Raider storyline about the Garden of Eden, it needs more exposition. This issue needed to elaborate less on Nadija’s origin story and more on the Garden of Eden and what it is.
With all of that being said, the issue isn’t a complete waste of time for the series. Compared to the first issue, Tomb Raider: Inferno #2 has exceedingly better art. Colorist Michael Atiyeh struggles to make skin tones realistic, but line artist Phillip Sevy offers some solid work. His characters’ facial expressions are more natural than they were in the previous issue and his compositions are more creative. Although he didn’t have the best plot to work with, Sevy made the issue a strong visual experience for the reader. In comics, that’s the mark of a good artist.
Tomb Raider: Inferno #2 isn’t the issue this series needs in order to make an impact on the Tomb Raider franchise. Excluding the superior artwork, most of this issue suffers from poor characterization and a misuse of panel time. Tomb Raider: Inferno has a lot of potential. The entire creative team has worked on Tomb Raider comics in the past, which means they should have a firm grasp on Lara’s character. For the rest of the miniseries to be successful, Lanzing and Kelly need to demonstrate that understanding.