By the end of 2013's Tomb Raider, Lara Croft escaped the island of Yamatai with three friends: the gregarious cook, Jonah, the taciturn Reyes, and her best-and-frequently-damseled friend, Sam. The absence of some of those characters in Rise of the Tomb Raider was felt by our reviewer, Phil Kollar, but luckily, I, your friendly comics correspondent, am here to help.
Or, more precisely, the 18-issue comics series Tomb Raider, co-written by head Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider writer Rhianna Pratchett, is here to fill in the gaps.
Premiering in early 2014 and running through to summer 2015, Tomb Raider followed Lara Croft's adventures after the events of 2013's Tomb Raider game. Written by Pratchett and Gail Simone — a comics writer known for her work on titles like Batgirl, Birds of Prey, Red Sonja and Secret Six — it was explicitly intended to bridge the story between the two games.
So before you sit down to your Xbox to crack open Rise of the Tomb Raider, we thought you might like to know what happened in those comics. Or if you just need something to tide you over until the console exclusivity is up and you can actually play it on your own machine, you could always buy the books from Dark Horse (In three trade paperback editions, the last of which is out this week) or digitally from Comixology.com.
Without further preamble, let's talk about Tomb Raider (the comic, not the game).
Six weeks after their ill-fated detour on the Island of Yamatai, Lara and her friends Sam, Jonah and Reyes find their lives threatened by a group of sinister cultists who worship the Solarii. That is, they're a bunch of people who don't think they're worthy of worshiping Queen Himiko, the ancient weather-goddess ruler of Yamatai, directly. Instead, they worship her island servants, most notably Mathias, the main villain of 2013's Tomb Raider.
They take the easiest route to getting Lara's attention: They kidnap Sam
Lara's friends reveal that they each brought a gold artifact back from Yamatai with them, and that Lara told them to take them, that they deserved the items for their "ordeal." Lara doesn't remember saying anything like that, or taking an artifact herself, even though there is one in her apartment, but she admits that between stress and the many strange things she saw on Yamatai, she might not have been in her right mind.
However the artifacts wound up in their possession, the Solarii-worshippers need them, and Lara's blood, in order to resurrect Mathias. So they take the easiest route to getting Lara's attention: They kidnap Sam and drag her back to Yamatai. Lara follows with the artifacts in hand, and with the help of Jonah and Reyes, defeats the cultists, rescues Sam and leaves Yamatai behind for a second time.
Also, it turns out that one of Lara's father's old colleagues orchestrated the whole thing — including planting the artifacts and messing with people's heads — so that he could get the cultists and Lara in one place to make sure that all the people with the power to indirectly resurrect Queen Himiko could conveniently be killed.
But more importantly, while on Yamatai, Lara had a vision of Alex, the tech who died blowing up the Endurance so that Lara could escape during 2013's Tomb Raider. In the vision, a clearly dead and decaying Alex gave Lara a pocket watch and asked her to deliver it to his sister. Even though the encounter is clearly a hallucination, it is later revealed that Lara did come back from Yamatai with a watch inscribed to Alex's father, from him and his sister Kaz.
Alex's sister, Kaz, is hard to find, hiding in the Ukranian city of Pripyat, which has been abandoned since the Chernobyl disaster.Kaz knows too much about a mysterious and powerful organization called Trinity, which has already killed her wife. In Pripyat, she is fiercely if not particularly effectively guarded by her mother-in-law and three brothers-in-law.
The story involves Lara fighting assassins in the London Underground while wearing Regency-era dress
Lara happens to show up at the same time as a Trinity hitman known as Mr. Cruz. In the end, Cruz barely escapes with his life, but only after killing nearly all of Kaz's family and destroying their home. This is our first hint of the existence of Trinity, which, as you may know from our review, is the main antagonist force of Rise of the Tomb Raider. We get even more hints in what happens when Kaz returns home to London with Lara.
After her return, Jonah ropes Lara into performing in his amateur theater production of Pride and Prejudice! And after she scares off the lead actress by aggressively handling a couple of muggers, she's got to take the lead role despite her inability to memorize lines and severe stage fright.
This is a for real thing that happens, and it's probably the best story in the whole series. Because the other half of the story involves Lara Croft fighting assassins in the London Underground while wearing Regency-era dress.
Trinity sends Auger Ramile, a ruthless killer with terminal cancer, to eliminate Kaz and Lara. But, after watching Lara take care of those muggers, Ramile refuses to finish the job out of respect for her ruthlessness. Toothless, severely burned and under treatment for radiation exposure, Mr. Cruz claws his way out of a hospital bed to do the deed himself.
This arc is where we get our first glimpses of Trinity as anything other than a mysterious force, though what we find out is still relatively vague. In his commentary on London, Mr. Cruz seems to take a particularly antiquated view of humanity, with Christian overtones.
On the night of the final dress rehearsal, Lara gets a note indicating that Cruz has kidnapped Kaz and she dashes out to the tracks of the London underground to rescue her friend, in full period dress. Ramile appears, and helps Lara kill Cruz and his two henchmen.
Once all the fighting has died down, Ramile predicts that Lara will take his place in Trinity, offering to teach, train and mentor her. "You know what you are, Lara Croft. A killer stone cold. I see it in your eyes. I feel it. You think you kill to survive, but you kill because it is in your nature." When she refuses his offer, he stands in front of an oncoming train.
Then, Lara conquers her stage fright and performs as Elizabeth Bennet in Jonah's show. Don't tell me that isn't the perfect ending.
Lara and friends head to Mexico when it appears that a bandit group called Las Serpientes Que Caminan (The Snakes That Walk) are holding Angus "Grim" Grimaldi hostage, with the ransom set at $5 million.
Yes, that's the same Grim who Lara definitely saw fall off a cliff in Yamatai.
Even if she wanted to, Lara can't pay the ransom: Her mother's brother is the executor of the Croft estate, and will only give her her inheritance if he deems her "fit" to take on the responsibility. Her constant globe-hopping into dangerous situations has not inspired his confidence.
And so, Lara and friends sneak to southern Mexico, under cover as a documentary film crew looking for the chupacabra.
It's around this time that Sam begins to have strange mood swings, memory lapses, and fainting spells, throwing herself into the ocean as a freak storm rises and dissipates as soon as she hits the water. Though she hasn't told anyone, she's been having visions of herself as Queen Himiko.
Captured while infiltrating Las Serpientes' camp, Lara is brought before their leader, the Queen of the Serpents, Leticia Cortez. Leticia reveals that she knew Lara's father when they were both young, which was why she assumed that Lara would be a good mark for ransom money in the first place. Leticia apologizes for attempting to ransom Grim from Lara without realizing that she didn't have control of her father's fortune ... and then imprisons Lara along with him, planning to ransom Lara to her friends.
It becomes immediately clear how Grim could have survived Yamatai and wound up in Mexico: The man in the Serpientes' prison isn't Grim. Instead, it's Grim's identical twin brother Cuddy Grimaldi. After Grim's death, Cuddy had inherited his boat and his cats. Then the accountant had set off for a small adventure of his own in his daring brother's memory, and was picked up by Las Serpientes off the coast of Mexico.
Cuddy and Lara escape Las Serpientes' camp in his boat and reunite with Sam, Kaz and Jonah.
Throughout the series Lara continues to have nightmares about Yamatai and Himiko. After Mexico, where she killed a man for the first time, Sam's mood swings worsen, and her relationship with Lara deteriorates until the two friends are barely talking. Sam hasn't told anyone about her visions of Himiko. Still feeling emotionally unstable after her experiences on Yamatai, Lara considers seeing a therapist ... but considers running off on another crazy trip to the ass-end of the earth even harder.
Sam is arrested for assault, but — like her earlier episodes — she can't remember anything about the incident, and due to her violent behavior while being arrested, her bail is denied. She refuses to speak to Lara in prison after Lara admits that she might be going away, screaming at her to go.
On the brink of leaving for another trip, Lara resolves instead to stay, and to write an account of what happened to the crew of the Endurance on the Island of Yamatai as a way of processing it. The repercussions from the publication of that account can be seen early — subtly — in Rise of the Tomb Raider.