It’s never a guarantee, when you’re interviewing new creatives on an old franchise, that they’ll have a personal connection with the work that’s come before — but the moment that Polygon asked writers Jackson Lanzing and Collin Kelly and artist Ashley A. Woods about their experience with Tomb Raider, the three began talking about their love of the game.
Not quite all of them had played the original Tomb Raider games, but they had all found the Crystal Dynamics’ reboot to be incredibly compelling, for its more “grounded” take, it’s tightly engineered level design and it’s more “emotionally honest” characters. In fact, Lanzing and Kelly were both in the middle of playing Rise of the Tomb Raider when they got the call to pitch on a new Tomb Raider comic.
Starting this November, the ongoing story of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot will continue in their four-issue miniseries, Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade, published by Dark Horse Comics. The three are hoping to deliver a unique story to Tomb Raider fans, and hopefully set up some of the questions that will be answered in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the as-yet-undated followup to Rise.
Warning: The rest of this post may contain spoilers for Rise of the Tomb Raider.
Coming out of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara has discovered the ancient, global, conspiratorial order of Trinity; met a man who had developed immortality; and realized that her father’s suicide was actually a murder. A lot of what she thought she knew about her own past has been significantly undermined.
And that’s the emotional place that Lanzing, Kelly and Woods want to focus on with Lara.
Lanzing said they were trying not to simply make another adventure where “Lara kills some stuff with a bow and arrow ... and instead trying to [make] a book about what Lara goes through when she finds herself driven so hard that she becomes a danger to herself.”
“She falls down, she gets battered, she gets beaten,” Kelly said, “and she always gets back up. And in a game, that just makes a lot of sense, that’s how a game hero works. But when you start to think of that as ‘No, that’s how she lives her life’ — that kind of lifestyle leads to a certain kind of mentality. And that mentality is what we really wanted to bring into the comics.”
In their comic, Lara finds herself getting some satisfaction in killing, though she’s not exactly happy about it — she’s struggling to maintain her humanity after all she’s been through and seen.
“I remember I sent in a key page and the initial note was ‘We need more bodies, littered [around],’” Woods recalled. “So I was like ‘OK, I’m gonna give you some bodies.’ I remember I think I put five or six bodies in the scene. And then the note that I got back from the game studio was ‘Well we don’t want to make her into a mass murderer.’”
“That is an ongoing conversation about Lara,” Lanzing agreed, as all three began to laugh.
“It’s a fine line,” Woods said.
“It is!” Lanzing exclaimed, “Because you look at at the games, she’s using arrows, she’s using guns, she’s using a climbing axe...”
“They’re not sleep arrows!” Kelly interjected.
“These are lethal weapons,” Lanzing continued. “This is not a person who is pulling her punches. But at the same time she’s not driven to murder, right? It’s all to survive. It all comes from a place of needing to get through no matter what. The Lara that we’re writing is the one who’s come out of that survival scenario and she’s still on her crusade. And in that sense she is starting to tack a little bit to the side of being a hunter, not being a tomb raider.”
Polygon asked if they were saying that Lara might be losing control. “Yeah,” Lanzing answered. “A little bit,” Kelly said. “A little bit,” Woods agreed.
In addition to deep revelations about the nature of the world and her place in it, Survivor’s Crusade will also feature the return of Lara’s stalwart adventuring companion, Jonah, who will provide some valuable perspective for her — whether or not she listens to it before jetting off on another globe-trotting adventure.
Kelly and Lanzing agreed that some of their favorite work on the miniseries was finding locations for Lara to explore and sending Woods tons of photo reference and research. Woods said that Kelly and Lanzing incorporated those visual references in with the script, creating almost a picture book for her to work from.
The first of those locations will be Cinque Terre, a series of five isolated villages along the Italian riviera. The first is reachable by train, but the rest must be hiked to or visited by boat.
Lanzing explained that Cinque Terre is in some ways a metaphor for Lara. It’s a person who is beautiful and vibrant and when you put her with her friends ...”
“And she’s on the edge,” Woods interjected, jokingly, explaining that much of the villages are built in terraces on ocean-side cliffs.
Lanzing continued: “But we’re showing you that on the edge of her there is something much deeper and much darker that she is starting to explore in this book.”
Lara will discover something secret and ancient beneath Cinque Terre that will set her on her journey. Issue #2 will take place in Thailand and #3 will follow her as she visits a slew of locations across the world, exploring her own past. And research and reference was clearly a core part of the team’s work on the series.
“We are not going in and saying here’s the serial-numbers-filed-off-version of an ancient culture,” Lanzing said. “Instead what we’re saying is, here’s the real world, here are places you go — if you want to go discover an ancient tomb in Thailand, they’re there, you can go. You won’t be the first person in, but you can go. The tomb she goes into, we’re not making it up. We’re going to elaborate on it, but there’s aspects of it that are very real. So, too, is every place that she goes in Issue #3. Those are real places that you can go to and you can encounter the way that she did. Cinque Terre is there.”
Lanzing characterized that decision as going right along with the nature of the fantastic elements of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider games.
“It’s not that there’s magic,’ he said, “it’s that there’s science that we do not understand. It’s that there’s a world of possibility that we don’t understand but that it’s right underneath the world that we know. And we’re always trying to tack that line.”
Tomb Raider: Survivor’s Crusade #1 will hit shelves on Nov. 22, 2017, with cover art by Hannah Fisher.