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Tomb Raider King Vol. #01 Manga Review

7 min read

With the present a painful memory … the past should be easy!

Creative Staff:
Art By: 3B2S
Adapted By: Yuns(REDICE)
Original Story By: San G.
Translation: Adnazeer Macalangcom

What They Say:
Fortune favors the opportunistic, and when mysterious Tombs housing ancient Relics started to appear, those lucky enough to first discover and harness the supernatural powers within them established a new world order. Others rushed to join the playing field, just to find that the only option available to them was to be a pawn for the Elite. Jooheon Suh was one such latecomer but still a talented raider in his own right, too talented to die in some random Tomb after falling into a trap – and clearly, a higher being out there agrees because of dying, her finds himself waking up fifteen years in the past! Armed with years of experience and foresight, Jooheon’s determine to pave a different path himself as the Tomb Raider King!

Content (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
In the year 2025, the world is turned upside down when huge earthquakes preceded the sudden appearance of what would be called Tombs, and within these mysterious locations daring people find powerful Relics whose origins seemed gleaned from myths, folklore and classical tales from every culture, but those who discovered these mystical artifacts are granted supernatural powers, with stories later told that these gifts completely changed their lives usually for the better. However, as tell of these benefits passed through the populace, so too begins a wild dash from the desperate to better their lives, with Jooheon joining this epic excursion into the unknown, becoming lucky enough to discover the Archeologist’s Relic which contains detailed information on all the Tombs and their Relics, but this did not turn his life around. The world has become entrenched within a new order where the elite who had gotten a head start monopolized these treasures, thus creating a corrupt system where they could leverage this immense power, with the only option for Suh was to be scouted by a major corporation called TKBM and its chief operations officer Taejoon Kwon, who promised he would spare no expense to sponsor him to become a tomb raider. Yet as his employer’s authority grew due to his hard work, Jooheon’s own reputation plummeted due to the public seeing him doing the dirty work for the corrupt, but he had no choice than to continue this disreputable work since it was the only to survive in this Relic-crazed world.

But the team’s latest mission was a trap, threatened by how good they were at their jobs, Kwon set them up and sent them to their deaths, with Jooheon being the last to survive as he found himself being hunted within a dark corridor by a savage beast, his legs severely injured and himself knowing well he cannot escape by crawling, using the last of his breath to taunt the monster to get it over with, throwing rocks at the creature to goad it into eating him, with Suh’s zealous attitude punctuated that he will haunt his former employer when he returns. Yet as several snaps of powerful jaws came close to fulfilling his wish, a mysterious voice mocks this suffering by stating he is being too noisy, with Jooheon questioning in frustration who he could not see, the surprised speaker amazed this mortal could hear him, allowing the annoyed man to state this was not the first time he heard a Relic’s voice, even as this arrogant observer praises the man’s talent but being born in the wrong era, since it is a shame he would die now. But as this taunting grows and the dying cursed the old man who set him up and vowing revenge, it is with a flash of light that the unseen partner presents himself as a crow, declaring Jooheon will be given a second chance, with the man’s eyesight adjusting to see all of his injuries healed, only to then realize he has been sent back fifteen years into the past, with his knowledge of Tombs and their Relics remaining intact.

In Summary:
When you first pick up this book, one cannot but notice the immediate heft of its construction, the matte gloss paper creating a noticeable departure from the normal newsprint medium and allowing full color illustrations to stand out upon the page, but at the same time, it is this surprising divergence of what we normally consider as manga within its black and white world that presents the reader with something different, for better or worse. This is the case for the first volume of Tomb Raider King, an uninspired story from San G. and adapted by Yuns(REDICE) in which we find our predictable protagonist Jooheon vowing revenge against a man named Kwon who takes advantage of his talents, all to portray himself as an elitist as his employee suffers for reinforcing this corrupt behavior. And yet it is the familiarity of the title which summons forth images of a beautifully buxom brunette who has been ingrained within pop culture due to a long lived video game franchise, live action movies and comic books, enticing an intrigued audience with an unconscious want to witness what this knowing derivation might bring to expectant readers, with the inclusion of a royal title minimally changing what may be presented. It is perhaps due to this preconceived notion that one might be more disheartened from what we witness, all as it is compounded by the tired trope of including time travel to allow a second chance at success, with Suh’s intact knowledge permitting him to gain the advantage, even as we sigh in disappointment in having seen this narrative format used far too often, even if we may begrudgingly want to cheer for a spiteful underdog, with supposedly no redeemable values aside from making a better life for himself.

However, while readers may look forward to rousing excitement within a black-and-white world to rescue a lackluster story, in this case, it is the unusually crisp illustrations from webtoon studio 3B2S which presents a new problem for an expectant audience, making us immediately wonder if the static panels displayed upon the page are screenshots from some unknown anime of the same name, with the rigidity of the actors a jarring departure of what we have come to expect from an animated medium. It is due to this unpleasant contrast between what we have come to understand as monotone manga versus the awkward stillness of full-color pictures that form the foundation of our disappointment, with the lingering notion that 3B2S may have cut and pasted well-drawn stills with the hope an ignorant Western audience might not understand the unintentional deception. Yet while the characters may be refined in their depiction, it is the choice of colors which hides another dilemma, with sickly skin tones shining forth even within a veil of night but also creating a muddled presentation and suffocating darkness used to censor brutality or splashes of blood curiously changed to what may be milk to disguise violence, even as the audience recognizes these moments for what is happening just out of sight. And finally to perhaps acknowledge the roots of the story’s origin, it is the ridiculous video displays before Jooheon which inform him of new abilities, with even the character himself comparing this mockery to a video game, suggesting these creators knowingly are poking fun at their own work, even as readers cannot but sigh at this exasperating insight.

Tomb Raider King may have been an interesting premise to project a story upon, but due to the familiarity of the subject material and clichéd personality of Jooheon within a time travel-based narrative, the predictability of each encounter is spoiled due to the nature of the unfolding itself, with each moment creating its own temporal paradox from which the ending is seen well in advance due the vindictive nature of the protagonist himself, making every encounter a knowing event which is for the betterment of this scornful man. This monotony of the literary problem is compounded due to the crisp nature of the animated images within the book, with each static presentation lacking the dynamic nature of the manga discipline, making readers want for something more, even as lackluster colors succeed in suffocating what little enjoyment we could have gleaned from a visual treasure which falls disappointingly short. Yet even as we wish to enjoy Tomb Raider King, it is this expanding list of problems which causes it to constantly stumble upon each apathetic page, making once enthused readers constantly wonder if this underdog turned anti-hero has any redeemable qualities within himself or the story which falls short of our desired expectations.

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A

Age Rating: Teen
Released By: Ize Press/Yen Press
Release Date: November 22, 2022
MSRP: $20.00