Publisher: Black Mask Studios
Writer: Matt Miner
Artwork: Creees Lee
Colours: Josh Jensen
Lettering: Matt Krotzer
Release Date: 19th June 2019
Lab Raider, the latest offering from Black Mask Studios, opens with a pair of vigilantes breaking into an animal testing lab to wreak a little havoc. From there we delve into the history of the pair, their resolution to stick to non-violent activism (a little light property damage, etc.), and the shocking turn of events that led to their “no-one gets hurt, no-one dies” mantra.
Writer Matt Miner always likes to make sure that his work has a message, and this is no exception. That said, the themes of this first issue are handled with an impressive level of subtlety, leaving the story itself to shine through. While I’m a huge fan of the bulk of their work, Black Mask’s output can occasionally become a little bogged down by the need to include a moral or social message, sometimes at the expense of the narrative. Thankfully, Lab Raider lands right in the sweet spot, delivering a gripping story with a worthy message that resonates rather than suffocates.
Our two female leads are inherently likeable, and the way the narrative skirts around their dark secret without directly telling us what happened (although it doesn’t take much of a stretch to figure it out) really draws the reader into the story. Miner’s structure is impressive throughout, flitting back and forth between the past and present to fill in the blanks of what is shaping up to be an intriguing story of animal rights activism, sticking to your morals and overcoming past mistakes.
The team of Creees Lee, John Jensen and Matt Krotzer do a great job handling the visual side of things, with some easily identifiable character designs and a smooth, kinetic flow throughout. Aside from the aforementioned property damage and a brief skirmish in one of the flashback scenes there isn’t really much in the way of action, but the emotion and energy of the story still comes through loud and clear. Plus, if the shocking final page and “next issue” teaser are anything to go by, it feels like the pace is going to be ramped up significantly as this series unfolds.
For my money, Lab Raider is the best thing Black Mask Studios have released in quite some time, and deserves to be seen by as many eyes as possible. Boasting strong characters, striking artwork and an impressively tight structure, this is an animal rights activism series with a dark, violent edge, and I absolutely can’t wait to see where this story goes next.