Review - Lab Raider #1 (@blackmaskstudio)

"They say rules are meant to be broken. But was this right?"

It should go without saying, but cruelty to animals isn't a good thing. Still, there are larger corporations that do just that in the name of "science," ignoring the notion that said animals have feelings about what's happening to them. This concept is amplified (and rectified) in Lab Raider #1 from Black Mask Studio. The issue is written by Matt Miner, illustrated by Creees Lee, colored by Josh Jensen and lettered by Matt Krotzer.

A pair of young vigilantes break into a black market laboratory where illegal tests are being run on animals. What at first seems like a simple rescue mission becomes more dangerous when they stumble on secret military experiments, discovering to their horror that the animals they sought to help have been turned into something different, something monstrous...and, once the cages are opened, the rescuers quickly become the prey of these weaponized beasts.

Miner has done something quite interesting in the first issue of Lab Raiders by essentially taking the concept of animal rights activists to the extreme and it works very well for the larger story. Most of the issue is spent introducing the reader to Jeanette and Sarah, two individuals looking to free trapped animals while at the same time offering up their take on animal experimentation. The two are very committed to their cause, but what Miner does that makes things interesting is make them extremely violent in the quest for animal liberation. Miner achieves their characterization through a series of time jumps, showing how the two have survived encounters that set them on a path of even more violence. The timeline never gets confusing and allows the reader to watch the duo become more and more savage in their approach, right up until the ending when they're faced with something unexpected.

Lee infuses the book with punk sensibilities that are very much in-line with the overarching attitude of the characters and the book. For most of the issue, the lead characters are shrouded in bandanas to mask their identities, but that doesn't stop Lee from still managing to make them look very expressive. Many of the panels feature close-up perspectives on the characters to help the reader get a bead on what the characters are feeling as they fight for what they believe in. Lee also uses darker lines to accentuate the characters and the settings, allowing all the artwork to feel that much bolder and darker. This is further emboldened by Jensen's colors, which run the gamut of lights and darks depending on the situation.

Lab Raider #1 is a very strong issue that takes a known concept such as animal rights activism and cranks it up to 11. Jeanette and Sarah are rapidly descending into a darker and darker state when it comes to expressing their value system. Miner doesn't shy away from making a statement that animal cruelty is bad and sometimes you do have to go to extremes to make a point. Lee's artwork is a perfect match for the book tonally as it captures the personality of the characters and their plight. Lab Raider #1 is a book that relies on some expected stereotypes while at the same time taking things to a new extreme for good measure.

Lab Raider #1 is available now.