Titan Comics: ASSASSIN'S CREED #1 Review

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Tony jumps into the deep end of the Creed.

I’m a total newb when it comes to Assassin’s Creed. I’ve never played any of the games, and know nothing about the mythos that underpins them. So I came to issue #1 of the comic-book by Titan entirely fresh and ready to take it at face value.

On that basis, it does well.

Firstly, it opens with a scene of high-tech shenanigans in the California gold rush, a kind of highwaywoman for the natives stealing back their gold from a stage coach. This is Charlotte de la Cruz, annnnd it quickly becomes clear she’s not as cool as all that – the scenario’s in an immersive game, while the real Charlotte is sitting in her grungy apartment in modern day San Diego, being occasionally hit on by gamer geeks. Such, it seems is the life of a gamer girl.

But Charlotte’s got prospects – she has an interview with a supposedly uber-cool world development charity. Which…erm…she promptly blows in a flaming difference of socio-economic opinion with her would-be boss, meaning she had to go back to work at her actual job with the bank who hold her student loans. Her life, it seems, involves robbing Peter to pay…erm…Peter.

Frustrated by the hideous situation she finds herself in, with a frail old lady closing her account to pay for her daughter’s medical bills after being shafted by an insurance company (say it ain’t so), Charlotte commits and act of discrete but massive bank fraud, and waits for the forces of financial righteousness to fall on her head.

As it happens, what falls on her head is much, much weirder. The forces of good and evil in her immersive game are The Brotherhood and The Templars respectively (at least as far as she’s concerned – the Templars undoubtedly see it differently). When you get home from a bad day at the office and find The Brotherhood waiting for you, and the Templars knocking down your door, it’s safe to say your life’s about to change.

This is pretty much the crucial point in this first issue, where life goes from ordinary and frustrating to extraordinary and exciting for Charlotte, and where newbies like me need a firm guiding hand if we’re to make it through.

Fortunately, while sacrificing absolutely nothing in terms of frenetic pace or machine-gun dialogue, writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery spell out enough of the world we’re in to drag even the entirely uninitiated along. Basically, the game is sort of real, run by a huge evil conglomerate and when you play you’re playing the actual memories of someone’s ancestors. The Brotherhood have a rather more powerful set-up that allows you to play in your own ancestors memories. There’s a whole big hooha over a MacGuffin that they need Charlotte to go and recover, in the Salem Witch Trials, and she embarks on her new life tripping back to the past, jumping first into the body of her ‘assassin’ ancestor (we have yet to find out, in Assassin’s Creed, if that means something different to what it means in the wider, non-geeky world – someone who kills other people for money), and, when that goes badly wrong, jumping back into the body (or so it seems) of a young woman about to be hanged as a witch.

This ‘Quantum Leap But Kickass And With Bad Guys Trying To Kill You’ vibe is easy enough to slip into here – Del Col and McCreery take the time to establish Charlotte’s ordinary frustrations, ordinary rhythms, her life as it is before all hell breaks loose in it, and there’s something so very everywoman and compassionate about her frustrations that we identify with her on lots of levels – she’s a person who does the wrong thing for the right reasons, a kind of tiny-scale, modern Robin Hood. So when all manner of weird things start to happen and her apartment ends up filled with dead Templars (the kills having that particular kind of explicit game-violence that so worries a tiny, vocal minority of people looking for scapegoats), we go with it because we’ve already come to the conclusion that we like her character. The Brotherhood seem to have that kind of quarrelsome variety of character familiar to long-term geeks everywhere from the likes of Blake’s 7 and plenty of dystopias since – they’re going to be interesting and spiky to get to know, and they bristle enough in issue #1 to make us look forward to the discovery of their stories. The set-up, while lightly sketched gives us enough to hook us in, rather than turning us off, and the artwork is positively sumptuous – Neil Edwards is a name familiar to us from the Doctor Who comic-book event of 2015, Paul Cornell’s Four Doctors storyline, but Edwards also has a whole host of Marvel work under his belt, and here, moreso even than in the Who comics, it’s easy to see why he’s both highly sought-after and utterly trusted – his work has a crispness and clarity that make it feel like you’re watching the adventure pan out on a TV screen. From the highwaywoman antics, and a spectacular, almost 3D effect, through even (indeed, especially) the mundanity of Charlotte’s day-to-day life, there’s little that is left to be figurative if Edwards can make it crisp, and most of the time he can and does – the backgrounds are detailed, the characters full of expression and personality, the kills vivid and as satisfying as if with the right twiddle and press of buttons, you’d thrown a knife though a violent schmuck’s head yourself. So, yes – more Neil Edwards please, any time you like, Titan.

Ivan Nunes on colourist duties is no slouch either, and here his skills with light and perhaps unsurprisingly, colour, give real atmosphere to Edwards’ environments – from the big skies and red-brown dust clouds of the Gold Rush to the blue-green shut-window dinge of Charlotte’s apartment when she’s gaming, to the brightness of modern San Diego and the swanky bright reflectiveness of the charity’s offices and so on – Nunes and Edwards together help create the reality of Charlotte’s world in vivid lines and colours, which helps in turn to anchor us when that world gets turned upside-down and things get all Assassin’s Creedy on our asses.

Coming to this comic-book as a complete newbie, it’s done its job extremely well. I still know nothing whatever about the games, but between them Del Col, McCreedy, Edwards and Nunes have hooked me in to the adventures of Charlotte de la Cruz in the comic-book world of Assassin’s Creed. Bring on issue #2!

Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who, Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the 70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By day, he runs an editing house, largely as an excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book. With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk

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