We have nothing to fear but fear itself, says Tony. Also, axe-wielding religious folk.
The first issue of Assassin’s Creed in comic-book form served as a great introduction for the total newbie to its world, like me.
The second issue demands that you either know a little more about the context of how its world works, or that you let it take you forward without necessarily understanding everything, as the text doesn’t seem able to stop and explain what it’s talking about at every necessary stage. That means it might conceivably lose some readers, but the chances are it will appeal more to its core audience, who will already be familiar with the way the world of Assassin’s Creed works.
When we left her at the end of issue #1, modern girl Charlotte de la Cruz had been snatched out of her apartment by the Assassin Brotherhood, just in time to save her from the Templars after an act of technical if well-meaning, socially justified fraud at her bank job. She was thrust into a machine called the Animus and effectively sent back to 1692, on the verge of the Salem Witch Trials, to find her ancestor Tom Stoddard there and recover an artefact called a Piece of Eden, because…
That’s kind of where you lose me, but it will do Things. Bad Things if the Templars get their grubby little mitts on it. At least slightly better things if the Assassin Brotherhood get it.
It looked, from Neil Edwards’ artwork, as though on her second attempt, Charlotte had ‘Quantum Leaped’ into the body of a young woman about to be set on fire, but this issue dispenses with that idea at least for the moment, taking us into Stoddard’s point of view, Charlotte chipping in an occasional of-screen narratorial witticism along the way. Through Stoddard’s fairly nihilistic worldview, we get to see the work of an Assassin in a far more unrestricted way than we would have through Charlotte’s direct observation, and it’s generally a grim business (what did you expect? They do put ASSASSIN right there in the title), but it’s a grim business with a good deal of swash and buckle as Stoddard meets his contact in this time period, a female operative named Jennifer Querry, who’s on her first mission. The two set about derring some do, and as even Charlotte is forced to acknowledge, “He may be a dick, but dude can make an entrance’ – there’s lots of great artwork from Edwards here, giving us both a sense of the grubbiness of the period, the harshness of the job, and the pace of the spectacular, acrobatic gameplay from which the comic-book gains its reason to be. In fact, it would be difficult to nominate a favourite Edwards panel – a Page 4 portrait of Stoddard is pretty special. An upside-down action shot that takes up the last third of Page 11 gives a real sense of movement, and even a single page-long strip of a staircase on Page 13 makes you ponder at the artistic process that conjured it into being, and wish you had a third of the skill needed to do it.
The characterization is interesting – Stoddard is rendered very much as a dick, but a dick who’s supremely good at what he does. The Templars by contrast are something more than dicks – they’re actively unpleasant, and that seeps through Edwards’ artwork, which gives them faces on which you could read a thousand vices. And in a story of witchcraft and witch trials, the action takes a distinctly occultish turn towards the end, when it feels as though the Piece of Eden makes its presence felt in a peculiar, personal way. There’s nothing especially occult about the main threat in this issue though – the main threat is human fear, in people taught to believe that eldritch forces exist and personally intervene to do them harm (a view, incidentally, still held by many of the people trying to become President of the United States – and those who vote to elect them – some three hundred years later). Fear in a ‘demon-haunted world’ is at least as dangerous as any of the demons themselves, and Stoddard, Querry and a couple of possible natives find themselves at its mercy as the issue ramps up to a cliff-hanger that leaves us wondering whether this issue doesn’t in fact take place before Charlotte’s original arrival in 1692, simply showing the events that lead up to that cataclysm through Stoddard’s eyes.
Whereas the storytelling from writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery takes fewer prisoners this time, demanding you simply get with the programme and run, much as Charlotte has had to do, Edwards’ artwork, (ably supported by Ivan Nunes on colourist duties, giving a sense of both the liveliness and grit of the period) delivers reason to linger on practically every page, which co-incidentally allows the ideas and the way in which the world works – Piece of Eden? Jumping in to see your ancestors? – sink in with at least a reasonable degree of effectiveness as the story tells itself in front of you. If you’re entirely new to the world of Assassin’s Creed, you’re going to absolutely need the first issue as a primer to what the hell is going on in this one. But Edwards never knowingly under-delivers on a panel, making this issue as much of a visual treasure chest as its predecessor, and allowing you to enjoy the story, even if you’re not entirely sure you grasp all of its underpinning concepts.
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
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