Squandered Potential: Assassin’s Creed Comic from Titan

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Assassin's Creed #1 CoverAssassin’s Creed #1

Writer: Anthony Del Col, Conner McCreery
Artist: Neil Edwards
Titan Comics
October, 14, 2015
Review Copy Provided By Titan Comics

Disappointment is an apt summary for Assassin’s Creed as a franchise. What was once promised to be as a unique exploration of historical settings has turned into the starkest example of AAA games’ consumer contempt. I refuse to give Ubisoft another dollar after Unity’s E3 premiere, where the question of “Where’s a female assassin?” was met with the excuse, “Women are too hard to animate.” Yes, really.

Yet while the Assassin’s Creed games have decided to zoom in on white men of a European persuasion, more freedom in protagonist and setting has been given to their comic tie-ins. Though my aforementioned distrust of Ubisoft kept me from purchasing it, the 2014 Assassin’s Creed: Brahman had the excellent creative team of Batgirl’s Cameron Stewart and Karl Kerschl. It followed an assassin in 19th century India—one who was, in fact, Indian. I’ll give kudos where they’re deserved. So when I saw Titan had a new comic in the franchise, and the cover had a woman of color leaping from the rooftop, hidden blade in hand. Despite a less pedigreed writing team (Anthony Del Col and Conner McCreery are best known for their IDW series Kill Shakespeare), I figured this was another step in a better direction.

Sadly, for fans of the earlier Assassin’s Creed comic, it was not.

Skirting spoilers all around, I’ll start off by saying that the lady on the front cover is not, in fact, an assassin. Her name is Charlotte de la Cruz, and she fills the role Desmond Miles does in the games—the vessel through which the player or reader experiences the real meat of Assassin’s Creed, aka, the action and kick-assery. So if you were hoping to read the story of a brown female assassin, you’re going to need to look elsewhere. To add insult to injury, the actual member of the covert organization, Charlotte’s ancestor … is a generic white guy. I guess his mutton chops are meant to separate him from all the other assassins?

So while Charlotte is the main character, the switch to another male assassin hammers home Ubisoft’s frustrating message that a woman who is a trained, effective killer simply does not seem to fit into their mythos. Even in the comics—a lower-budget medium than video games, where creative exploration can happen without fear of profit crash—it is not safe enough to deviate away from the standard.

Though hey, the issue does focus predominantly on Charlotte, must be something there? Well, honestly, I’m not sure what they were going for with her character. We first see her playing in a virtual reality game—raising and then dashing hopes that the awesome Wild West setting would be the focus—and you get the impression she’s a good audience surrogate. Mid-twenties, in a dirty apartment playing video games, and blowing off creepy comments on the internet. Alright, I dig it.

But the next page shows her at a job interview in a highly corporate setting, where she storms out, having somehow assumed she wouldn’t get the job because the boss would hire through nepotism. This seems entirely based on the fact the boss has a photo of her own child on the desk. Either the script expected us to connect some blurry dots or Charlotte’s got an unstable chip on her shoulder, but it’s sloppy writing all around. I walk away with the impression that Charlotte is angry for not being immediately praised. Add onto this her jump for joy that “Yay, people who kill each other in secret orders DO exist,” underhanded vigilantism, and my sympathy for her gets squashed.

So what I have are two protagonists I have no interest in, set against art that reminds me of Greg Land on a good day. Expressions and poses feel incredibly stiff, and faces seem copy-pasted from one character to the next. The shading deserves a particular call-out for being particularly sloppy on clothing, making every shirt look like a sweatshirt you wear only on laundry day.

Perhaps Assassin’s Creed #1’s greatest sin, though, is how overly formulaic it is. It’s an origin story that takes no deviations from a franchise already criticized for its narrative laziness and plummeting ambition. Charlotte’s story hits the exact same notes the games’ stories do, and while they can certainly twist the plot in later issues, I’m not at all intrigued to find out. I would encourage you to go spend your money elsewhere—on, like, a soda.

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