Assassin's Creed: Desmond, Aquilus, Accipiter, and Hawk Review
There were several new video game franchises introduced this generation, but perhaps none more recognizable than Assassin's Creed. The team that had rebooted the Prince of Persia series in the previous generation, merged their free-running mechanics with a blend of stealth and open world gameplay. In a single console generation, we have seen no less than 6 main games, a slew of portable and mobile titles, tons of merchandise, a series of short films, and a movie scheduled for a 2015 release.
Ubisoft had a lot of foresight in the creation of the universe, leaving plenty of breathing room outside the trilogy of Desmond Miles. With the creation of the Animus as a storytelling device, practically any point in history could serve as a setting for a game or related media. Shortly before the release of Assassin's Creed II in 2009, a French comic was launched to expand the story and cross-over media lines. Unfortunately, Ubisoft's comic efforts very much lacked that same foresight and talent being used towards the game series.
The first 4 volumes of the comic were just released in English in 2013, and they haven't aged very well. I assume the writer of the comic, Éric Corbeyran, was not privy to any of the scripts or had an idea of what road map Ubisoft laid out for the story.
The very first page of the first comic already contradicts Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Revelations.
If you were looking for a comic that is official canon to Assassin's Creed, this is definitely not it. I was pretty disappointed by this, as the games have quite a bit of story that can be missed if you don't spend countless hours collecting objects and doing side objectives. The comic does seem aware of its place, however, and tends to steer clear of major story events.
The main catch of the comic is the lack of new ancestral assassins in the game. Rather than jumping from Altair to Ezio, there is a whole period where Desmond explores his Roman ancestor, Aquilus. Perhaps in an attempt to not muck up the storyline further, the plot eventually has Desmond step out of the spotlight, and his cousin Jonathan Hawk becomes the central character. Hawk also has the ability to use the Animus, and we get to see a few of his unique ancestral assassins as well.
If you separate the story from the game, it's actually not all that bad. You can read through the comics without any previous knowledge of Assassin' Creed. If you have played through all the games however, you might find this alternate storyline a bit lacking. Ezio had a very rich back story, and these new assassins are pretty lame in comparison.
Perhaps there's just something lost in translation?
I don't have much experience in reading French comics, so perhaps I'm just not used to this particular style of writing. That being said, however, the game also has French writers whom I've had no real issues with. I'm definitely not a fan of the artwork. Djillali Defali serves as the illustrator with a rotating team of colorists.
Practically every page has 8 to 10 panels of very compact artwork that, honestly, a better artist could pull off in the same space, but with half that amount of panels.
The coloring is also very hit or miss, and at times hard to distinguish what is going on. There were several times where the artwork was so bad, I honestly did not recognize certain characters until they were called by name. I feel the character of Lucy is particularly poorly drawn... taking the image of the lovely Kristen Bell and twisting it into this.artist could do in the same space with half that amount of panels. Again, I don't know if this is a French thing or what, but even when there's some action and sound effects, it feels very confined and underwhelming.
I will say the artwork does noticeably improve in the fourth book. Perhaps after negative feedback on the earlier volumes, they brought in a much better colorist and the page layouts are far less uniform and overly symmetrical. Hopefully, the artwork continues to improve in subsequent volumes, but I'm just reviewing what has been released in English so far.
So is this comic even worth your time and money?
I can't help but feel this comic was translated 4 years later, because it was mostly a failure. In 2011, Wildstorm released Assassin's Creed: The Fall, done primarily by award-winning Batman and Robin artist, Cameron Stewart.
Unlike the French comic, this was official canon based on the character of Daniel Cross, who had a pivotal role in Assassin's Creed III. Basically everything the French comic did wrong, the American comic got right. Ubisoft seems to be aware of this as well, since they published the 2012 sequel Assassin's Creed: The Chain themselves, using the same creative team.
Now that the Desmond trilogy of Assassin's Creed games is over, these comics seem like leftovers and one last chance to make a buck off the character.
The quality of Titan Books are definitely collector grade, but you can't help but notice, even after 4 volumes, each page has both the original hand-written page number in the corner, and a mismatching typed page number.
I assume the writer of the comic, Éric Corbeyran, was not privy to any of the scripts or had an idea of what road map Ubisoft laid out for the story.
The Ankh of Isis Trilogy retails for $24.95, and Volume 4: Hawk retails for $9.99. The inconsistency in the per-volume pricing is mostly due to the nice hardcover and high quality paper. It begs the question though: why go through the trouble of making such a nice print of something that wasn't very good in the first place?
These books will look fine on the shelf of any Assassin's Creed collector, but if you actually plan on reading an Assassin's Creed comic; I would highly recommend Cameron Stewart's work instead.