Assassin's Creed: Desmond, Aquilus, Accipiter, and Hawk Review

This comic seems to be lost in translation... either from game to comic, or French to English.

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.

 

Featured Columnist

Lifelong gamer, artist, writer, lurker, occasional troll, and 1994 Blockbuster Game Tournament Store Champion.

Published Dec. 27th 2013
  • ThePreciseClimber
    There's really no point to these comics since just a year after the first volume came out we got a comic that's actually 100% canon and was even better to boot (Dec 2010, 1st part of The Fall).
    Regarding Lucy - well... it could've been worse. Look what Dark Horse did to one Mass Effect character: http://thepreciseclimber.deviantart.com/art/ME-comic-comparison-425969342
    I bet that if the guys behind The Fall/Chain/Brahman actually created a comic centered around Ezio, as was the original plan, it would still be better than what the French accomplished.
    ---
    "It's doubtful that Jonathan Hawk, Aquilus, El Cakr, or any of the characters from this comic will ever be in an Asssassin's Creed game or mentioned by Ubisoft."
    Well... I actually found one tiny mention of Aquilus. The in-game manual of AC3 briefly mentions him alongside Altair and Ezio as one of Demond's ancestors. That's about it. He doesn't even get a Database entry.
    But he did get an entry in the AC Encyclopedia.
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Correspondent
    Very nice review. Even though your opinion on it isn't very good, I'm much more interested in it now. lol That first picture at the top isn't very impressive artwork to me either. It's not bad but it's not the quality I would expect. I'd seen something like that in The Dark Tower graphic novels also though. I was such a huge fan of the regular books that when I saw some of the artwork in the graphic novels I was slightly offended. They are really good though.

    I like that Lucy comparison pic. I actually like the way she looks in that comic picture.

    Eighth paragraph down is broken. =p
    "Practically every page has 8 to 10 panels of very compact artwork that, honestly, a better" and then doesn't continue. I think you meant to edit that out?

    Thanks for the review!
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    Thanks for pointing out the mistake, I don't always make it a habit to proof read articles after the editors... but I went ahead and fixed it back.

    The artwork is still definitely passable, even though the character of Jonathan Hawk looks way too much like Tony Stark. Here's a link with more samples pages for anyone interested... but like I said in the review, the events in the comic contradict the storyline of the games. Specifically Clay (aka Subject 16) is VERY different in this comic.

    http://www.assassinscreed.fr/index.php?page=bdac
  • Germ_the_Nobody
    Correspondent
    One thing I forgot to ask, what the heck does "canon" mean?

    lol@Tony Stark lookalike.
  • Ryan Kerns
    Featured Columnist
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_(fiction) it's just basically a fancy term to say whether something is an official part of a fictional storyline.

    It's doubtful that Jonathan Hawk, Aquilus, El Cakr, or any of the characters from this comic will ever be in an Asssassin's Creed game or mentioned by Ubisoft.

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