Back in 2009, Corbeyran and Djillali Defali began publishing an annual series of Assassin’s Creed comics that continued the story of Desmond by filling in the gaps between the games. This is the first year that the three-volume series has been available with an English translation.
First and foremost, this is a gorgeous set of hardcover books. Each volume is a little thinner than I’d like, but I can’t deny that these books look great. Titan knocked it out of the park where the covers are concerned, which are beautifully designed with an intriguing duel cover that has the Animus subject on the back with the ancestor they’re exploring on the front. These books look great together and look wonderful on any bookshelf.
Given the fact that Assassin’s Creed II wasn’t released when the first volume was published, there are quite a lot of continuity errors spread throughout. The translation team has done a decent job smoothing out some of these details, such as Subject 16’s real name, but for players of the entire series, there is a lot of speculation and details that just don’t hold up anymore. In particular, there are a few details focused around Desmond and Lucy’s . . . er . . . “friendship” that simply doesn’t match up with what fans know after playing further in the series. More problematic, the series of graphic novels ties heavily into the events of each of the games, treading old ground and attempting to do so quickly, but still ends up dominating most of the first volume and parts of the next two. It’d have preferred if Corberyan had set a time frame to tell his story and stuck to it instead of trying to keep up with the games and losing pages trying to cover territory for those readers who didn’t play the games.
Where the Titan Assassin’s Creed comics succeed is in presenting a new story of one of Desmond’s ancestors, Aquilus, who was the assassin during the time of the Roman Empire. This period of history neatly blends aspects of Altair and Ezio’s stories while centering around Roman political backstabbing and the looming threat of the Germanic hordes. Even cooler, Aquilus’ story centers around a new piece of Eden (not one of the Apples) and explores the mysteries it contains and its many uses throughout history. The series also introduces a new subject, named Hawk, whose ancestor, Accipiter, was friends with Aquilus, even as a member of the Germanic tribes. Where Desmond and his line are all about grace, Hawk and Accipiter are more about brute force. This change in perspective is neat, and I’m glad it looks like the upcoming Volume 4 is going to dive deeper into Hawk and his ancestors’ stories. After the first volume, the modern-day stuff with Desmond does expand upon much of the events in between the games, and shows more of the Templars’ attempts to stop them and Desmond as a more active participant in the war.
I think the book’s translation comes across very well. There are a few oddities here and there, but overall the fact that this was originally a French comic is not obvious. Unfortunately, the series focuses heavily on exposition, rehashing old details from the Assassin’s Creed games and spending a lot of time creating connections and then pointing out why it’s such a clever connection between the past and the modern day. I used to think that the fact that most of Desmond’s family’s names translate to “Eagle” was a cool detail, but after this series introduces several other bird name traditions and keeps hammering home the point, I began to hate it.
The art in these books is really good, filled with a ton of details, especially in the settings and backgrounds. Historical Rome is as well represented as the settings for any of the games. I wasn’t as much a fan of Defali’s character designs, which featured some odd perspective work, but overall I think it’s an issue of personal preference. The color in these books is also brilliant, making great use of dynamic shifts in color and lighting to make characters or key items pop on the page. From cover to cover, this is a gorgeous book.
I wouldn’t say this series is a must read, but for diehard fans of Assassin’s Creed, it does a nice job filling in some of the gaps between the games and expanding upon the universe’s mythology, if you can put aside the several years-old speculation regarding the games’ story and the repeat parts of the story. If nothing else, afterwords the volumes are pretty enough to be excellent bookshelf decorations.