‘Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #2’ reviewed

Assassin’s Creed: Uprising settles into its stride with a neat twist.

Previously on Assassin’s Creed: Uprising – The Review…

Titan Comics scored points for featuring a female protagonist. Quite a collection of potentially interesting characters was introduced. The seeds of an intriguing plot and counter-plot were sown. Points were deducted for an absence of historical setting, which is pretty much the primary appeal for me at the heart of the Assassin’s Creed games.

So, on balance, I can’t claim expectations for this second instalment of the series’ foray into the realm of comics were as high as the average viewpoint from which Ezio and his brethren like to perch, but my curiosity was sufficiently piqued. And I dived into Volume 2 with two main hopes: one, that it would continue to develop the characters and conspiracy laid out in the first part; two, that it would add the extra dimension of some rich period of history. Anywhen, I wasn’t especially fussy.

What we get, as the story settles into its stride, repays precisely half those hopes.

Now, it may be that Ubisoft has some sort of final say on which historical territories are explored in spin-off merchandise – novels, comics and the like – because naturally they wouldn’t want too much product trespassing on the same turf for which they might have plans for future games. So perhaps Uprising is somewhat hamstrung and the freedom of movement between timelines is no longer what it seemed outside the world of video games. Either that or the series is holding this aspect in reserve or the writers set out to craft a purely modern-day thriller. The latter would be fine, of course, and there’s plenty of scope for more than one techno-thriller between the forces of Abstergo and the Brotherhood. It’s just that, in and of itself, this holds less appeal for me, personally.

Where this second episode does succeed is in taking select strands from the opener and continuing to weave them into what hints of a reasonably complex tapestry of plot and counter-plot. It promises an involved tale of hi-tech espionage of exactly the sort that used to break me out of the beautifully crafted and immersive historical worlds that I loved so much about pretty much every instalment of the games.

Obviously, in this medium the plot comes without the accompanying frustration and impatience to get back to the historical action and in its defence it does suggest it might be going in interesting directions.

And I’m aware the word ‘interesting’ is a generic umbrella term, not exactly overloaded with excitement. For one thing, there’s a limit as to what I can reveal about the directions the story takes: the instalments are relatively short so spoilers potentially have the destructive potential of a full-upgrade broadside from Edward Kenway’s ship on a passing schooner.

Suffice to say, while the readers are spared any immersive spells in the Animus, we are treated to some exploration of the psychological effects of such immersion on its operatives. Charlotte De La Cruz (who should turn out to be the hero of this tale, if it has one) admits to an Inception-style struggle with reality while utilising her Eagle Vision on a night out at the pub and that’s certainly one facet I would’ve been tempted to explore if ever presented with the opportunity of an Assassin’s Creed novel. (That’s not me begging for a job, though. Just saying.) And the writers do well to add to our understanding of the Templar hierarchy, throwing a new shadowy figure into the mix – and immediately enhancing it further with a neat twist.

In any case, the more focused approach helps construct a sharper episode, the opener, while good, having attempted to pull attentions in a few too many directions. The potential downside being that the next instalment might have to drop these threads and take us elsewhere to catch up with some of the others introduced in Volume 1. Which brings us back to one of my previous concerns: namely, that I would personally prefer to have my hands on the full graphic novel to digest it in one go, rather than have it served in snack-sized slices.

The slices continue to be presented with a flair for striking visuals and plenty of dramatic splash per page, so the issues are my own. In other words, the creators have done a fine job, but – thus far – the story is missing something of what I would look for from the Assassin’s Creed world. Like I’m getting pieces of the Apple Of Eden but I’m missing the core.

It remains ‘interesting’ but no more. I may be tempted to take further bites, but the prospect is akin to a Golden Delicious. A variety of fruit that doesn’t excite the taste buds as much as its name suggests it should.

❉ ‘Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #2’ (Writers: Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters; Artist: Jose Holder) was published 8 March 2017 by Titan Comics. Available in print from Titan Comics, £2.65, and digitally from Comixology, £2.49.

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