Everything Is Permitted: ‘Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #1’ reviewed

Titan Comics present a game-changing new chapter in the ongoing Assassin’s Creed saga!

With the Phoenix Project nearing its completion, tensions are running high for both the Brotherhood and the Templar Order. A new world order is on the horizon and only Charlotte and her new allies have the knowledge and skill to save humanity from subjugation. 

Ever since ‘AC II’, I’ve been hooked on the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ series. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy the first one. It just happens that my initiation into the series was a bit like how I got into Babylon 5 once upon a time: introduced to the second season, went back to experience it from the beginning. But despite my long-term loyalty I’ve never previously sampled the franchise outside the video-gaming world.

There have been books and, more recently, a movie starring Michael Fassbender. I briefly toyed with the idea of going to see the film, but word of mouth wasn’t encouraging, and as for the books, well, if the video games are that good where am I going to find the time for reading? Fortunately (?) at the moment there’s no new AC game title to distract me – other than the remastered Ezio trilogy – so now is a good time to dip my toes into the graphic novel medium and see what Titan has to offer with their ‘Assassin’s Creed: Uprising.’

COVER A: Alex Ronald

It scores immediate points by virtue of featuring a principle female protagonist. Achievement Unlocked! My chief gripe with the franchise has been this one conspicuous oversight – especially from a company that loves to preface every game with a disclaimer about how they’re developed by a multiracial, multi-creed team – er, hello, what about different genders? Yes, Ubisoft produced a (pretty good actually) DLC (‘Liberation’) with Aveline and the ability to play as Evie in ‘Syndicate’ was very welcome. And we had a female protagonist in the ‘AC: China’ arcade scroller.

But I’m talking main titles, female assassin front and centre. In the meantime, hurray for Charlotte De La Cruz.

That said, the cover gallery and what I’ve read of the story so far paint the impression of more of an ensemble cast, which is fair enough for the medium – the video games generally demand a single focal-point character, but that needn’t be the case for a novel, graphic or otherwise.

But I would hope that she is given a shade more prominence than the rest of the cast. She’s the one that stands out most to me at this stage and it’s probably not advisable to divide our attentions too thinly over the course of a serialised adventure.

This opening instalment walks a fine line, introducing us to several characters – and story threads. The characters are all introduced with what, in a movie, would be captioned freeze-frames, telling us a little about each of them, which is a neat enough gimmick and gives us a sufficient handle on them while we catch up with whatever events they’re caught up in. And I’m being deliberately vague so as to avoid spoilers, but broadly speaking you have Charlotte and her support guy Guernica caught up in the aftermath of an operation gone wrong, another varied group – any of which could emerge as key players – engaged in some rooftop training, and Agent Violet De Costa and the rather imposing figure of Otso Berg conducting an investigation. All of which combines to weave a first chapter that intrigues rather than excites. But it hints of a tale of some complexity ready to unfold in issues to come.

If that sounds a touch lukewarm, that may be because at the same time as – potentially – redressing an omission in the video games, this also – so far – omits one of the series’ major attractions for me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gotten stuck into an ‘Assassin’s Creed’ game and fallen head over heels into the immersive historic settings only to be plucked out and dumped back into the ongoing modern-era arc, but it tends to get frustrating. Because as much as Ubisoft love the context of their arc and the whole Abstergo virtual reality shtick, I’m only really in it for the time travel. Not least because the periods and settings are always so richly realised. I mean, come on, you might as well whisk me off in a TARDIS and have me return to a mundane nine-to-five job between episodes.

COVER D: by Assassin’s Creed video game storyboard artist, José Holder

With ‘Uprising’, it is early days, but so far it is all about a modern-day conspiracy. Given that this is ‘Assassin’s Creed’, I would expect that conspiracy to include historical layers, perhaps in several locales around the globe. For me, it would have helped to have a taster of that to whet the appetite a bit more in this initial episode and I’ve every confidence that the artists here could do a decent job of capturing something of those historical and international flavours.

They won’t have the advantage of 3D rendering, but they demonstrate their skills here, the artwork conveying a good deal of detail within a handful of frames per page without overcrowding.

So, overall, it scores some extra points for presentation. And storywise it hooked me in enough that I want to know where it’s all leading. I’m not sure I would have the patience to follow it in episodic form, issue-by-issue, but it’s something that I would happily dive into (Leap of Faith!) if or when it’s assembled into a single bumper volume.

But it’s worth bearing in mind the Creed:

Nothing is true, everything is permitted.

Which, in this case, you can take to mean, everything I’ve said is only opinion and ‘Assassin’s Creed’ graphic novels are certainly a fine idea. The franchise suits the medium well, although (as I suspect is also the case with the movie) I’ve yet to see a single one of the characters break off from the plot to hunt down all those pesky collectibles.

Assassin‘s Creed: Uprising #1’ is written by Alex Paknadel and Dan Watterscraft, with artwork by Assassin’s Creed video game storyboard artist, José Holder. It was released by Titan Comics on 1 February 2017, RRP £2.65

Become a patron at Patreon!