Now hereís an unlikely title to end up in my -- ďHe paused, raised his hands, and inspected his palms for any visible grimeĒ -- grubby little paws. For one thing, I follow creators, not properties, and Iíve never played an Assassinís Creed game. I donít even know what their creed is! I imagine, however, that it relates to the act of targeting and killing specific people. So, for me the appeal of Assassinís Creed: The Fall sat squarely on the power couple of Cameron Stewart and Karl Kerschl, they of such wonderful things as Sin Titulo and The Abominable Charles Christopher, respectively. For people like me, itís a brilliant bit of cross-promotion, using honest to god creators instead of unknown hacks to create a comic that might attract the uninitiated like me to a video game franchise. And, going the other way, it may earn the creators some new fans.
Thankfully, Stewart and Kerschl been tasked to adapt a video game property that isnít a first-person shooter, so theyíre working with an interesting mythology -- Templars versus Assassins! Human history! Nikola Tesla! -- and a premise where 21st Century people are forced to relive the past of their ancestors by accessing their genetic code through a machine called the Animus and doing assassin-y things. This series in particular follows Daniel Cross, a recovering addict who keeps unwillingly experiencing the memories of his ancestor, the Assassin Nikola Orelov, in the late 19th/early 20th century.
Notice I did not use the words ďeliteĒ or ďMarineĒ in that description.
Each issue of Assassinís Creed: The Fall has found Cross and Orelov in different places than the previous issue. Cross, in particular, started out as a scumbag striking out with women in clubs, then a scumbag under the care of the Assassins and now a weirdly messianic figure in full Matrix Reloaded mode, all cleaned up and stripped of his rough edges from the previous issues. And then he meets the Mentor, apparently the Assassinís Creed version of the Architect, all clad in white and supremely wise, the sum of not only his own experience, but also his predecessors, whose knowledge carries over each time a new Mentor is appointed. But, unlike the Wachowskisí film, this meeting of innocence and experience more sensical, and has an actual climax instead of Keanu robotically walking out of room.
Stewart and Kerschl fill their pages with word balloons -- the Mentor scene is full of (necessary) exposition -- but they donít have that Claremont-y clutter. Or, for that matter, the pseudo-philosophical mumbo-jumbo of that well I keep returning to. Thereís no letterer credited, but given that the lettering can get really aesthetically pleasing and harmonious with the art -- go flip to Page 2, where a long speech runs down the page in the empty space between characters, leading all the way to the speaker in the bottom panel -- we can assume that Stewart and Kerschl at least had some part in lettering the thing.
Orelov, on the other hand, just keeps aging. Each time we meet him heís scruffier, more haggard. Since The Fall #1 heís aged nearly 30 years, and our creators make it show with the dozens of lines on his face, crowís feet and decreasingly dapper mustache. Not only are the artists adept at depicting age but they can do it subtly, too, judging by their rendition of Orelovís wife in #1 versus #3. Guys, can you please draw all comics and spare me the eyesores?
Most importantly, this third part actually delivers, which is something I worry about with licensed comics. Too often they seem derivative and slave to their original form -- did YOU care about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics until they became the primary source for the story after the TV show ended -- but Assassinís Creed: The Fall feels like it wasnít made to be a pale derivative of something else, but its own self-contained story that also feels like it might have some affect on the Assassinís Creed universe at large, or at least formed an important part of the gameís mythology.
It helps that Stewart and Kerschl are working with original characters instead of carryovers from the video games. As a result, they have a bit more creative freedom, allowing them to work in a shocking climax and an unexpectedly killer ending. Oh, and some beautifully choreographed fight scenes reminiscent of the ones Stewart drew in Batman & Robin.
Other comics creators, take note: this is how you do it.
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