ASSASSIN'S CREED UPRISING Vol. 1 by Alex Paknadel, Dan Watters, and Jose Holder
ASSASSIN'S CREED UPRISING Vol. 1 is a high-paced thriller that mirrors the source material well. Muddied visuals and uneven characterization keep it from being everything it could be, but fans of the award-winning video games should feel right at home!
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Fans of the ASSASSIN’S CREED video games have some basic expectations for each new release. Throughout this award-winning series, gamers have been treated to time traveling gameplay. By leaping into the memories of their characters’ genetic ancestors, players have the opportunity to experience the swashbuckling adventures of pirates or the theatrical culture of Da Vinci’s Italy. Going into ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING Vol. 1: “Common Ground”, I carried these very same expectations that defined one of my favorite creative franchises. These defining aspects of the series, though, were all but nonexistent. And part of me was okay with that.

ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING is the first volume of a new branching storyline for the ASSASSIN’S CREED comics. Tied into the continuity of both the video games and the previous ASSASSIN’S CREED comics, approaching this comic seemed like a daunting task. From the start, writers Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters assume at least a base level understanding of events. This is my first ASSASSIN’S CREED comic. I’ve played the games, but that only defined the basic setting of this near-future world. Did this story assuage my fears? Dive into the Animus with me, and find out!

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The Rise of the Black Cross

Assassin's Creed Uprising
Courtesy of Titan Comics

ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING opens in Hong Kong. Charlotte, a newly trained yet promising Assassin, and her hacker partner Guernica are the only survivors of a Templar raid. But the team has never faced Templars like these. They move and fight like the Assassin order, even donning their hooded cloaks. Barely escaping with their lives, the pair return to London to meet up with their team. Former Templar hacker My’Shell has continued her Assassin Training. After reporting the failed Hong Kong mission, Charlotte agrees to plug into the Animus and her ancestor’s memories for more training.

In the wake of the Hong Kong battle, Master Templar Juhani Otso Berg is sent to investigate. He, unlike his partner, questions the use of such force to guard this location. While it was once a major information hub, it has been demoted to a glorified filing cabinet. Donning the robes and armor of the Black Cross, Juhani travels the world questioning witnesses and other members of the Templar order. As his battles continue, his role in events becomes clear. He is not an Assassin killer. The Black Cross is a punisher of Rogue Templars.

As Charlotte plugs into the Animus, the underlying mysteries of the issue come to the surface. After her allies unsuccessfully attempt to wake her up, she becomes trapped in the virtual world. Now, the team must save their teammate before she dies within the Animus.

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Got Explosions?

Assassin's Creed Uprising
Courtesy of Titan Comics

ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING was not a typical story for this world. Sure, it carried a lot of the same elements. The Assassin-Templar War was an ever-present motivator for our protagonists. Even the Animus and the mysterious, sci-fi inspired Precursor race made appearances. But ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING never truly felt like an ASSASSIN’S CREED story. No deep-dive into the distant past occurred, only a story rooted in the high tension present day.

I enjoyed this shift in setting. The world created in ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING felt well designed and incredibly interesting. Fans of the video games understand the stigma surrounding the present day sections of those titles. In a word, fans despised them. Because of this, developers focused on the present less and less as the series continued on. ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING’s new focus on the Assassins of the modern world felt fresh and tense. Exploring the lore of the modern day Brotherhood of Assassins, seeing how the missions required information farming and hacking as much as ninja combat moves, was thrilling for a long time fan.

Most importantly, I rarely felt lost. As mentioned, ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING opens this particular storyline. However, it is not the first comic interconnected with this world. Charlotte De La Cruz has made other appearances in previous stories. While I haven’t read these past events, I never felt like I was lacking anything truly necessary. While I wanted to know more about the mysterious Project Phoenix, enough plot information was shared seamlessly with the reader.

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The Precursor’s Fall

Assassin's Creed Uprising
Courtesy of Titan Comics

ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING found great success in its dual characterization of Charlotte and Juhani. This pair acts as the crux of this story, helping to create a balanced philosophical battle. Juhani battles against corruption in the Templars. In doing so we learn what potential he sees in the Templar. While we can’t empathize with a group stripping mankind of its freedom, you know why Juhani does. On Charlotte’s side, we see her fears, her feelings of disassociation and bloodthirst after diving into the Animus. The writers do no favor or villainize either side, which is essential for this story.

Other characters do not receive this same treatment. The true antagonists, Juno’s Assassins, are all faceless, nameless drones. Most of all, Charlotte’s teammates, while having shadows of personalities, never come into their own. While My’shell breaks free of this characterization no-man’s land, Kiyoshi, Arden, and Galina all fall to the edges of our view. They have brief highlights, but nothing that makes them stand out.

The pages in ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING are beautiful. Jose Holder is a master of portraying character anatomy, which is essential for an ASSASSIN’S CREED story. However, I found the visual storytelling to be muddied. More than once, I couldn’t discern the exact movements of battles. Holder is a master on the page, so I cannot be sure if these visual issues are his fault. They aren’t everywhere. For the most part, I loved Holder’s style. Perhaps the script in these murky sections was indistinct; perhaps the art was rushed. It doesn’t change that it was hard to follow at times.

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ASSASSIN’S CREED has become one of my favorite video game series. Writers Paknadel and Watters lean into the setting while still making this story their own. The focus on the modern day events of the Templar/Assassin war is refreshing, giving a new scope to events.

While the visuals are sometimes hard to follow and the characterization is uneven, ASSASSIN’S CREED UPRISING does the right things well. Juhani Otso Berg gives an anti-hero that fully believes in the villains’ mission. Charlotte fits right at home as the go-to Assassin leader. Furthermore, her fears are realistic and beautifully portrayed on the page. Due to these factors, the plot is clear, concise, and worthy of the ASSASSIN’S CREED title.

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