It’s not often that a comic book based on a property (toys, cartoons, etc.) is good enough to make me want to explore that property outside of the comic itself, but the Assassin’s Creed: Trial by Fire TPB genuinely made me want to go out and buy the Assassin’s Creed video game. Yes, I know they are way different in terms of story and style, but the concepts expressed here were all sorts of entertaining.
This series is like Quantum Leap, only more badass because the character who “jumps” into the past is practically forced to be a dormant observer despite moral conflicts while the assassin goes around killing and doing some pretty shady stuff. We follow Charlotte de la Cruz, a young professional with a knack for knowing things that others don’t, who is recruited by the Brotherhood to enter the “Animus” which lets her essentially relive the life of her ancestor. She gets sent back to the Salem Witch Trials into the body of Tom Stoddard, a ruthless assassin whose mission is to recover an item of great power from the hands of the Templar, who are responsible in large part for the witch hunt of 1692. His partner and guide is an ancestor of a man called Joseph (from the present day) who also plans to use the knowledge of the relic to his advantage, and it is the duty of Charlotte to make sure that information stays hidden from Joseph’s family tree. The story includes oracles, jailbreaks, betrayal, and a lot of cool fight scenes that often end in cool deaths.
There are several really cool devices and aspects to this story, especially as someone completely new to Assassin’s Creed. First, the dual internal monologues are handled wonderfully. While I’m used to the “Deadpool-style” dueling personalities, this provides more of a one-way mirror perspective where Charlotte can hear and respond to Stoddard’s thoughts, but he oblivious to her presence. His thoughts are in blue while hers are pink, which provides proper differentiation between the two characters. The real brilliance of this is how Char is usually quite opposed to the actions and tactics of Tom, yet can only voice her opinion without acting on it, or else face terrible consequences.
Another draw for this series is the transition from historical fiction to a present-day espionage story with advanced technology as the engine that drives the plot. The three page history of the Salem Witch Trials at the end of the trade shows that writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery really committed to historic accuracy by doing their homework. Switch gears to the present and we see real conflict among the supporting cast that ultimately creates more problematic situations. Artist Neil Edwards breathes life into a wide variety of visual scenarios throughout the book, from the wild west to a dark dungeon, and all are distinctly great with the aid of the color work of Ivan Nunes.
I am just a casual fan of historic fiction, but since this throws in the sci-fi elements my interest in this title went through the roof. This complete arc has interesting new characters and a ton of action, not to mention time travel and magic. Seriously good for fans and n00bs alike.
Great, 4 out of 5 stars.