Written by Fred Van Lente | Art by Dennis Calero | Published by Titan Comics | Format: Paperback, 32pp
Assassin’s Creed: Templars was a welcome addition to the Assassins Creed universe, switching the focus as it did from the Assassins Guild to the Templar Order. As all the books and games have established, neither side are the traditional good or bad guys, both are trying to point the world in a direction they wish it to go. Black Cross, as we learned last issue, is an enforcer for the Templar Grand Masters in the late 1920′s, whose job is to stamp out corruption and dissension within Templar ranks. His look, and the way he acts and talks, owes a lot to the old pulp heroes of that era.
Funnily enough though, last issue focused the most on young Darius Gift, sent on a mission to Shanghai by the Templars to redeem his family name after his corrupt father was killed. He is obviously hugely out of his depth in operating in that murky world of assassins and templars, and in a Shanghai that is seething with anti-western sentiment. He narrowly survives an attack when Black Cross himself steps in to help him, but what was he doing there? Clearly Black Cross does not normally stray outside the parameters of whatever assignment he is currently on, but his realisation that he killed Darius’s father and so is the reason Darius is even there, prompts him to help. He promises to find the box given to Darius by the Templars that has been stolen and return it before they are aware it has been taken. What is in the box we all wonder….
Black Cross is in Shanghai we learn as there are concerns that the Templars running the Shanghai Rite are not doing a good job. Templars are told to help him, never tell even their closest friends they have encountered him, and not to reveal anything about his/her identity. Black Cross, eavesdropping on the Templar meeting at which all this is being discussed, also learns something that may begin to sow the seeds of doubt in his mind concerning the purity of his mission. It seems that a traitor is at play within the Templar ranks. Meanwhile a very disillusioned Darius has been drowning his sorrows, and stumbles completely by chance across the identity of the woman who stole his box. The issue ends on ,as you would expect from a comic inspired by 1930′s pulps and serials, a cliffhanger as Black Cross has been set up and ambushed by machine gun wielding thugs.
On balance, I am still undecided on both Assassin’s Creed: Templars and the character himself. Black Cross is, essentially, The Shadow, even down to the way he is drawn and the costume that he wears. It feels at times like a Shadow story that has had the Assassins Creed elements added on and the story repurposed. Much of this story involved detective work, again a Shadow trademark, as is the use of exotic locales. Too many similarities for me to just chalk up to chance; either Van Lente rewrote a Shadow inventory story he had, or is writing The Shadow story he wanted to write.
Despite all that, I am enjoying the book. I like the set-up, the characters, the locales, and the underlying themes of duty and betrayal. At times the book meanders too deeply into several pages of plot that could be resolved in two pages, or there is just a little too much wordplay going on, but its heart is in the right place and is worth sticking with. Dennis Calero’s art was excellent, though his tendency to try and turn some panels into pin-ups is noticeable at times. He also seems to like a lot of very close up facial shots, silhouette work, and plays with layouts, all of which give a quirky identity to the art.
Two issues in, and I am still on the fence with this book. Not bad at all, but not as engaging or original as I would like either.
Assassin’s Creed: Templars #2 is out now from Titan Comics