Written by Fred Van Lente | Art by Dennis Calero | Published by Titan Comics
As I have written in previous Assassin’s Creed reviews, the Assassin’s Creed universe is one of the richest out there. Although the many games supply a good back story and establish the Assassins Guild/Templar mythology, there is a huge blank canvas there for writers to play with characters, locations and historical timeframes. For this reasons, Assassins Creed has been probably the best game transferred to comic book format ever. This series gave Van Lente a chance to create his own little corner of that universe, and a central character in Black Cross who, as a Templar enforcer, works for the bad guys. Or does he? I love the shades of grey with the Templar Order and Assassins Guild, both of whom believe they are the ones in the right, and both of whom do both good and bad. Different colours, but essentially the same guys.
This story arc has seen the action take place in 1920′s Shanghai, as rebellion and sedition hang in the air. As General Chiang Kai-Shek and his rebel army look to end colonial rule, Black Cross is fighting corruption at the very heart of the Shanghai Templar Order. As is the nature of these things, those two seemingly separate events have started to merge into a greater whole. We learn that after the death of previous nationalist Sun Yat-Sen, secretly a Templar Grand Master, the Templar Council decided to also enlist Chiang Kai-Shek, also as a Grand Master. Rather coldly, they had sent Darius Gift to Shangahi from London with a box containing his murdered Templar father’s severed finger with the Templar ring (as a gift) still on it, something Darius now finds out.
Darius is just about to be killed by Shanghai gangsters when Black Cross arrives in the nick of time and manages to save him. Darius, now fully knowledgeable about the circumstances of his father’s death and the role Black Cross played in it, shoots him several times and he falls out the window. We cut back to the modern day and the offices of Abstergo, where the timelines of Darius Gift and Albert Bolden (the Black Cross) and the contents of the Shanghai Box had not ended as everyone expected. Indeed, Black Cross had not been seen since that night and has been presumed dead. Black Cross is, however, a hereditary position, and the Templar agents speculate that if he is dead, a descendant might be found to take up the mantle. Which ,coincidentally, ends this arc and leads into the next.
This first arc has had a nice pulp magazine, slightly noir feel to it, with a dab of political intrigue and historical drama. I still at times though forget I am not reading a Shadow story, as the story has been so perfectly evocative of that era. This is obviously an intentional homage, but a little more subtlety may have been a good idea to avoid that distraction. But hey, I like The Shadow so that’s ok by me. This last issue of the first arc was a nice enough read, but had to cram in a lot of pay-off, especially as we now know it may have all been something of a prologue for what’s coming next. It’s been a good mix though, of characters, plot and locales, and well worth the read.
Dennis Calero’s art and colouring were excellent, plenty of figures and faces in shadow, and plenty of interesting camera angles and shots to keep the eye interested. He does at times get a little lazy on those backgrounds, as they often completely disappear, but we’ll assume it’s a choice of style, rather than deadline. Always a sense of drama, of excitement, of intrigue.
Very nice work.
It’s always nice to see something a little different, and a pulp/noir story mostly set in 1920′s Shanghai certainly qualifies. Well worth your time and money.