Written by Dennis Calero | Art by Dennis Calero | Published by Titan Comics
I like the way that although this second story arc for the book, ‘Cross of War’, is obviously it’s own animal, it has directly come out of the groundwork laid in that first 5 issue arc introducing the Black Cross. The Black Cross, if you are late to the party, was/is the enforcer for the Templars, carrying out missions for them and rooting out internal corruption. The Black Cross always has to be from a single bloodline, and the last Black Cross was seemingly shot and killed at the conclusion of the first arc, back in 1920′s Shanghai.
A modern day descendant, Andre Bolden, has been located and via the Animus is helping Templar agents investigate into the past of the Black Cross. This aspect also takes another a little more from old pulp characters. Just as the 1920′s Black Cross looked like The Shadow, the passing on the mantle down the generations is lifted straight from The Phantom. Let’s call it a homage. Andre finds himself in the boots of an early nineteenth century ancestor, Solo Bolden, en route with Jan Van der Graff to Tripoli to infiltrate the Sultan’s palace. But why?
Well first off, it seems Andre Bolden is not the descendant of Solo at all, but of der Graff, which throws something of a spanner into the works. Back into the Animus we go, and as the two adventurers progress into Tripoli bickering all the while it feels like one of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby’s ‘On the Road’ movies. That levity soon gives way a bit later though as things get more dangerous and the previously jovial der Graff hints at sad times in his past. In fact, it seems that his jovial buffoon persona is something of an act, as Solo Bolden starts to discover, and his estimation of his travelling companion goes up tenfold. The two journey deeper into the catacombs under The Sultan’s palace, before they are met by the Sultan’s guards and, after a short fight, Solo Bolden is run through and either badly injured or even killed. He cryptically asks der Graf to find The Black Cross, even though he is The Black Cross. A mystery for another day.
The Templars pull Andre out of the Animus in the present, both angry that they know even less now than they previously thought they knew, and worried by Andre’s mentions of not feeling very well. Also, one of the Templar team may not quite be what they seem, something boss Bolden Berg may or may not be aware of; his earlier conversation about trust may have been a coincidence but I’m not so sure. If I was Andre Bolden I would also be watching my back, as it seems that a few on the team aren’t too happy that he is starting to learn a lot more about what he is helping them find than they are comfortable with.
This had a very fun sort of Indiana Jones feel to it, what with the Middle East setting, the hunt for magical jewels and trying to avoid sword wielding baddies. Dennis Calero is something of a one-man band on this arc, writing, pencilling, inking, and colouring the entire issue, and does a great job. As you would expect, him being an artist, it is a very visual issue with a ‘panel layout first, text later’ approach, rather than the more traditional working to the writers direction we usually see. The story flows effortlessly, and Calero throws in a nice mix of layouts, big panels for action scenes, smaller more focused panels for dialogue. He accentuates the mystery and drama through great colouring work, really incorporating shadow and murkiness when needed.
I think this book is the more grown up sibling of the Assassin’s Creed family, with darker themes and characters, but still delivering on the all important entertainment. Great work by Dennis Calero.
Assassin’s Creed: Templars #7 is out now from Titan Comics.