Written by Takashi Yano | Art by Kenji Oiwa | Published by Titan Comics
Not another Assassin’s Creed spin-off I hear you cry. To be fair, there are an increasing number of Assassin’s Creed titles starting to hog shelf space these days. What makes that ok in my mind is that they are not just cash-ins repeating the same formula, they all have differing tones and pick up on differing aspects of the Assassin’s Creed universe. They all deserve their place. Assassin’s Creed: Awakening certainly has its own identity, being that it is a reprint of a Japanese manga series. That of course means black and white, and told from right to left, which can be a little jarring if you’ve never read manga before. Also, it is an adaptation inspired by the Assassins Creed: Black Flag console game. So let’s take a look at the first two issues of a planned six issue series.
Issue 1 drops us straight away into a naval engagement led by pirate Captain Edward Kenway, in the Eighteenth Century Caribbean, an engagement that lasts half the issue. While visually interesting to look at, the battle has very little narrative at all, and seems a bit excessive in terms of page count. Kenway eventually gets thrown into the sea by a gunpowder explosion, and as he drifts into unconsciousness has a flashback to why he became a pirate. When he comes to, his ship and crew are lost and he is washed up on shore, the only other survivor an injured man. The man is an Assassin, though Kenway doesn’t know this as he robs him. Before we can find out what Kenway has taken, we are thrown out of the Animus as a young man, Masato, is revived. He has been told this is all just a game, which we obviously know with Abstergo it isn’t.
Issue 2 picks up with Masato finding out he wasn’t picked as a tester at random, but that his mother recommended him. Cue another staple of manga, the flashback, as we see Masato’s mother abandon him at a young age to seemingly go and work at Abstergo. Not only that, but it seems she was one of the designers of the Animus itself. Masato of course is blissfully unaware of all this, thinking his mother works for some sort of games company. Masato’s story takes up virtually the entire issue, with just a short trip to check in on Kenway as, now in possession of some important document he found on the no longer alive Assassin, he finds himself in a very precarious situation at issue’s end.
These first two issues of Assassin’s Creed: Awakening are, to use a cliché, a game of two halves. The first issue was visually interesting but the narrative was all over the place, with very distracting over the top sound effects and text. The second issue made far more sense with the narrative, digging deeper into Masato’s story, and giving the reader some actual emotional foothold in the story. The problem overall for me is that manga is often overly sentimental and simplistic when it tries to tell emotional stories. It’s great of course for action and adventure, which Kenji Oiwa shows with the naval battle art in Issue 1, but lacks the depth of character development needed to really draw you into a characters emotional story.
This series may struggle to find an audience, and be a rare misfire for both Assassin’s Creed and Titan. It’s not terrible, but not the most accessible of books either, and doesn’t have anything that will really draw you back in next month. There’s not enough of Kenway doing stuff, which will lose the casual Assassin’s Creed reader, and Masato’s story is not engaging enough to attract mainstream manga fans. Next issue being the midway point of the series will dictate if this series will see pirate Kenway sink or swim.
A very mixed bag for me, the dynamic black and white art saving it a little.
Assassin’s Creed: Awakening #1 and #2 are out now from Titan Comics.