Hey, remember when Charlotte was the main character of this comic? Those were good times.
I’m gonna start this review off with another trip to the Jay Petrequin Honesty Corner: it’s been a long few weeks. Assassin’s Creed #3 has been in my inbox for a while, but a tumultuous trip home for break, and a busy holiday season, kept it off my plate for longer than I would have liked. Before reading this newest issue of Tom Stoddard’s adventures in Salem, I felt bad about this neglect. Now, I feel like the universe was doing me a favor, protecting me from what the third issue of the Assassin’s Creed comic series had to offer: ugly art, bad editing, and terrible story decisions.
When we last left Tom Stoddard, he had just found the Piece of Eden in a very unlikely place; inside a young girl living in the town of Salem, during the historic witch trials. The mission now faced by himself and fellow assassin Jennifer Querry is to get the girl safely out of town, along with an annoying little boy who the two cowled figures quarrel over far more than he is worth. Issue #3 starts off by continuing to focus far more on Stoddard than on his current-day ancestor, Charlotte de la Cruz, as he and Querry both prove to be pretty terrible assassins in their own lovely little ways.
Stoddard discusses his knowledge of the moral code of assassins never killing the innocent, despite his brutal actions both before and afterwards. Querry, meanwhile, comes off as smart and reasonable at first, but suddenly begins making inexplicable bad choices purely for the sake of giving Stoddard a reason to leave her behind for a while. The both of them act like petulant children who have made a game out of imitating their arguing parents. What’s worse is that their end of the story for the issue culminates in one of them being blamed for something that was quite clearly not his fault. Dislike Tom Stoddard as I do, – and believe me, I do – it’s still plain to see that his actions in the climax of Assassin’s Creed #3 aren’t his fault. The heartlessness and brutality? Yeah, those are still his fault.
Meanwhile, in the present era, we have Charlotte. Remember Charlotte? I do. She was peppy and smart, if occasionally melty in the face. I liked her. She was a protagonist I could really get behind, you know? Charlotte gets more face time in #3 than she did in #2 (not sure how much that counts when it’s up from 0%), but she spends most of it gasping half-formed sentences and being helped around by the quarreling group of Animus-wielding freedom fighters aiming to take Abstergo down. These other characters actually have a lot more focus than Charlotte, and not for good reasons. They’re infighting, disagreeing on what to do after an act of betrayal is revealed and has to be acted on. This escalates way too quickly, and feels like a scene from the kind of soap opera nobody should ever watch on purpose. It’s wooden, illogical, and kind of ugly.
The plot twist of the Piece of Eden being trapped inside a human body was an intriguing way to end the previous issue, albeit improbable. It was obvious that in order for that plot point to stand up within the greater Assassin’s Creed fiction, it would have to be explained and deliberated upon very carefully. Unfortunately, the exact, cosmic opposite of care is what has actually been taken, as it is further revealed that the girl is not actually the Piece of Eden after all. Or is she? Yes? No? Kind of? The real problem is that the comic itself seems confused about the role of this Deus Ex Machina figure of a character, and what her actual connection to the rest of the comic’s events are.
One small bit of payoff (he said with air quotes) we finally get is a battle of voices between Charlotte and her ancestor. We previously saw Charlotte struggle with the limited control she has over Tom, later coupled by the writers struggling with how to give her voice while watching an angry white man doing all the running around. In Assassin’s Creed #3, her voice pops up right alongside bubbles of Tom’s own internal thoughts at a few significant points, which actually adds to the narrative in a cool way, despite the brevity. Charlotte’s presence as the omnipotent observer isn’t all good, though, as she starts influencing things in ways that should be utterly impossible, breaking not only the rules of the Assassin’s Creed comics, but those of the games as well.
And now comes the part where I have to talk about the actual art again, and man; I just don’t get it. Backgrounds in Assassin’s Creed #3 look fine. Bodies? Also pretty good. But god forbid we have to see a face, or an even slightly complex action scene, because suddenly we’re making stuff with off-brand Sculpey clay outdoors on a 110 degree day. Characters will suddenly look subtly different, like they’re become different people in their own family trees (a fact very ironic considering the subject matter). It also doesn’t help that the artist’s grasp of female anatomy involves Querry’s butt jutting out at random moments where it really doesn’t belong.
There’s just nothing fun about this. Charlotte de la Cruz is no longer in control of her own story, one which contrives everything just to keep her in the narrative. Tom Stoddard has some really obnoxious anger management issues, and isn’t good at his job. Elizabeth Querry has sudden lapses of judgement wide enough to cover all of Salem, and also isn’t good at her job. Assassin’s Creed #3 is not just dull, as the first two issues were; it’s stupid. Almost offensively so.
Final verdict: 2.5 useless plot device children out of 5.
Publisher: TITAN Comics; Released: December 9th, 2015
Full Disclosure: this review was based on a copy of the comic supplied to HeyPoorPlayer by TITAN Comics.