After taking a year off to reset, the Assassin’s Creed franchise burst back onto the scene at the tail end of 2017 with Origins, depicting the beginning of the Assassin Brotherhood against an ancient Egyptian backdrop. With a positive reception and more DLC on the way, Origins seemed ripe for a comic spin-off, and I am happy to report that the first of the four-issue Assassin’s Creed: Origins series delivers exactly what fans have come to expect from the Assassin’s Creed franchise: gripping historical intrigue and brutal kills.
Issue #1 picks up roughly four years after the game’s ending, with protagonists Bayek and his wife Aya having split up to recruit people into their new brotherhood. The recent Hidden Ones DLC focused solely on Bayek’s life during this time, meaning that it is up to the comics to follow Aya as she works in 44 BCE Rome.
Right off the bat, the energy and fun of this story is apparent. Unlike the concurrent Uprising comic series, Origins intentionally avoids being bogged down with modern-day framing devices and plot lines. Instead, it is right into the action as Aya teams up with Brutus for a planned assassination of Julius Caesar, whose pursuit of a lifelong appointment sparks concern of a dictatorship.
Much of the issue is spent with Aya and Brutus discussing the reasons for killing Caesar and debating whether it is the right approach. As she surveys the city, Aya is reminded of her childhood enslavement and also runs into Mark Antony, lieutenant of Caesar and friend of Cleopatra. Antony lets on that he knows of Aya’s past in Egypt, only for Aya to deny and run off to the Senate for her main mission.
The Caesar assassination plays as this issue’s climax, and it is a very well-executed sequence, full of blood and excitingly-choreographed violence. As he lays dying, Mark Antony and others in the crowd begin to murmur about Caesar’s popularity and the possibility of unrest. To Aya, it becomes clear that this is just the beginning of her work in Rome.
For a first issue in a series, this is surprisingly exciting and fulfilling both as a starting point for a series and even on its own. The dialogue is good, if functional, while the action is brutal and exciting. The art and design here is also worth note, if only for avoiding the overly-polished sheen that usually permeates tie-in comics (such as Uprising).
It also subtly and effectively sets up quite a few plot lines that will be explored in the coming issues. The fate of Rome and Aya’s role in shaping it will likely be the main focus, but learning more about her backstory will deepen our appreciation of her here and elsewhere, while Cleopatra and Mark Antony clearly have something up their sleeve. Given that the issue’s prologue featuring an angry Cleopatra is set in 30 BCE, we’re looking at having 20 years-worth of narrative featuring Aya and Bayek by this summer, which is quite a feat. It is also a positive sign that Ubisoft is dedicated to deepening and fixing the confusing franchise mythology that existed before the Origins game release.
This start of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is a must for any fan of the game or series, providing entertainment and laying the foundation for a deep and meaningful story arch. As Aya navigates the world of Roman politics and presumably becomes entangled in the sinister Cleopatra’s web, one hopes that it will maintain this same level of quality. If it does, it will rank as one of the best tie-in comics of recent years.