Given its seemingly endless amount of games on every platform imaginable, it is a bit surprising that Assassin’s Creed games have yet to explore anything from World War II. The two-part Conspiracies comic looked to correct this. Released in France in 2017 and in English earlier this year, the two issues were presented together in Assassin’s Creed: Conspiracies – The Complete Collection just in time for the Christmas rush.
Conspiracies takes place almost entirely in the past, which is usually a good sign for the series’ comics. It means that the classic Assassin’s Creed tropes of roof-running and brutal kills will be plentiful; and that is certainly the case here.
Our protagonist is Eddie Gorm, a dockworker in London during the war who specialises in reselling war rations to the poor. Not an Assassin himself, he is nonetheless swept up into an anti-Nazi plot when members of the Brotherhood approach him following the death of his family members in an air raid. Eddie reluctantly agrees, relocating to Germany and working his way up the Nazi army to prevent their development of a superweapon.
As Assassin’s Creed plots go, this is fairly straightforward, which works in its favour. We know all of the players and their basic motivations, unlike several other recent series which necessitated deep knowledge of the franchise lore in order to fully understand what was going on. The thinness of the plot also allows for more extended action scenes and faster pacing, never getting bogged down in too much exposition.
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That basic spy storyline is quite fun, though. It has all of the requisite twists and turns that one expects, but features just enough Assassin’s Creed weirdness to remain interesting. One wishes that the franchise overall would begin embracing this approach of trying out new story genres in addition to time periods if only to freshen things up a bit.
That action is unfortunately the one area where Conspiracies falters. Poor blocking of the violence leads to frequent confusion as to what is taking place, which is a bit of a problem when your comic is as action-heavy as this one is. The art style also seems to change for these action scenes, going for a more basic and thicker-lined look that appears cheaper and more rushed. These are certainly not dealbreakers, but are a detraction.
As Eddie continues his work for the Brotherhood, he slowly learns their ways and is soon executing daring kills and acrobatic stunts all on his own. By the time he and his cohorts are raiding the superweapon’s location, he has learned that he was actually recruited specifically because his ancestors were Assassins, and that the weapon is no bomb, but is instead a psuedo-Animus. All of this is fine, but at this point it does feel like these two plot points have been recycled endlessly by the series.
The Animus does, however, allow for a tie-in to the modern world, which is the basis for the WWII story’s framing device. Their scenes are thankfully kept to a minimum, but show a husband and wife team strapping Eddie Gorm’s descendant into an Animus to access Eddie’s memories. Maxime Gorm is said to be an amnesiac, just like the couple’s daughter, and they hope to use the machine to find a way to restore her memories.
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This stuff is a bit confusing, but it is presented cleanly and rarely enough to stay entertaining without overstaying its welcome. It also ends on a cliffhanger that provides plenty of reasons to want a follow-up if only to better understand.
Jean-Baptiste Hostache and Patrick Pion’s artwork throughout the series is good, if inconsistent, although lacking the sleek polish or style of the Origins and Uprising series. Guillaume Dorison’s writing is surprisingly strong, especially given that it is a translation. The plot moves quickly without excessive dumps of information or over-explanation and motivations for characters are conveyed clearly and excitingly.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed: Conspiracies is one of the stronger and more purely enjoyable series to come out of the franchise in quite some time. Its story is basic and lacking in many surprises, but that simplicity allows for the simple pleasures of a classic spy story with the trademark Assassin’s Creed action to shine through. If you are interested in the story, the Complete Collection is clearly the best choice, especially since you will want to dive right into the second issue after the cliffhanger that ends the first.