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Isu Codices, Volume 1: Catching up with “Assassin’s Creed”

By | May 31st, 2017
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Here on the Isu Codices will be all there is to see about new developments in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, particularly from the comic book front. By sheer coincidence, this first issue is coming on the heels of the first official information about the next installment in the franchise on the video games, but they will only be handled tangentially where it relates to the comics.

New Concepts
There are quite a few concepts that are important to the series, including certain species, genetic memory, and “magic” from technological sources. In order to fully understand the events, it is best to have a basic grasp on each of these, as they are of importance in the latest information.

Essential to the series is a quote famously stated by author Arthur C. Clarke, his third law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

A key example of this concept is the Isu, also known as Those Who Came Before or the First Civilization. Possessing triple-helix DNA, they ruled the Earth long before humanity came to the fore, and seemingly created humanity.

Their skill with technology is such that they can send messages across time, use electrokinesis, heal injuries, monitor people across the entire world, contact something called the “Nexus” to talk across vast distances, and cast illusions and mind control. They themselves also have a variety of superhuman powers, including some passed down to humans who possess even some of their genetics.

They are so advanced that modern humans view them as gods, under names such as Minerva, Jupiter, and most importantly, Juno, Aita, and Consus. For the most part, they died out in approximately 75000 BCE during the Toba catastrophe, a coronal mass ejection from the Sun that eradicated their civilization during a slave uprising brought about by the human-Isu hybrids known to modern audiences as the Biblical Adam and Eve.

The Grey
The Grey seems to be a kind of cyberspace, one that exists beyond most human consciousness. With her release on account of Desmond Miles’ actions to save the world, Juno, one of the Isu and a member of the Capitoline Triad alongside Minerva and Jupiter, had her essence dispersed into this new means of life, where she waited for her Sages (see below) to free her to take on a new physical body. She is far from powerless here, however. In the Grey, Juno can communicate with users of Animus-based technology (see below) to gather more Sages’ genetics, communicate with her followers, and even managed to drive the Medeya Voronina, the mother of the Master Assassin Galina, to insanity.

Isu Genetics
As far as the genetic link between the species goes, sufficient DNA can lead to the development of a sixth sense known as “Eagle Vision,” which seems especially common on the side of the Assassins (more on that below). However, there is a far more dangerous application in the form of the Sages.

Sages are essentially reincarnations of Aita, the husband of Juno and commonly remembered throughout history as a variety of gods of the underworld. In an attempt to save her husband when his mind was more or less lost in the attempt to transfer his consciousness to a human body, Juno scattered his DNA to humanity to bring him back over time. Most Sages are male, and have a vastly larger amount of Isu DNA than most people, in a margin of 0.0002% to 0.0005% in most people versus 5% to 6% in Sages.

Multiple Sages can exist at once, but those that succumb to their Isu spirit make attempts to resurrect Juno, and as such have become increasingly hostile toward humanity as ages go by, as well as increasingly mentally unstable. Modern Sages include John Standish (the original source of the Phoenix Project) and, even more recently, the illegitimate son of Desmond Miles, the initial protagonist of the entire series before he sacrificed his life to save the world.

Due to their high quantity of Isu DNA, the Sages are highly prized by Abstergo Industries, the modern day Templars (more on them below), as they are the key to the Phoenix Project, an attempt to create an Isu body. Unbeknownst to them, this project is being masterminded by the Instruments of the First Will (see below) on behalf of Juno.

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Human Ingenuity
Humanity has replicated or modified a variety of Isu technologies (in particular the near-mythical Pieces of Eden) to their own uses, known as “recursor relics.” The most famous of these is the Animus, a device that allows the user to relive the memories of their ancestors by way of genetic memory. This technology, formed from research into Isu “memory discs” that allow storage of events, forms the basis of the majority of the franchise.

Free Will versus Control: The Assassin-Templar War
The core of the conflict in the series is not one of good versus evil, as some may assume, but of order versus chaos, of control versus free will. The Assassin Brotherhood, identified from their past as the Hashshashin, are protectors of free will, whereas the Templar Order, known best for their prior existence as the Knights Templar, are in favor of absolute order, often to the point of fascism.The entire conflict has been at play since Biblical times, with the infamous Cain of the story of Cain and Abel being identified as the first Templar, and Adam and Eve being the originators of the Assassins. The war has influenced events throughout history, with the Templars being far more successful at consolidating their power, especially under the mantle of Abstergo Industries in the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Both sides have their better members and their worse, whether driven by fanaticism or avarice. The most overt examples of this amoral structure to the conflict itself come from the Templars, given that they are not the eponymous faction of the series. On the down side, we have the time of the House of Borgia during the late 15th and early 16th centuries, which was so consumed with greed that it was known as the Dark Age of the Order. On the up side, and more important to the lore of the comics, we have the Black Cross, a secretive internal affairs agent that is used to root out and cut apart corruption in the ranks of the Templars, even as high as the Inner Circle that does most of the direct rule over the organization. The individual with this title is often more willing to work with the Assassins in order to prevent corruption, though this is not necessarily enough to prevent them from being seen as antagonistic to ally and enemy alike.

In the comics and other recent media, other factions have shown their faces and complicated this shadow war. Erudito, a collection of hackers, have far and wide joined with the Assassins. The inclusion of a third side to this conflict has made things even more complicated.

Instruments of the First Will

Although Sages have existed for centuries uncounted, they have only seemed to be willing and able to gather a following in relatively recent times. As early as World War I, a Sage began to gather a cult, one that by the mid 2010s was spread across the entire world. Known as the “Instruments of the First Will,” these followers of Isu paganism have infiltrated both the Assassins and the Templars, and seek to continue their war while preparing for Juno’s reincarnation into a physical body. As a note to their sheer insanity, they appear to truly believe that by submitting entirely to Juno’s will they will achieve “true order” in a way that the Templar Order does not attempt. Rather than imposing a “new world order,” they want to go back to the oldest ways, ones of slavery and servitude to the quasi-divine Isu, in particular Juno herself.

Owing to their infiltration of a wide variety of organizations, the technology of the Instruments is a mishmash of experimental technological advancements from Abstergo coupled with Assassin aesthetics and techniques, combining the most dangerous of both worlds to create a threat to both sides of this war and avoid drawing attention to themselves as a separate group.

New Issues
“Assassin’s Creed: Reflections” #3

As with other issues of this miniseries, the story in the present day seems of most importance. Though Master Templar Juhani Otso Berg is viewing the pasts of earlier player characters in the franchise and their relatives, his motives remain clear.

Continued below

Berg has, especially since the “Templars” comic arc ‘Cross of War’, seemed to be in essence the “only sane Templar,” the one who can see the strings pulling the organization and is trying to help move them forward into the present. As such, he took up the role of the Black Cross, but he also is fully willing to research the less combat-centric moments in Assassins’ lives, showcasing his intellect far above most of his peers.

However, he isn’t above seeing the worst of the Assassins, and as such takes the idea of a convert being more dangerous than any born of the Assassin Brotherhood as their most dangerous. In a sense, he might not be entirely wrong, but the dirty lens through which he views his enemies may end up being his undoing, should he fail to recognize them as possible compatriots against a common foe like the very Templars that attacked him earlier in his career.

“Assassin’s Creed: Uprising” #4

Guernica’s assessment of the chaos of life in early 2017 is not without validity, but his decision to follow with the attempted murder of Charlotte de la Cruz, our most prominent Assassin protagonist after the fall of Desmond Miles, is decidedly extremist. As such, as brutal as Galina’s methods are in torturing him to attempt to find out his motives (and thus finding out some inklings of the Instruments, though not that they are led by the being who ruined the Russian Brotherhood and in doing so her family), it is hard to feel sympathy for him.

Juhani Otso Berg continues to be one of the more reasonable Templars. He seems hostile toward My’shell Lemair, an admitted agent of Galina’s Assassin cell, but after getting the information he needed out of her (namely, that she had none), he seemed to be at least benevolent enough to let her know about her light concussion. Still, he seems outmatched by agents of the Instruments, especially their “blade.”

From the glimpse into the murder of Saturn, Juno’s father, it is entirely clear that Juno’s assessment that she only went against humanity due to the assassination is patently false. Even before his death, she was proposing the annihilation of humankind on the basis of them being inferior. On the other hand, both Minerva and Saturn were in favor of uplifting humanity, granting them more technology and potentially leading to the two species coexisting. Of course, Saturn’s murder cut any of that short, but the flashback nonetheless undercuts any of the sympathy that readers could have for the aspirant dictator.

Her intentions toward human annihilation, rather than subjugation, leaves to question what use the Instruments will be going forward. Will they be discarded? Will they abandon her once they realize they are just to be killed? The latter is very unlikely due to their fanaticism, but her goals make clear that she is even more of a threat than ever thought before.

Furthermore, Juno is seen using the Koh-i-Noor, a Piece of Eden that responds to females, as a weapon, releasing some form of energy that can kill multiple people in one blast of tendrils. Given that she seems to want a body for herself through the Phoenix Project, and that she wants her followers to find and retrieve the Koh-i-Noor, does she plan to use it to similar effect again, potentially on a wider scale?

Violet da Costa seems to have some conflict with the other Instruments. While she is loyal to Juno, her dual loyalty to Sigma Team and Berg leave her unwilling to let him die, wanting him to be on her side. Perhaps she can be turned back to the side of those in favor of the continued existence of humanity? It seems unlikely given her overall volatile and abrasive nature, but her kindness when it comes to Berg leaves some things up in the air.

By contrast, the aforementioned “blade” of Juno, Jasdip Dhami, seems to be their chief enforcer, having been present at several sights of conflict between the Instruments and the Assassins in particular. An interesting choice to fight them Dhami was once a member of the Indian Brotherhood in “Assassin’s Creed: Brahman,” the series that first identified the Koh-i-Noor. He also seems to have a lot of hostility toward Berg for his strike team killing Jasdip’s sister Siobhan. However, his loyalty to Juno seems paramount above all else, making him seem to be a far saner version of the Sage John Standish.

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Wherever Juno had Desmond Miles’ son brought, he seems to be in the presence of at least several hundred Instruments. The full numbers of the group seem to be far larger than initially thought, making them even more dangerous, and he seems to be the equivalent of their “Christ,” as a new Sage who has succumbed to Aita’s power. How far will he go from his father’s legacy? Time will tell, but so far he seems on the path to become a rather dangerous individual, especially if given a Piece of Eden.

Between her far greater knowledge of history from the Isu Era through toward present day, Charlotte seems to be turning into an amalgam between Desmond Miles’ skills (including his Eagle Vision) and Clay Kaczmarek’s knowledge. Hopefully she will remain sane, but such a distinction is not too clear. Furthermore, though she is being used for information by Juno while being given information in return, she also seems to be fully willing to be reasonable in the conflict altogether when it comes to the enemies of humanity as opposed to those of freedom. In her own words, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but… we need to warn the Templars.”

In all, this undercover war seems to be coming to a head, but how the various sides come out of this seems entirely uncertain.

//TAGS | Isu Codices

Gregory Ellner

Greg Ellner hails from New York City. He can be found on Twitter as @GregoryEllner or over on his Tumblr.


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