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    Isu Codices, Volume 6: Catching up with “Assassin’s Creed”

    By | March 12th, 2018
    Posted in Annotations | % Comments

    It’s been . . . let’s check . . . five months since our last meeting. In our defense, we were just waiting for the newest comics to come by. There have been plenty of developments, in no small part thanks to the information coming out of Assassin’s Creed: Origins regarding the initialization of the war between the most prominent factions, so we’ll be going into everything.

    We also got an unusual release, as “Assassin’s Creed: Uprising” has had its schedule changed. Instead of releasing each issue in print, then a full volume also in print, each individual issue (numbered 9 through 12) will be digital-only, with only the full third, final volume to be in physical print. Given the new schedule, it’s likely we will have more of these Codices out in a row in the coming installments.

    New Concepts
    The Hidden Ones

    Cassius in the foreground, with Aya (left) and Brutus (right) in the middle ground.
    In roughly 48 BCE, the original incarnation of the Assassin Brotherhood, the Hidden Ones, was formed. It began with the quest for vengeance of the last of the elite Medjay, Bayek of Siwa, and his wife, Aya of Alexandria, who both wanted to kill the perpetrators of the death of their son, Khemu, in accordance with their beliefs in the polytheistic Egyptian religion. In fact, the title of “the Hidden Ones” originally came from Khemu himself, who used that term for he and his father when they went to hunt together.

    In a sense, Khemu is still a factor in the Assassin Brotherhood millennia later. The classic “wedge” insignia was formed from the impression that his eagle skull amulet made in the ground when dropped by Bayek after his vengeance had been fulfilled, implying that while the Hidden Ones, and thus the Assassins, are bigger than any one vendetta (hence leaving the skull behind), they still are beholden to the people first.

    At first, they actually worked with higher authorities, among them the rising Pharaoh Cleopatra VII Thea Philopator and General Gaius Julius Caesar. However, the machinations of the proto-Templars (see below) led to them falling from favor as both factions became more totalitarian and greedy, resulting in first the establishment of a brotherhood amongst Egyptians to face down the coming Roman-Egyptian regime, but eventually, with help from Aya, a branching out to other areas of the world, such as Rome, despite Bayek’s misgivings about moving out of a centralized area in Egypt alone.

    Outside of Bayek and Aya, famous Hidden Ones include Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger and Gaius Cassius Longinus. Not until the formation of a sovereign state in 1050 CE was the brotherhood reformed into the Hashashin, and thus the Assassin Brotherhood.

    Long before the release of Origins, before anyone had any idea about the “Hidden Ones” (and perhaps before they were even a concept in the franchise framework), people knew about one particular event in this era of history, the fall of Egypt as a world power. That event was the assassination of Cleopatra herself by the Assassin (now known to be a Hidden One) known as Amunet, who killed her with an asp snake’s venomous bite in 30 BCE. Whether it’s poetic justice based on the Order of the Ancients (see below) or not is unclear.

    As shown in the game, that individual is actually Aya herself, having renounced her former identity when she decided to put the Hidden Ones above her marriage, symbolically “killing” Aya in the process. This change is particularly tragic, since she was a good friend of Cleopatra before the game began, and it showed the dissolution of that friendship as the Pharaoh became drunk with power.

    Judging from the time frame used for the comic miniseries, the assassination may actually be shown, especially given that we have seen Amunet after she changed her name.

    Order of the Ancients

    The one mention of Septimius in the first issue.
    The Order of the Ancients is the prototype to the Templar Order, formed in roughly 1334 BCE by Ankhkhepure Smenkhkare Djeser Kheperu, known more commonly as Pharaoh Smenkhkare. The Order hide their identities behind animal-based aliases, each somehow connected to who they are and what they do, with the entire Order being called “the Snake.”

    Continued below

    Far from being only in Egypt, the Order spans a wide area, with several prominent members in Rome, among them Lucius Septimius, the Jackal, who is brought up as having been recently killed (the final boss of the game proper) in the first comic issue. Notably, history has no known recording of Septimius’s fate after his murder (and decapitation) of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus, a.k.a. Pompey, leaving his actions in the game at least somewhat plausible historically speaking.

    Through his manipulations of Cleopatra and Caesar and how they caused Aya to lose her stature at the expense of one of the men who led to Khemu’s death, Septimius has been considered Aya’s arch nemesis, at least until he died.

    Hidden Blade

    Sic semper tyrannis.
    The comics have not often shown the signature weapon of the Assassins, the Hidden Blade. It is an out-the-front switchblade that is attached to the wielder’s forearm, most commonly their left. The mechanism for opening it, and thus stabbing the target, was to thrust out the palm forward, tensing the muscles in the arm to act as a trigger. This weapon has gone through many variations, from the addition of hooks to pull people or hang, ranged weaponry, poison delivery, a pivot to use as a standard knife, vambraces to aid in defense, a grappling hook, electrical shock delivery, and more depending on the culture and the era.

    The one first used by the Hidden Ones was actually gifted to Bayek by Cleopatra, and was the exact same one used by the proto-Hidden One Darius to assassinate King Xerxes I of Persia (famous in modern times for his portrayal in the 300 films) in August of 465 BCE, roughly 420 years before the Hidden Ones.

    Until it was given significant upgrades by Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad in the 12th century CE, the weapon was almost as dangerous to its wielder as it was to its victim. The hair trigger could activate at random, and such an activation actually cost Bayek his left ring finger during the first assassination he took part in with its use, resulting in the ritualistic finger-severing that took place for centuries thereafter.

    New Issues
    Assassin’s Creed: Origins #1
    The framing story for this miniseries picks up in 30 BCE (a date recognizable from the description above), with Cleopatra worried about the encroaching armies of Gaius Octavius Thurinus (more commonly known as the first Roman Emperor, Augustus, but his name in that time has been anglicanized as Octavian), the adopted son and heir to Julius Caesar. She is curious about what has become of her former friend Aya since what can be assumed to be their last meeting together under that name, shortly after the death of Julius Caesar himself.

    Considering Aya’s famous assassination as Amunet, the ending to this miniseries seems to already be preordained, but it makes the fallout no less interesting.

    Our first look at the Pharaoh.

    The flashback storyline, on the other hand, seems to revolve around the Ides of March themselves, March 15 of 44 BCE. The way in which Anne Toole and Anthony del Col construct the plot, the timing is not exactly the same as in the gameplay. In the game, the boss fight with Septimius is followed up immediately by the assassination of Caesar, as if Aya had to fight through him in order to reach her target in time for the kill. On the other hand, by placing the two deaths a day apart, things become more clear and realistic. After all, the death of one of his key advisors wouldn’t have led Caesar to just go right over to his meeting, and the idea that Aya could have snuck in so soon after bloodying herself in combat is very unrealistic.

    Not to say that this change is irregular, either. The Animus is known to have bumps, glitches, times that are skipped over. The most glaring of these have the programming manipulated in order to point a player toward a certain perspective, such as in Assassin’s Creed: Liberation, an in-universe propaganda game. As such, having the timing differ just goes to show that this is how things really went in the Assassin’s Creed universe.

    Continued below

    Interestingly, the artwork by PJ Kaiowa and colorist Dijjo Lima depicts Marcus Junius Brutus in the “Armor of Brutus,” his family armor first seen by fans in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood during the early 16th century CE. This detail seemed to have been glossed over in the game itself, but its inclusion shows that he did in fact use it at one point, even if the canon and the so-called “Scrolls of Romulus” indicate that he did give it up after falling into a depression of sorts following that fateful day.

    In reference to this reluctance, he actually tries to give his dagger, later immortalized in the same game as his armor as the infamous and terrifying “Dagger of Brutus,” to Aya, but she denies it and says he will need it. The fact that he says he hopes he will not need it after that day he would kill his mentor and friend seemingly foreshadows his later suicide (along with Cassius) at the Battle of Phillippi roughly two years later.


    The circumstances of Julius Caesar’s assassination adhere more to the Hollywood and other famous interpretations of the event than some of the histories of the time. As written by Marcus Tullius Cicero, Brutus was actually a loan shark of sorts, profiting as a moneylender to the provincials (areas outside of the capital city, in this case Rome). Part of the reason why Caesar was killed was actually his institution of reforms during his status of dictator (from 49 BCE until his death in 44 BCE), including land reform that would have cut into his profits, which may have become permanent if he had stayed on. Of course, these are not the only reasons, but the assassination was not as cut-and-dry, good republic versus evil empire as most media would have people believe. In fact, the Roman Republic itself was rife with death and controversy, but that’s another story altogether.

    Furthermore, the reason for the meeting was very different. It was not an attempt to name himself as king (he already was, more or less), but to Caesar’s eyes, it was a rather by-the-books call to order before his trip to Parthia in order to avenge the death of Marcus Licinius Crassus, the first to die of the First Triumvirate (himself, Caesar, and Pompey), making the assassination all the more surprising.

    Brutus’s gift of prophecy is rather notable. While Aya (who has been relatively atheist, at least compared to her very observant separated husband) is understandably skeptical about such things, the prophetic dreams seem to be a form of the sixth sense of those with high levels of Isu DNA, those who have a possibility of using Eagle Vision. As he is known to have interfaced with a Shroud of Eden (a healing device of the Isu, one of which is the Shroud of Turin of Christian belief) postmortem, and only those with high levels of Isu DNA can interface at all to any significant degree, this connection is very probable.

    A variation on Eagle Vision?

    Aya actually brought up the simplest, most Assassin-like solution: kill Caesar in his sleep in the night, when he has the fewest guards and witnesses. Unfortunately, that is not the way of Rome, where people respond far more to spectacle (see also the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus for two famous examples in Rome itself). Much like the killing of Magnus the orator had to be done when he said an appropriate thing on which to kill him (about someone silencing his tongue if he is wrong about Caesar’s benevolence), she sees that in order to “fix” a broken system, she has to indulge in the same spectacle. Well, that and a desire to spite the people who brought her low in the most humiliating way possible.

    When in Rome, right? Come on, someone had to say it.

    The visit Aya makes to spy on Caesar’s home with his wife Calpurnia seems to be a means of showcasing how callous he has become. Of course, he was already shown as sexist in earlier parts of the game itself, especially when it comes to his disbelief in Aya’s abilities (and later having forgotten her face altogether by the time of his death), but it seems far more prominent here, to the point that he doesn’t even seem to care at all about Cleopatra either, seeing anyone but himself as expendable.

    Continued below

    As another side note, the assassination itself was not nearly as clean as is often depicted. In fact, given that most of the Senators were actually not very adept at fighting at all, they descended into chaos almost immediately, and the entire thing was rather tawdry and pathetic. A man by the name of Tillius Cimber held Caesar down while the others attacked. Assailants tripping over themselves and causing self-harm (and to one another, as in one case of Cassius accidentally slashing Brutus on the hand) in the process, Caesar trying vainly to defend himself with a stylus… nothing like the orderly means depicted in the game that acts as this one’s source (the fact that out of about sixty people, there were only about 23 wounds before his death, and four after, shows the amateurish nature as much as his own luck in self-defense).

    Of course, that change is easily identifiable. The franchise of Assassin’s Creed is, at its core, one of historical revisionism used to cover up the shadow war between factions, so by making the assassination appear in-universe to be more disorderly (if we go by the idea that our history books are wrong in their world), the Templars (then the Order of the Ancients) could aim to use the assailants against their puppet, the proclaimed Father of Understanding, as a means to garner fear, drawing more to their cause in the name of safety.

    To their credit, Kaiowa and Lima’s depiction of the assassination is a lot more chaotic than the game’s version, so perhaps, if this is what really happened in their world instead of an Animus simulation, perhaps the chaotic version still occurred even there, and the Animus simulation was the wrong one.

    After the murder, there is nothing but the reality of the situation left. Much like in real-life history, despite Brutus’s belief that the people would hail them as victors over a tyrant who had been proclaimed dictator for life, they instead turned on the Libertores, in this case the Hidden Ones.

    Marcus Antonius (better known as Marc Antony), an ally of Caesar and possibly even susceptible to (or a member of) the Order of the Ancients, says it flat out, as mentioned below.

    Reality ensues.

    Assassin’s Creed: Uprising #9

    Hell of a way to start the conclusion.
    Well, it happened. Or it’s going to happen in three days, anyway. Resurrection Day is inevitable, and it seems like it’s going to be bloodier and overall more destructive than even the Second Disaster turned out to be back in Assassin’s Creed III.

    The flashforward to “Resurrection Day” definitely works bettering a digital format, as the change in form allows us to act as though this is a different installment rather than a pure continuation from the ‘Inflection Point’ arc.

    Juno herself truly shows why the Isu are considered gods, rather than just another species with good technology. She has telekinetic control over the Koh-i-Noor (whether that extends to other things is unclear), and the havoc she wreaks is a true sight to behold from what we can gather of the brief showing. She also seems to be able to even “smell” the presence of Consus, an Isu entity also known as Prometheus, inside of Charlotte, which could mean any number of things regarding the Bleeding Effect or otherwise, especially now that the Shroud of Eden that held his digital consciousness is gone since around the time of the modern day actions in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate.

    Charlotte seems to be the only one able and willing to fight back against her, and she is still hopelessly outmatched, not to mention potentially wounded. The crazy Álvaro Grammatica is unfortunately alive to see Juno’s resurrection into a physical form, as is Desmond Miles’s still non-vocal son (called “Elijah” in a French artbook due for release abroad in October of 2018), who Charlotte, interestingly enough, seems to want to protect. Does she know something we don’t? Well, that’s obvious given we don’t see most of the time between, but still, why would she help an Instrument of the First Will, puppet or not?

    And what’s become of her fr– oh. Oh, wow.

    Continued below

    Rock falls, everybody dies.

    That body count looks like most of, if not the entirety of Charlotte’s friends in her Assassin cell, plus Berg. Arend Schut Cunningham is most clearly visible, though his wound is not. Right behind him seems to be Japanese Assassin Kiyoshi Takakura. Off to our left (Arend’s right) appears to be Templar Black Cross Juhani Otso Berg, the Black Cross, with the clearest wounds, if the red scarf on his mouth is anything to identify him.

    While Galina Voronina isn’t clearly visible, the implication is clear: if this is truly Resurrection Day, and that is not some form of illusion or hallucination, it appears that this arc is really cleaning house. The only likely confirmed survivors of this arc seem to be William Miles and Layla Hassan, the modern day survivors shown in the Assassin’s Creed: Origins game. Everything else seems up for grabs, in a way to clean the mythos for next developments. Not sure how to feel about that, but what is, is.

    Looks like we’ll have a bit of time. A little over two days until Resurrection Day, from their count. By the time we catch up with Arend and Kiyoshi, we learn more about each of them, with Arend being so tired of all of the fighting and wanting to go back to his husband, and Kiyoshi believing that the only way to survive is to keep moving and fighting without thinking about anything. Not exactly a healthy way to live, but what have you.

    The farmer couple that attack them and later the incoming Instruments, having killed several of their kind already, seem similar to the Jamaican Guardians of the Observatory in the Golden Age of Piracy; a faction relatively unrelated to anyone else who guard a piece of Isu technology with their lives. In this case, the old man and woman are both adept in combat, but that is primarily due to being trained by Ignacio Cardona and Albert Bolden themselves to protect the Koh-i-Noor. They don’t seem to have any lost love for the Templars nor the Assassins, but also do not seem to have much knowledge of the Instruments of the First Will either.

    We'll call it a draw.

    The fact that Galina and Berg are on the team with Charlotte means some pretty good ribbing ensues, especially without the “I’m better than you” arguments that tend to happen with Kiyoshi. Of particular note is the commentary they each make on one another’s outfits: while the Black Cross attire is kind of ridiculous and superhero-esque, the fact that the Assassins wear white hoodies makes them a blatant target most of the time in the modern era.

    Char’s connection to the Koh-i-Noor and Consus have given her some kind of… Isu Koh-i-Noor sense, perhaps linked her with it somehow, allowing her to be able to track it down in Spain. Does this connect to Durga still, or is she gone after what happened in “Assassin’s Creed: Brahman” with the Koh-i-Noor? Considering that Juno can just use the Piece as she wills, it seems unclear.

    An odd note is that when they do find the Koh-i-Noor, the corpses left by Rufus Grosvenor show absolutely no signs of rot. While it is possible that the collapse preserved them, it also might just be an oversight. Doesn’t matter much, anyway. The revelation that the Instruments were watching is so Raiders of the Lost Ark, though. Major acknowledgement for that implied reference.

    Jasdip Dhami’s torture of the old man was disturbing to watch, Guardian or no. Whatever love he had for the Assassins, that time is beyond long gone, especially considering the reason for the torture, such as removing fingernails one by one, was to torment Arend (who he identifies as Arend Schut, either not aware or not acknowledging the man’s marriage). He’s definitely one of the nastier Instruments of the First Will, as he would have to be in order to be Juno’s “Blade.” That said, he wasn’t seen in the opening pages, so he might not last long after all.

    Though he has been known to use high technology even before joining the Instruments (like his invisible “slip-suit” in “Brahman”), that advantage is disappearing fast now that the Assassin team ransacked one of the Instruments’ bases. Kiyoshi in particular, a hostage alongside Arend in their situation, made use of his new “razor-wire gauntlets,” a wire-based Hidden Blade-like mechanism, to lethal, dismembering efficiency.

    Continued below

    Um… ow?

    Any conflict was quickly disrupted as the battle over the unearthed Koh-i-Noor fell to it seemingly activating right in Charlotte’s hands, the random nature perhaps connected to the random activation of Bleeding Effect illusions in those who have them. This communion is, much like Juno’s own acts, shown through a glowing white light in the eyes in a show of supernatural power that could very well truly be magic at this point.

    Jasdip, Darkseid called. He wants his line back.

    How strong could it be, anyway? She’s just human, and an Isu like Juno managed some serious effects.


    … Okay, whoa.

    As the last arc of the Phoenix Project ramps up, things are getting flat out magical, in all of the best ways. Almost still makes one wish this could be played in a game.

    Okay, it totally does, but we’ll take what we can get at this point.

    //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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