As there has not been a new comic series for the Assassin’s Creed franchise since the release of the historical sequel series “Assassin’s Creed: Origins” (collected on October 30, 2018), outside of yet-to-be-translated installments of the French duologies, it seems appropriate to look into what would be good ideas to follow up upon from the most recently released video game installment, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey (released on October 5, 2018, with its last downloadable story element released on July 16, 2019).
However, there has been mention of the events of the three ongoing comic series from 2015 to 2018 in various in-universe files and emails on modern day protagonist Layla Hassan’s laptop computer, so the option for comics has not been completely ignored. In particular, the assault on the facility for the Phoenix Project in Australia (so far as the survivors amongst the Assassins and Templars know) in “Assassin’s Creed: Uprising” and the position of Juhani Otso Berg as the Templar internal affairs agent known as the “Black Cross” are both mentioned, though without much in the way of context either way (such is the peril of an expanded universe).
Due to both the lack of newer comics and references to other installments in the franchise as noted here, this installment of We Want Comics can also be called a new edition of our “Assassin’s Creed” comic series annotation feature, the Isu Codices (not to be confused with the newly unveiled, yet relevant, artifacts of the same name). As such, readers can expect major spoilers.
Before starting, let’s get one bit of terminology out of the way: “Isu” refers to a species with triple-helix DNA that existed before humanity and had technology that stretches straight into the range of pseudo-mythical abilities, many of which are seen in history and myth as one famous object or another, and many of said “Isu” being the gods and goddesses of various mythologies.
Kassandra the Eternal Mercenary
Approximately five hundred years before the curse upon Casca Rufio Longinus, there was a different “eternal mercenary”: Kassandra of Sparta (the canonical protagonist of the past portions of the game as designated in the official novelization). Trained to be a misthios (mercenary) from before she was even thirteen, and trained in the ways of Sparta for even longer, Kassandra attained immortality at some point between her late twenties and her early thirties in the last quarter of the 5th century BCE, thanks to taking ownership of the Staff of Hermes Trismegistus, an Isu artifact that granted, among many other abilities, biological immortality and an extremely potent accelerated regeneration effect to its wielder until they were to willingly give it up to someone else. As a testament to the artifact’s power, the previous wielder, the similar Isu-human hybrid Pythagoras of Samos, was able to wield it in order to stay alive for more than one hundred and seventy years, only passing on once he bequeathed the item to his aforementioned daughter. She herself kept it with her until she passed it on in 2018 CE.
How extensive are the possibilities for Kassandra as a comic protagonist? Well, writers have, barring elements already told in the franchise, more than 2400 years worth of history at their disposal, given that she did not appear to be a figure out in the open for most of it. To take the Casca analogy further, Kassandra’s morals may be far greater than his, but after her experiences with Aletheia (an Isu who showed her the dangers of too much order, of too much chaos, and of attempting to rule on her own either), coupled with her life even longer than that ex-Roman soldier, she would be prone to work for any and all sides, with the possible exception of working against the Isu themselves after her negative experiences with them. The result would likely be a moral, yet not necessarily loyal mercenary across the ages in a variety of lands, acting for order or chaos depending upon the situation, for or against different armies or governments, without being beholden to any ideology. Additionally, there is the concept of her potentially becoming slowly desensitized to losing her loved ones again and again, especially if she were to come across the descendants of her son Elpidios in Egypt.Continued below
The struggles do not merely extend to mundane horrors of war or treasures of love and the like, but to the mythological as well. Due to the use of Isu technology throughout the ages, including the likes of the Arthurian Cycle’s Excalibur and more beyond, Kassandra could be a way to interpret a variety of supernatural beings, such as a heavily modified version of the Green Knight faced by Sir Gawain. With the sheer variety of abilities afforded by the Staff itself (ranging from accelerated perception to hard light constructs of a particular weapon to removal of mental control over humans), she would appear to be truly divine and possibly misconstrued for a sorceress in her own right. Add in the teleportation and combat-based energy manipulation used by Pythagoras, and we have a clear, truly ridiculous, heavily science-fantasy infused take on where to head forward with an “Assassin’s Creed” comic.
“Isu technology can and will change whoever isn’t strong enough to command it.” – Aletheia
As shown in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey for the first time, monsters are real in the games’ lore. Or rather, they technically are. Formed through experimentation by the Illuminat caste Isu Juno and Aita, these creatures, including, in the very least, multiple Cyclopses, gorgons, minotaurs, and at least one sphinx, among others, were made in a fear mongering plot by the married couple to keep humanity in check before the outbreak of the Human-Isu War. While numerous examples were destroyed, who is to say that they are all gone? The existence of this Olympos Project opens quite a lot of doors.
As for a method of showing it all, a useful framing device would be having Aita and his assistant working on various experiments on humans, determining how each will change, and on what principles. From there, we can go into various famous scenes with mythological figures in myth, both explaining away how people could keep these stories around and keeping to a solid, realistic history at the same time (barring the monsters, of course). For example, at least some of these experiments were not completed, resulting in people who would turn to and from a monstrous form such as a wolf, thus giving rise to the stories of werebeasts such as werewolves and the like.
Monsters of non-human sorts are not entirely unseen in the Assassin’s Creed franchise, though mostly alluded to and assumed to be exaggerations of what actually happened. Back in Assassin’s Creed II, various items in myth or historical record were identified as the fabled “Pieces of Eden,” Isu artifacts kept long after they were gone that influenced humankind’s path forward in a variety of ways. One of these artifacts was a Sword of Eden that came to be known as Gram, which was obtained by Sigmund pulling it forth from the tree Barnstokkr (where it had been thrust by Odin) and passed down to his son Sigurd in what was possibly the sixth century CE. The sword itself was later used to kill the dragon Fafnir, from whose blood Sigurd learned the language of birds.
Now, who is to say that Fafnir was not an actual dragon? Who is to say that dragon was not another experiment of the Olympos Project in some form or another? Having understanding of the “language of birds” isn’t too far removed from the enhanced perceptions granted by Eagle Vision, known as “Odin-Sight” in the era that Sigurd would have lived. With correlations like those, bringing up more science fiction takes on supernatural monsters across the ages isn’t really out of the question.
Whatever Happened to Layla Hassan?
One of the oddest elements in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey’s lore from a modern day standpoint is the sudden changes in their most recent modern day protagonist, Layla Hassan. In short, she has gone through some significant changes in the months since her time in Egypt, but we have very little context on how this happened.
When last seen in 2017’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Hassan had been targeted by the Abstergo Industries special forces unit known as Sigma Team for assassination by her former employers. She had a close friendly relationship with one of the highest officers in the company, Sofia Rikkin, and had even been the one to design the much more mobile Animus device utilized in the 2016 live action film. While she had cut ties with Abstergo due to the attempt on her life (which was not entirely unexpected due to her acting without clearance or handing over what she would find), she explicitly stated to William Miles, de facto leader of the 21st century Assassin Brotherhood, that while she would accept his help in getting out of Egypt and even work with the Assassins, he should not misconstrue that alignment of immediate interests with being on the side of the inherently chaotic (though not necessarily malevolent) organization.Continued below
In Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, roughly a year or so later in 2018, Hassan has a rather close relationship with many of the recurring Assassins in the modern storylines, including Galina Voronina, Harlan Cunningham, Arend Schut-Cunningham, and the late Charlotte de la Cruz. The only time when all of this is really plausible would be at some point in the period between the end of the “Assassin’s Creed” comic in December 2015 and the beginning of “Assassin’s Creed: Uprising” in February 2016. While it is very possible that all of that happened, along with (less plausibly) her becoming familiar enough with Juhani Otso Berg, Master Templar and head of the aforementioned Sigma Team, to know of his activities as the internal affairs agent known as the “Black Cross,” none of this really explains how she managed to become the head of her own cell of Assassin operatives in that amount of time, especially when Charlotte de la Cruz was around for just as long, if not longer, and was only an operative within Galina’s cell instead.
Keep in mind, none of this is completely unreasonable. Desmond Miles went from being unwilling to indulge in any of the Assassin activity to being essentially the Brotherhood’s chosen one between September 1, 2012 and December 21, 2012, and much like him, Hassan has undergone the Bleeding Effect. However, adding some context would help to ease the transition quite a lot, and a comic series can achieve that very well. Given the closeness that Layla apparently had with Charlotte, having them actually meet on panel would do a great deal toward proverbially passing the torch of modern day protagonist from one woman to the other, on top of helping to show more in depth how the two of them deal with the paranoia and violence of their world.
As for creators to work on these series options, there is a sizable amount already lined up from the Titan Comics series. From the writer perspective, Anthony Del Col’s work on “Assassin’s Creed: Origins” and the “Assassin’s Creed” Titan Comics series show he is excellent at dealing with the various aspects of how history and conspiracy meld together, and could do a very good job with the Kassandra story and an anthology based on the Olympos Project. Meanwhile, the team of Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters have done an excellent job with the modern day storyline’s moves forward into larger scope and smaller as well, and their familiarity with the more mature Charlotte de la Cruz and her team would make for an excellent return to close up some gaps with the Hassan storyline.
In terms of artwork, a variety of options emerge. Illustrator Neil Edwards and colorist Ivan Nunes can do a very good job with the action and violence of the series as well as its quieter moments, as shown in “Assassin’s Creed,” and could do well again in both the Kassandra story and the Layla Hassan one. Jose Holder and Marco Lesko could also do the same ones, having done extensive work on “Assassin’s Creed: Uprising” before, though Holder does not work on Assassin’s Creed comics anymore. Meanwhile, the dark, creepy atmosphere brought about by Dennis Calero’s pencils and colors on “Assassin’s Creed: Templars” (also known as just “Templars”) would be a possible choice for the disturbing tales of the Olympos Project.