Review by Ian Keogh
Aquilus picks up where Desmond left off, as Desmond Miles learns more about his ancestry and more about the Assassins to whom he’s committed. Writer Eric Corbeyran has now settled on the Templars as the term for the opposing forces, and much of what Desmond experiences during Aquilus occurs as his allies attempt to evade them.
This time Desmond’s dipping a little further back in time, channelling his Roman ancestor Aquilus who’s been charged with collecting an object from his cousin Accipiter. The plot is crafted to be cinematic, but often judders to a halt due to very clunky dialogue. It could be the fault of the translation from French, but multiple speech balloons filled with characters explaining themselves indicate that’s not entirely the case.
If the writing isn’t everything it might be, Aquilus isn’t saved by the art, because while he improves in later volumes, here artist Djilalli Defali simply isn’t good enough to bring out the excitement. He’s handicapped to some extent by obviously working from a wordy script on Corbeyran’s part, but his panels have little spark to them. There’s a lack of depth and clarity, his people are stunted, twisted into strange shapes and even such basics as heads plain look wrong in places. The sample page attempts to reproduce the feeling of the game, and is just about Defali’s best, but there are still problems with scale and definition. Adding to the feeling of the art not being up to scratch is the very basic colouring of Alexis Sentenac, whose lack of imagination results in page after page of dull brown and grey washes.
Throughout the book Desmond discovers more about the past, and the longer he spends absorbed in it, the more of his ancestor’s agility and techniques transfer to him. The plot follows two strands, with betrayal prominent in both, but the revelations in the present day are very poorly staged, and the coincidence of Desmond even remembering a comment from his father, never mind applying it twenty years later is hokum. Corbeyran and Defali aren’t finished yet, though, and Desmond’s learning continues in Accipiter.
Desmond, Aquilus and Accipiter are collected in a bulkier hardcover as The Ankh of Isis Trilogy.