Review by Ian Keogh
In Uprising: Common Ground Alex Paknadel and Dan Watters introduced the extremely novel concept of the Assassins and the Templars possibly having to work together against something threatening them both. If you have a hard time imagining Juhani Otso Berg having a breakfast chat with Charlotte de la Cruz, both participants willingly there, it’s portrayed by Jose Holder over the opening pages. That’s what the threat of a returned Juno can do. She’s a greatly powerful immortal presence whose primary belief about humanity is that they should follow her orders. However, until Finale she’s rather the abstract problem, hovering over events without being seen.
In contrast to the opening volume, as the sample art shows, considerable time is spent in the past, the era of the Spanish Civil War, where constantly shifting political confusion is the prevailing condition, with so many idealists seeing opportunity. Paknadel and Watters avoid historical sentimentality and this dip to the past has greater weight than the plain adventure usually seen in Assassin’s Creed. There’s an explanation of how Albert Bolden’s still around after the events of Templars: Cross of War, which is a nod to the traditions of comics, and the time taken to explore relationships among the fighters pays off. What’s also to be appreciated is the writers not overplaying references. Eric Blair’s cameo is a nice touch, but if the name’s not familiar it makes no difference overall. The past provides the gateway to some ideological sparring in the present, with a discussion as to the rights and wrongs of opposing forces. Is guidance or absolute free will the better option for humanity? Berg’s sardonic commentary on Assassin ideals is a real treat.
Holder is far looser with the art, regular deadlines presumably being responsible for him not being able to maintain the intense detail of Common Ground, but that’s no bad thing. This art is clearer, and still enables Holder to show how talented he is. Every few pages there’s some detail that surprises, be it a nice silhouette of horsemen riding or the joyous expression on Berg’s scarred face as he discovers a challenge.
Continual ethical and political questioning ensures Uprising stands out among the Assassin’s Creed graphic novel catalogue, and a neat hint of betrayal leads us into Finale.