Review by Ian Keogh
Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery’s new chapter for Assassin’s Creed introduced Charlotte de la Cruz, avid game player recruited by the Brotherhood and rapidly forced into a situation where her game playing techniques had to be applied to reality. In Trial by Fire she experienced the life of an ancestor to root out a traitor, saw allies die, and barely escaped with her own life. She and her surviving allies, are a fractious bunch with different ideas on how to proceed. What Charlotte has learned is that she gets certain feelings, and keeping faith in her instincts works.
She needs those among 16th century Inca people, where her ancestor was resourceful and smart, but not trusted in a society that undervalued women. A clever plot point is that she’s able to understand the knotted thread code on a message she’s to deliver, but those who would prevent her delivering it aren’t as smart. It makes a point pleasingly.
The rural and mountainous surroundings of the past enable artist Neil Edwards to show some lovely scenery amid the dangers of the past, and he sneaks in more of that during the present day locations in Mexico. He has a finely developed storytelling sense, and when his action involves only a few people it’s fine, but standards slip a little if a greater crowd is are required.
In the past Charlotte gains an ally, but for those with a wider comics reading experience he may come across as too similar to Valiant’s eternal drunkard Archer. Can a Spaniard among Incas be trusted? Del Col and McCreery maintain tension in the present as well as the past. Charlotte may have a few allies, but they’re all fugitives in a country where everything has a price. On that account, while Charlotte’s hair is stylish, it’s also utterly distinctive, and it can be legitimately asked why it doesn’t occur to a smart woman to change her hairstyle. It’s sort of mentioned in-story, but not adequately. Another slight slip is the clumsy signalling of a moment that will have considerable relevance in the following Homecoming. These are niggles, but can be suppressed to enjoy another fast-paced thriller, perhaps a little more predictable than Trial by Fire, but the constant action papers up a lot. Hints are dropped early as to someone we meet right at the surprising end.