As an action narrative, Assassin’s Creed #4 delivers a number of welcome indications that the series is just about ready to start delivering on the promise of its first issue. As Massachusetts Bay Colony assassin Tom Stoddard’s story comes to an end, the burden of action shifts to his present-day relative Charlotte de la Cruz, who in the final panel comes to the realization that she is going to need to step out of the VR chair that has largely confined her for the past two issues and rely on her own strength.
From the beginning, Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery’s Assassin’s Creed has gestured toward a fictional universe in which neither side in the intergenerational war between Assassins and Templars had an unqualified claim to the moral high ground, embodied mostly in Tom Stoddard’s indifference to lives incidental to his mission, and the conflict between his ethical standards and those of his contemporary descendant (and, it is assumed, those of the reader). Assassin’s Creed #4 enriches that conflict by offering a Templar character the chance to act as an individual moral agent, and re-centering its focus on the motives of a modern-day Assassin who may or may not have betrayed the order.
In the context of the genre, it may be a bit unfair to complain in the way Assassin’s Creed (so far) portrays the motives of a character we have never met as absolutely determinable—either Joseph, the possibly rogue Assassin, possess a particular piece of information, in which case he is a traitor to the Brotherhood, or he does not, which apparently indicates that he is instead deceiving the Templars for some unknown purpose—but whether the series establishes itself as a reasonable action narrative tie-in property or elevates itself into something more will depend largely on how it resolves this situation. Must Joseph be perfectly loyal or a perfect traitor, or will there be room for a richer explanation of his actions?
I can even hold out hope, if Del Col and McCreery are serious in their narrative critique of the strange moral absolutism that the two deeply compromised secret organizations of the Assassin’s Creed world try to inhabit, that de la Cruz’s Brotherhood handlers are entirely mistaken about Joseph, and that what he is up to will turn out to be far more interesting than the MacGuffin de la Cruz and her ancestor Stoddard have been chasing.
Would there be a risk in declaring largely moot the events of the first four issues of a planned ongoing series? Absolutely, but if it turns the story in a new direction, throwing open a door that the reader didn’t even know existed, then if would offer a change to share a bit of the sense of excitement, discovery, and unlimited possibility that de la Cruz must have felt when the Brotherhood opened her eyes to a larger world back in the first issue.
Either way, in a month, we should finally get a chance to see Charlotte de la Cruz kick some butt herself rather than through a musty colonial relative. That should be worth the price of admission all by itself.
ASSASSIN’S CREED #4
Written by Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery
Art by Neil Edwards
Colors by Ivan Nunes
29 pp. Titan Comics. $3.99
 Would it also be unfair to note that a character fires a single-shot, muzzle-loading flintlock pistol twice in impossibly quick succession? Or is the more reasonable complaint that the art is sloppy enough so as to make it unclear whether the pistol has one barrel or two? (A two-barrel pistol would be able to fire twice before reloading.) In either case, it’s a bit aggravating that the character continues to wave around a necessarily empty pistol as if it were a threatening weapon. There’s also an uncontrolled fire in a secret basement chamber that’s there and then sort of isn’t, until it’s needed for the plot, and then it’s forgotten again. Oh well.