Assassin's Creed Dynasty: Volume 2 – Review & Summary
Written by Sorrosyss, August 8th, 2021
French Translation from the original source by Azuu

Note: Non Spoiler Review, but a full Spoiler Summary and Analysis follows

Assassin's Creed Dynasty is a manhua comic written by Xu Xianzhe currently running in the Chinese market, which is now receiving its initial translations into French via Mana Books.

Remaining within China in the year 755 AD, the second volume continues the story of a Hidden Ones member known as Li E. As a young and newly trained assassin, he started his journey off in the first issue by defending the oppressed and fighting for freedom. The manhua takes place during the Tang Dynasty, in the context of a massive rebellion against the Emperor Xuanzong by a faction known as Yeluohe, which was led by General An Lushan. In defence of the Emperor is the Imperial Court with Gao Lishi the Eunuch, as well as the forces of the Golden Turtles standing ready, led by the Chancellor Yang Guozhong. The historical figures present certainly add to the atmosphere of the narrative, and the political tensions of the period are keenly felt throughout the story.

The artwork is again completed by Zhang Xiao, and a special mention should be made of the style used as it truly has some remarkable imagery. Utilising the traditional manhua heavy shaded aesthetic, there are several stunning single page panels present here. You can tell that the imagery of the original Assassin’s Creed games was used as a strong inspiration for the hero, as he regularly cuts a nostalgic image walking with his hood raised. The characters themselves are generally well drawn to the degree that you can distinctly tell them apart easily, which highlights the quality of the art in general. Finally, the fight scenes are also depicted well, and it is nice to see an assassin character utilising the martial arts and not just the standard swords as we are used to.

The oriental setting continues to stand out as we've rarely explored it in the Assassin's Creed IP, and it has a rich history of drama and mythology just waiting to be utilised. Dynasty continues to be a strong entry into the transmedia space, as it expertly weaves the traditional assassin experience against a background of cultural events and political intrigue. Sadly there remains a complete lack of Modern Day content to give us a framing perspective, but we've seen on other products that this can sometimes be introduced later in the narrative. Certainly though if you have an interest in a different and refreshing setting for the franchise, this manhua would definitely be a recommended option to start with.

Assassin's Creed Dynasty Volume 2 is available now in Chinese and French, from all good stockists. An English version is expected in future, we do not presently have a timescale for this at the time of writing.


Talas River shore, Western Chinese border, 751 AD (Tang Dynasty)

The Battle of Talas wages across the Silk Road. Abbasid and Chinese forces clash with their full militaries. Led by General Gao Xianzhi, the Chinese are eventually defeated, leaving 30,000 men dead. Amongst the handful that survive is the 21 year old Li E. As he watches his fellow survivors captured and placed in chains, he elects to continue the fight, picking up a crossbow and shooting down many of the Arab soldiers. As several Arabs race towards him, he is suddenly saved by charging horses ridden by hooded men from behind him, who slice down the opposition.

Li E is addressed by a Persian calling herself Elena. Realising that Li E does not speak her native tongue, he unfortunately charges at her but is swiftly disarmed by the higher skilled rider. Elena calls upon her ally Sogdian to translate. It is explained that they were allied with the previous caliphate leader of Abbasid, and do not agree with the new war hungry leadership that has taken arms against China by looking to expand eastwards. Elena then explains that they are actually there seeking something in the desert.

Hebei Province, Taihang Mountains, China, 755 AD (Tang Dynasty)

Li E climbs a steep rock face with the aid of a pick and rope, having spent the day gathering ink stones. Upon reaching the top he is greeted by two children, who also reside in the same village as Li E. They walk together back to the village through woodland, as Li E mentions possibly having to leave the village again. As they walk, a large army on horseback rides past them below, led by General An Lushan.
With his armies gathered, the General gives a speech to his forces stating that their enemy this time is not beyond their borders, but within the city of Chang'an. He refers to the man poisoning the thoughts of their Emperor as none other than the Chancellor himself Yang Guozhong and states that he has received a message by the Emperor with the order to kill him. With thousands of men now shouting for the death of Yang, the army marches on the city.

Within Chang'an, Emperor Xuanzong enjoys a bath before he is disturbed by Yang Guozhong and Gao Lishi. Yang states that he has found direct evidence of a rebellion within the quarters of the General, but revealing this upsets the Emperor as he knows that the General will be furious that people searched his home. Gao advises that their scouts had received word of horses coming from the direction of the Mongol border, providing fears that events are already transpiring.

The General's forces continue to march, taking in the city of Changshan next. Whilst Yan Jiming looks on in shock at the size of the army, his father the Governor Yan Gaoqing walks out to meet the General. An Lushan requests more forces to join the march on Chang'an, but makes it clear that any who do not support him will be viewed as traitorous allies of the Chancellor Yang Guozhong.

In private, Yan Jiming and Yan Gaoqing discuss the situation. The Governor believes it foolhardy to challenge the army of the General, but remains loyal to the Emperor. Fearing a coup, he requests that Jiming travel to the local governors to drum up support for a retaliatory strike against the General. Jiming immediately travels to as many Governors as he can, but enthusiasm is muted from all of them. With nowhere else to turn for help, he travels to Qinghe with Old Chen.

As the two walk, they are assailed by a group of horsemen. Old Chen manages to slay several with his large sword, but is wounded in the process. The remaining horseman reveals that they were sent by a rival governor in defence of the army of General An Lushan. As Jiming prepares his sword in defence, Li E performs an air assassination with his hidden blade, landing atop the horseman killing him instantly. Jiming recognises the assassin, and the two men reconcile before helping Chen to his feet. Moving through a cave entrance, they make way to the small village of Mo.

They meet with the village chief, Pei Min. He tells a tale of how An Lushan had wiped out entire villages when he was younger and had the heart of a true monster. He fears for what will become of the nation under his cruel rule. With the village unable to defend itself and no other allies to help them, Li E elects to set out for Changshan, realising that this assassination would have to be his task alone. Accompanied by Jiming, the two set off together by horseback.
As they travel, the Emperor is informed by a scout that the General's forces have crossed The Yellow River, which had frozen over in the cold weather. Now believing the words of his Chancellor, the Emperor's hand is forced in making preparations. Meanwhile, Li E and Jiming come across the General's War Camp, sneaking their way to a tower where they believe they can light a war fire to rouse nearby towns and villages to defence against the army. Li E goes ahead and manages to eliminate several guards, before reaching the top where he is surrounded by several of them. A large guard pins his sword, but Jiming comes to the rescue slaying the last of the enemy. Jiming lights the fire filled with hope. Moments later, several fires light up in the distance in response and across the Great Wall too.

Correspondence, 755 AD

Another letter is addressed to Li Bai from Abe No Nakamaro. He tells of his return to his homeland and Chang'an, as well as the shock that everyone had on their faces after they all believed he perished at sea. He hopes that Master Jianzhen reached Japan with the Buddha relics, but has no real way of knowing that. He speaks of the coming civil war between forces loyal to the Emperor and that of General An Lushan, noting that most recruits are but simple men brought into a conflict they did not wish for. He concludes the letter by wishing his friend well, but ultimately keeps the letter without knowledge of where to send it.

Final Thoughts - Analysis

The issue did a good job of showing some famous historical locations and events, such as The Yellow River and the Battle of Talas. It is always nice to see this combination between factual history and fiction that the franchise is famous for. I enjoyed seeing the small band of “Assassins” present in Li E's backstory. I thought it was quite telling that most of them were from and around the Middle East, which traditionally has always been our understanding for where most of the early Brotherhood was formed. I would hope to see more of Elena in the next issue to glean some more information as to what exactly they are seeking out in the desert. We again have a mention of relics of Buddha, but they sadly do not make an appearance here. We can likely assume though that whatever Elena seeks it is most likely Isu related, so that is something to look forward to for next time.

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