Bells and Apples: analysis of Assassin's Creed Conspiracies
Markuz, July 26th, 2017
Translated by: Stefania

Many Assassin’s Creed fans have always distrusted the so-called “French Comics”, the graphic novels that have been yearly published by French publisher Les Deux Royaumes from 2009 to 2014. The reason for that is quite simple, the six graphic novels (the “Ankh of Isis” trilogy and the “Hawk” trilogy) contained a present day part that was heavily inconsistent with the modern day part of the games while their historical part had been initially considered canon.

Over the course of time, though, it was decided that all six comics were to be considered completely non-canonical (maybe because Origins was coming up?) and so you can imagine how I felt when I approached Assassin’s Creed Conspiracies: Die Glocke, the “new” graphic novel that was released on October 21st, 2016. Sure, this time Ubisoft made it clear that Conspiracies is canon through its official channels and even released a trailer, but still, (and quite strangely, considering the setting), I was kind of hesitant in deciding to actually read it.

That abruptly changed after a few friends mentioned to me on Twitter that the comic was actually good and that I should have had to read as soon as possible and of course I did it (there you go, word of mouth sometimes still works better than marketing… or maybe it’s just me?). And apart from a few issues that I’m going to mention later… they were actually right.

Conspiracies, or how war can change a life in a matter of seconds

Eddie Gorm, with his
moustache and his British
docker attire
Conspiracies is the story of Eddie Gorm, a British “entrepreneur” who owns a docking business in London in the Forties. Prior to that he had joined the Royal Navy along with his brother Marc, up until 1931, when during the Invergordon Mutiny he was ordered by his leaders to put an end to the rebellion on the HMS Hood, a ship captained by his brother. Eddie refused (possibly to avoid killing his brother) and so he was immediately dismissed from the Navy, while his brother was sent on the Russian front and sadly died in a gulag, leaving his wife Maria and his two children Justine and Paul alone.

Eddie decided to take care of his brother’s family and that’s why we can find them living together in a tiny house in London on September 7th, 1940. As mentioned before Eddie has a docking business in the East End along with a friend called Stan, which sometimes they use as a cover to steal military British rations and sell them on the black market or to help people that are hardly able to survive in the docks. Sadly, though, the army is evacuating the East End and Eddie’s company is losing a lot of customers while, at the same time the docks keep being a main target for the Germans.

This difficult situation leads Stan to bring to the company’s building a potential new customer called Jack Turpin with his right arm Robert Burton, who offer them a great deal of money in exchange for a robbery of specific goods that belonged to a few French people that had recently gotten in town. Eddie says he’s going to think about it, but he actually deems them be gangsters so he decides he will not partake in their affairs.

Boris Theodore Pash
That same night, though, he is approached by a man and a woman who present themselves as Lieutenant Julia Dusk and none other than Colonel Boris Pash, a real officer of the United States Army military intelligence and the commander of the Alsos Mission. This mission was very important as it is described by Wikipedia as “an organized effort by a team of United States military, scientific, and intelligence personnel to discover enemy scientific developments during World War II”. The main focus of the Alsos Mission was the German nuclear energy project, the so called Uranprojekt or Uranverein, basically the attempt by Germany to produce nuclear weapons during World War II.

Pash and Dusk approach Eddie because they know that Jack Turpin is, in fact, an SS officer called Otto Hammerstein that works directly for Gero Kramer, the chief of the Uranprojekt (that, as of then, they describe as “Hitler’s atomic bomb”). His intent, in the Americans mind, is to steal secret documents from a few French scientists that have recently joined the British nuclear program and because of this their plan, instead of stopping Hammerstein, is to have Eddie accept Hammerstein’s offer to gain his trust and get closer to Kramer so as to stop the Uranprojekt.

Eddie politely refuses, as he has already decided that he and his brother’s wife and kids will leave the East End, and while Dusk tries to get close to him and uncovering a Hidden Blade under her sleeve… history happens, in the form of “The Blitz”, the bombing carried out by the German Air Force over Britain that started right on September 7th, 1940 and lasted for 8 months causing around 45.000 casualties.

The Blitz, as represented in Conspiracies

The bombing, among many other buildings in London, hits Eddie’s house, killing his sister-in-law and her two children, while Eddie, Pash and Dusk are able to survive. Eddie is strongly hit by the tragedy and the only way he can cope with this is alcohol in the tunnels of the London metro.

One week later, on September 15th, 1940, Pash and Dusk are able to find him again, and while he feels responsible for the death of his sister-in-law and her two kids because he spent too much time with the two Americans on that night, they are able to convince him that the mission they had designed for him will at least provide him with a chance to get his revenge. The idea is to help Hammerstein in stealing the documents that belong to the French scientists and gaining his trust, becoming a spy among the Nazis, while the stolen information will not actually be useful for the Germans because “the French nuclear solution is a dead end”.
Eddie accepts he has to kill
his work partner in order to
keep his cover with the Nazis

Eddie, not seeing other solutions, and even if he were a patriot that had even worked for the Royal Navy, reluctantly accepts to help the Nazi officer for a greater good and so, with his band of dockers, storms the hideout of the French scientists. While doing this, and after telling the dockers to wait outside, Hammerstein decides to talk with the scientists and offer them a choice: to die right there or to work for the Nazis on an personal initiative of his boss in a facility in Vemork, Norway. More specifically he says that his boss is very interested in their discoveries about the properties of heavy water as neutron moderator.

Disobeying Hammerstein’s order, Eddie’s partner, Stan, follows Hammerstein and found out he was a Nazi spy. Having realized Stan was missing, Eddie chases him in the building, but Stan has already tried to stop Hammerstein, and so, in order to gain his trust and, once again, for the greater good, Eddie is forced to kill Stan to start his mission as spy among the Nazis (not the best two weeks for a British patriot…).

A British patriot turned to spy

Fast forward two years and Eddie has been able to well infiltrate the SS while Julia Dusk kept being his contact in Berlin. In September 1942 we see him “happily” discussing with Hammerstein at a party at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology, Human Heredity, and Eugenics. They even have the chance to meet Josef Mengele, the so-called “Angel of Death”, who went on to become one of the main doctors responsible for the selection of victims to be killed in the gas chambers and for performing deadly human experiments on prisoners in the Auschwitz concentration camp. In Conspiracies Mengele has just been moved to the Department of Genetic Origins to work, along with Gero Kramer, on the research on the “Übermensch”.

The Übermensch, (Superman or Beyond-Man) was a concept introduced by Friedrich Nietzsche in a book called Thus Spoke Zarathustra that humanity had to set as a goal for itself. Literally “über” brought a connotation of superiority, transcendence, excessiveness, or intensity, while “mensch” referred to a member of the human species, rather than to a male specifically. In particular, as mentioned by Wikipedia, “the adjective übermenschlich means super-human, in the sense of beyond human strength or out of proportion to humanity.”. All in all, it represented a concept of (physical and phylosophical) superiority that man had to reach on earth rather than following other-worldly hopes suggested by most religions.

Hammerstein, Mengele and
Eddie having a lovely chat
about the Übermensch
All this explanation to say that the term Übermensch was used frequently by the Nazi regime to describe their idea of a biologically superior Aryan or Germanic master race, but Conspiracies will go one step beyond in making this much more real, as we’ll see, and it’s interesting to see how this concept is introduced in the graphic novel by Mengele himself.
After a brief dialogue, Mengele tells Eddie he is summoned, finally and for the first time, by Kramer. Upon meeting him, Kramer shows that he knows about Eddie’s past in the Royal Navy and so accuses him of being a spy but Eddie is apparently very good at convincing him that he actually despises his country for not doing enough to avoid his family to be killed.

A few days later Eddie is invited to a special event that, he was told, would have had, as main guest, dr. Werner Heisenberg, the main scientist behind the Uranprojekt. The plan, according to Julia Dusk, was for Eddie to cause a distraction and among the chaos he should have dragged Heisenberg in a car and dispatched it to an American safehouse in Berlin. Sadly, though, during the speech by Kramer at the event that dealt with how the atomic bomb would have helped the
Werner Heisenberg
Germans destroy cities without using any troops, and after all the things he had to endure (having to kill his colleague in London, faking being a spy, convincing Kramer he hated Britain), isn’t able to follow the mission and blows his cover by stabbing Hammerstein and taking Heisenberg hostage in a secluded room.

This is a very important moment, as Eddie questions Heisenberg about the Uranprojekt and the atomic bomb to obtain more information for the Americans, but the German physicist actually tell him that the Uranprojekt is just a charade to divert the Allies’ attention from the real project that Kramer is working, “Die Glocke” (The Bell). And this is where the comic gets really good, especially for hardcore fans.

Die Glocke”, according to Heisenberg, is a new kind of weapon that is going to change history that is being assembled in the underground of the hydroelectric plant in Vemork, Norway. Yes, the same plant that produced the heavy water for the Nazis that the Hammerstein mentioned when talking to the French scientists in London and where he probably got them to work. What’s more, that plant is now exploited, according to Heisenberg, by a company called “Asbergo, Abstergo, something like that”. See? I told you this was going to get interesting…

Facing this revelation, Eddie hesitates for a moment and Heisenberg hits him, allowing for the Nazis to break in the room and attack the British spy, but right in the nick of time Julia jumps in the room through a window and saves him throwing a smoke bomb. While trying to escape with Eddie, though, Julia is hit by a bullet, so Eddie has to take care of her as Pash promptly appears with a car in a nearby alley, allowing them for a safe escape.

Julia Dusk's Assassin attire

The first glimpse of the Assassins’ presence

While reaching a hidden bunker located underneath an abandoned bar, Pash tells Eddie that he had another ally, Robert Burton, Hammerstein’s “right arm” when he was still undercover as Jack Turpin in London. According to Pash, Burton was Churchill’s personal doctor and so they are lucky to have him with them in the bunker as Dusk still has a chance to be treated as the bullet had gone through her body.

While Burton is treating Julia, Pash asks Eddie to follow him, and after all he has gone through, he decides to be completely honest with him (also to gain the information that Heisenberg mentioned only to him) and finally reveals to him who he, Dusk and Burton really work for, of course, the Assassins. Even if Eddie is initially doubtful about it, Pash mentions that the Orders of the Knights Templar is behind all of this, and they are the ones who “gave Germany to the Nazis”, which is totally consistent with the AC canon (and I’m super happy to see such references). In fact, in glyph #12 of Assassin’s Creed II, Clay Kaczmarek reported a letter by Templar Henry Ford where he stated “H. has it [the Apple], so I assume the war will begin as soon as he can take over.”, meaning that the Templars handed the Apple to Hitler so he could take power with the Nazi party. Giving Germany to the Nazis indeed.

By describing who the Assassins and who the Templars are, Pash slowly introduces Eddie to the ever-lasting conflict between the two organizations and to the Creed, that he defines as “We work in the dark to serve the free will of every human” and finally drops the now ‘classic’ bomb by saying that Eddie has always been part of a family that descended from a long line of Assassins (and while he says this, another Assassin, possibly from another historical era, is drawn behind him).

The Assassins during World War II

Pash goes on saying that since World War II started, he tried to have several Assassins infiltrate the Uranprojekt but Kramer found all of them and killed them. That’s why he had to choose Eddie as his final hope, without even telling him about the Assassins and the Templars. He would have been “an Assassin that still had to be trained”, a much better idea to avoid being detected by Kramer.

Considering that Pash is in “revelations mode”, Eddie contributes with some new information of his own: he tells Pash that the reason why Kramer found all his Assassins out was that the Uranprojekt was just a cover to hide Kramer’s real weapon, “Die Glocke”, a project that is being developed in Vemork, Norway, as Heisenberg mentioned a few hours earlier. Eddie says that he is still not really believing all of Pash’s stories about Assassins and Templars, but he’s strongly determined to go to Vemork and stop Kramer. However, Pash mentions that it’d be too dangerous, considering that Eddie blew his cover and that Kramer now knows for sure that Heisenberg mentioned the Vemork plant, so he’d probably be expecting him. The only way he’d have a chance to stop Kramer and Die Glocke, according to Pash, is to have an army with him or to have the same Assassin talents of Julia. And this is how Eddie got initiated in the British Assassin Brotherhood.

Eddie's Assassin outfit

Die Glocke and the Ubermensch… made real

While it’s not directly shown in the comics, Eddie is trained by Pash for five months and while that doesn’t seem that much in terms of training time, the effects of such period of time are clearly visible as on February 27th, 1943, Eddie is parachuted by the Assassins close to the Vemork facility and is able to climb the rocks around it, assassinate the guards outside of it with his Hidden Blades and smoothly infiltrate the building without being seen. Eddie easily reaches the underground basement of the building and finally sees Die Glocke. With Kramer underneath it, wearing a helmet with all kinds of cables connected to it.

Die Glocke

Kramer removes his helmet and immediately engages Eddie, bare-chested, with a machete and with some strange grey (metal?) dots in his chest. The two exchange blows and initially Eddie seems to be prevailing, slashing Kramer’s abdomen with his dual Hidden Blades… but right when he’s on the verge of laying the killing blow with Kramer’s machete, the general lifts his arm and incredibly stops it. Not satisfied, Kramer throws away the machete and grabs Eddie by his neck, lifting his entire body until he passes out.

The Übermensch in action

What happens in this last sequence is kind of shocking, especially because, if I’m not mistaken, there hasn’t been another mention in the Assassin’s Creed franchise of “enhanced” individuals and of process that could create them. On the other hand, though, this is very consistent with the concept of the Übermensch that we discussed before. In fact, following that idea, this would be a “practical” application of the philosophy that the Nazi party historically supported, and it is also in line with the fact that the graphic novel previously established that Kramer and Mengele had been working on the research of the Übermensch.

Still, in my humble opinion, this looks too much like the Super-Soldier Serum that transformed Steve Rogers into Captain America in the Marvel Universe, so I’m not too fond of it at the moment. At the end of the day, though, we are going to have to wait and check the second tome of the graphic novel to see if it explains what happened to Kramer and what caused him to be this strong and resistant, considering that the first part of the comic doesn’t.

A rant about Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla in Conspiracies
When Eddie recovers his senses, he’s the one tied to the machine, with the helmet above his head. Kramer finally decides to give some more explanations. Die Glocke is machine created by a scientist that is still working in the plant, and that scientist is, you guessed it, Nikola Tesla. Apparently he is now working for the Nazis and the Templars and says that the preparations for the machine are over, thanks to his coils and the heavy water reactor created by the French scientists (that had been kidnapped by Hammerstein at the beginning of the graphic novel).

Before we move on, I believe this should be addressed a bit as this is where I felt the “French Comics” vibe coming back at me. In fact, Tesla shouldn’t be in the graphic novel, as he died in January 7th, 1943, although this is not a problem per se. It’s not the first time that a historical character actually lives beyond his historically recorded death date, [SPOILERS] Joan of Arc does the same in Assassin’s Creed Heresy. And while I don’t really like this new trend in a franchise whose narrative has usually revolved around history and historical facts without changing them too much, it’s not the main issue I have with Tesla’s presence in Conspiracies.
In fact, Tesla has always been opposed by the Templars, starting with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan who started a smear campaign to discredit him and avoid that his ideas could stop or delay their goals, then cut the fundings for his famous Wardenclyffe Tower and eventually stole the Apple of Eden that he possessed.

All of this was shown in glyphs #11 and #12 in Assassin’s Creed II and, more specifically, in the latter Subject 16 actually says that “they [The Templars] used it to drive him insane”. The Templars later passed on Tesla’s Apple (Piece of Eden #4) to Henry Ford and then
"He found it in Croatia.
They would find it in his lab"
to Hitler, who would have started World War II with it.

If that wasn’t enough, Tesla has always been an ally of the Assassins, although never an Assassin himself. That is proved by a letter that appeared in glyph #16 where the Assassins try to side with him, saying they know what the Templars did to his lab and ask him to use his electricity to destroy the Staff of Eden. As we know from Assassin’s Creed: The Fall, Tesla accepted, proving once again he was an ally of the Assassins or, at least, that he helped stopping the Templars.

This is my major issue with Tesla appearing in Conspiracies, then. Not necessarily the fact that he should be dead by then, but that he’s normally discussing how Die Glocke is working and he is also saying “WE are ready, sir” and “WE should have enough energy”. I am not calling for a retcon here, because Tesla may have been kidnapped by the Templars as they did with the French scientists and / or even brainwashed by the Apple that they had stolen from him. Still, his presence in the Templar lab does feel strange in the graphic novel, and I guess we are going to have to wait and see if there is an explanation for this in tome 2.

The Apple of Eden and the real purpose of Die Glocke

Going back to the story, and after he’s told that everything is in place, Kramer can finally start his explanations. He mentions that Eddie is the final piece of the plan by the Templars as for all those three years he had been waiting for him to be recruited by Pash and for Pash to awaken his gifts as an Assassin.

Kramer goes on saying that apparently Pash never mentioned to Gorm that the Templars have, among their ranks, politicians, industrialists, scientists and all kinds of important members of the society, all working towards a new world order (with this sentence he’s probably trying to make Eddie question his affiliation choice?).

The Apple of Eden,
powering Die Glocke
The most interesting thing that Kramer says that Pash avoided mentioning to Eddie, though, are Those Who Came Before and the Pieces of Eden. In classic AC tradition, the Precursors and the Pieces of Eden are mentioned at the end of the story and, as mentioned before, this is where things are getting even more interesting.

In fact, Kramer actually shows that the Bell, Die Glocke, is actually powered by an Apple of Eden (maybe the one that was stolen from Tesla?) and also adds that it was the Piece of Eden that allowed him to become a superhuman and also “opened up the doors of genetics”. He even shows that the wound that Eddie has caused him with his machete has already healed.
This basically means that the Nazis and the Templars were able to further and actually make the philosophy of the Übermensch real thanks to genetic modifications made available through the Apple, to the point that it seems they understood how to have wounds quickly healed even without the need of a Piece of Eden like the Shroud of Eden (isn’t this a bit over the top?). But they didn’t stop there.

In 1943, already, Kramer and the Templars know, thanks to the Apple of Eden, that there is a way to explore the past of a subject and his ancestors. In fact, Eddie is the last piece of the puzzle because, knowing about the Assassin legacy that he had among his ancestors, Kramer says that he plans on exploring his past and find the locations of “tens of artifacts that will help the human species transcend”.

The plan by Kramer and the Templars, again, does not stop there, though. Whatever the outcome of the war is, Kramer is going to suggest a “program of European re-establishment”, which is a fancy name that the Templars have concocted to describe a reorganization of the various countries executed by the Templars in exchange for money given to the countries themselves. The leader of this re-establishment would be Kramer, but what’s even more important is that, to deal with all of this the Templars have already prepared “a tiny company”, to be used when the time comes. Of course that’s a reference to Abstergo, the company that is already owning the plant in Vemork and that since the beginning was planned to be the new face of the Templars in the second part of the Twentieth Century. In a way, we already know that the Templar’s plan was at least partially successful.

As a final revelation, after Eddie taunts Kramer about the fact that he will never be able to time travel and reach the artifacts he wants, the German general tells him that Die Glocke is not a weapon about that at all. In fact, The Bell is “an anti-gravity system capable of generating a space-time distortion, (…) an open window towards the past”. In short, and if I got it correctly, a very early attempt at creating a proto-Animus, much earlier than the blueprints recovered by William Miles that were shown in AC: Initiates.

So, with a proto-Animus powered by an Apple of Eden, a trained Assassin with an alleged important bloodline and a scientist and engineer that has used the Apple multiple times during his life, Kramer is ready to activate the machine. And Eddie screams from all the pain he has to endure.

The last surprise and the last cliffhanger

That’s the last we get to know about Eddie Gorm in perfect cliffhanger style and when I read the comics I thought that was the ending of the graphic novel… but it isn’t.
Against all expectations (at least on my side), the comic actually has a present day portion, that is made up of only its last page!

In the few panels available, the readers can see that all the story in the past about Eddie Gorm was actually made up of memories from his present day descendant and grandson, Maxime Gorm. More specifically, the graphic novel only shows three characters (Maxime, another man and a lady called Alice) that are working on a very old-fashioned Animus, with computer cables all over the place and a very visible Animus Core, similar both in shape to the one from the Animus 1.28 used in Assassin’s Creed II and in color to the one from the Brahman VR used in Assassin’s Creed Brahman.

The "present day setting" in Conspiration (and its Animus Core)

The setting, then, does seem to imply that we are following non-Templars characters, as they are using this old fashioned Animus, with an external Animus Core, in what seems a window-less garage. It gets even more interesting, judging from what the characters say… although maybe a little cliché.
In fact, after Kramer turned on Die Glocke in the genetic memory, the Animus stopped working as it should and, because of this, Alice believes that maybe the machine behaved like that because Eddie Gorm died in that moment and that it should be turned off completely to avoid damage on Maxime. The other man, though, who seems to be the leader of the group, says he knows that Eddie was alive in the summer of 1943 because after that he had a descendant. And in front of the lady who says that the group should stop using the Animus, the man says that it’s out of the question (hmmm does that ring any bell?), as they still have to find what happened to the Apple of Eden #4 during World War II.
Honestly, this last sentence got me as excited as I was disappointed in seeing Nikola Tesla in the graphic novel. Having the characters in the present day reference the Apple as Apple #4 not only confirms that the Piece of Eden powering Die Glocke was the same that was stolen by Tesla, but also demonstrates how deeply connected to the lore this graphic novel is trying to be. In fact, it’s very rare to see the Pieces of Eden numbering system nowadays and, more specifically, the whereabouts of Apple of Eden #4 are indeed unknown, after the Assassins were presumably able to kill Hitler in 1945 as shown in glyph #17 of Assassin’s Creed II.

That’s it? No, not yet. The very last panel of Conspiracies shows Maxime recovering his senses… saying that his name is Eddie, Eddie Gorm.

"Maxime? My name... My name is Eddie Gorm!"

In a shocking finale of tome 1, it appears that the traumatic event that Eddie had to endure (and his grandson with him through the Animus) has apparently transferred Eddie’s conscience inside Maxime’s body or, more likely in my opinion, caused a very strong case of Bleeding Effect similar to Robert Fraser believing to be Arno Dorian in the Abstergo Entertainment Employee Handbook (part 1 and part 2). And with that further plot twist and subsequent cliffhanger ending our analysis comes to an end. How many of you have read the graphic novel? What do you think of it?

Do you agree or disagree with the analysis and the opinions included in it?

Let us know in the comments and we’ll see you in the article dedicated to the second tome of the Conspiracies series, scheduled to be released before the end of the year!

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