Assassin's Creed Dynasty: Volume 5
Review & Summary
Written by Sorrosyss, March 27th, 2023

Note: Non Spoiler Review, but a full Spoiler Summary 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, and English by Tokyopop.

Remaining within China in the years 756 and 757 AD, the fifth volume continues the story of a Hidden Ones member known as Li E. This issue sees him returning to civilization as he plots his vengeance against the Golden Turtles for the devastation of the city of Changshan. Meanwhile, the present Emperor abandons the capital Chang'an fearing an imminent attack from the forces of the treacherous An Lushan and his odious rebellion.

The volume also focuses on a number of aspects concerning the Hidden Ones and their presence/history in China, though a few elements at first glance seem to be in contradiction with the established lore of the Brotherhood, especially when you consider what was introduced with Assassin’s Creed Origins. For example, it appears the Hidden Ones directly tie into the history of the “Five Great Assassins”, who were active during the “Warring States” Period of 770 – 221 BCE. This naturally pre-dates the formation of the Hidden Ones by Amunet and Bayek by
nearly 200 years. A retcon of a retcon, perhaps? Time will tell.

The artwork displayed here is of a high quality, again completed by Zhang Xiao. Utilising the traditional manhua heavy shaded aesthetic, there are as usual 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.

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 5 is available now in English, Chinese and French from all good stockists. Though we thought this to be the final release, there is also evidently a Volume 6 presently scheduled for release later in 2023.


Mengshan Giant Buddha, Xishan, near Taiyuan, China, 756 AD (Tang Dynasty)
Within the head of the giant Buddha statue, Li E remains chained to a wall. His mentor – Éléna - greets him and they discuss the fate of Changshan. Li E realises the mistakes he has made, and that it had cost the lives of many of his friends and allies. Éléna implores him not to give up, before she fades from his sight, a vision brought on by his desperate mind. Two guards come to the cell and open it. As they walk in to bring him to his execution, they notice he is lifeless and move in closer. Li E extends his leg and impales his foot to the throat of one guard, before grabbing the other into a grapple hold with his legs, choking him. As both guards collapse, a set of keys falls to the ground. Li E is able to reach them and unlocks his restraints before leaving the cell. Guards come running, and he follows a vision of Éléna down a side tunnel, ultimately leading to one of the eyes of the statue. Far below rushes the waters of a river. He tells Éléna that he realises she is gone, along with all their Hidden One allies, and that he is the last remaining Hidden One of the deserts. The two perform a leap of faith from the statue, with Éléna's image fading before Li E crashes into the water below.

After swimming with the water flow, he spots a fishing hook, and grabs hold of it. The line is immediately pulled up, dragging Li E up and
out of the water and onto a small boat. He is shocked to find Li Bai to be the fisherman, who offers his greetings. Guards call from the direction of the statue running towards them, and Li Bai immediately starts to row them away from the danger. They speak about their plans, with Li E stating that he wants to return to Qinghe County and find Master Pei Min. Li Bai corrects him, telling him that he is a General. The two men travel by the boat through the mountains for several hours. Eventually the boat stops at water's edge, with Li Bai stating that it is as far as he will be able to take him. Li E offers his thanks, as Li Bai rows away back down the river.

Li E runs through the forests, until he eventually comes across a cave. At its entrance are two older men with two young children, the latter running and embracing Li E. He recognises the children as Jing Jing and Kong Kong, and the two men as Pei Min and caretaker Chen Wu. They return to Ink Village nearby, as Li E is relieved to be back in Qinghe County. The five sit together, and discuss how Chang'shan has fallen. Li E states that he must go after the Golden Turtles, and finally General An Lushan himself. Pei Min tells Li E to follow him, and the two walk to a nearby cave. Inside is the crest of the Hidden Ones, and following the steps downwards leads to a hidden treasure. Various weapons and armor pieces lay there, with Li E urged to take the “Heavenly King's Armor”, a metallic armor set protected by “the Light”. He quickly
dons the outfit alongside a hooded cape. He also takes a small dagger, which conveniently slides up his sleeve. Looking around the other items, he grabs a few short swords and a crossbow. He stops in front of a rack of spears, one in particular standing out to him. He picks it up, only to be told that it is called Jing Ke, believed to belong to a great assassin known as Wei Yu, from hundreds of years before. As Li E looks to set off on his quest, he is advised by Pei Min to try and unite the armies of Hebei, that one certain leader would be ideal to command such an army, and that he can be found in Pingyuan County. It is Yan Zhenqing, cousin to the governor of Changshan.

Pingyuan County, Shadong Province, China 756 AD (Tang Dynasty)
Yan Zhenqing sits with the presented severed heads of three of his officials. They were provided to him by An Lushan's envoy, who sits before him with several of his own rebel troops standing behind him. A clear intimidation tactic, Zhenqing does not show any sign of emotion. As the two men talk, He Hong'er enters carrying a tray of tea, which she places on the table next to Zhenqing. The latter stands, and tells the visitors that the Yan family has always stood fast, at which point he orders Hong'er to attack. She pulls a sword from below the table and charges the envoy, slicing his face in two. The doors behind the An Lushan soldiers open, and several Changshan troops enter the room. The
rebel troops are rapidly defeated. Yan turns to the screen behind him, calling out to Li E that he accepts his proposal, and will lead the Hebei army. He immediately dispatches 6,000 men to Qinghe, and orders the upgrade of armor to all of his loyalist forces. Li E knows that the right man will now lead the army, and informs Zhenqing that he will now head to Chang'an, and root out the evil in the imperial court himself. Six men and Hong'er offer to assist Li E, and he gladly welcomes them all along.

Chang'an, China 756 AD (Tang Dynasty)
In the middle of the night, Abe No Nakamaro (otherwise known as Chao Heng), writes a letter to Li Bai, telling of the latest news upon An
Lushan's rebellion. He receives a knock at the door from the eunuch Gao Lishi, and is told to pack his belongings as they have to leave soon. At dawn, they join a procession of horses, as the Emperor himself abandons the city and heads towards Shuzhong. Among the procession is the prime minister - Yang Guozhong, commander of the imperial guard - General Chen Xuanli, as well as 2,000 troops.

The group travels as far as the Zuo-Zang treasury, before rolling to a halt unexpectedly. Yang Guozhong wishes to burn the treasury to prevent the riches falling to invaders, but the Emperor insists it is left as is, to protect the safety of nearby villagers who would be plundered instead, if the treasury were set on fire. A little later they come to a bridge, again with the prime minister insisting it be
burnt down and sets fire to it. The Emperor overrules again, citing that civilians may need to flee the invaders as well, and orders the flames be put out immediately.

They travel on to Wangxian palace in Xianyang, but find that invaders had already stripped the palace of all food, leaving the travellers weary and hungry. Yang Guozhong emerges with a flat bread, presenting it to the Emperor, however his teeth show of seeds meaning he had already gorged himself on the edges. The Emperor commands him to take it away from his sight. At this moment a young villager approaches the group, amazed at their fancy clothes and robes. He confirms the Emperor's identity before calling out to other villagers to bring food. They bring buckets of rice and peas, commoner's food, but the Emperor's group gratefully take what they can. The Emperor weeps at the state of things, leaving all to bow in his honour. As the procession regains its feet, they are infiltrated by Li E's group.

Ma Wei Yi, China 756 AD (Tang Dynasty)
The procession continues west, arriving at a station among a bamboo forest. The carriages of the Golden Turtles all align secretly, and they speak to each other in hushed tones. Yang Guozhong is displeased that the Emperor is evidently blaming him for the misfortune he finds himself in, and is keen for the group to find a new scapegoat. He suggests they try and investigate the Crown Prince, to see if they can link anything between him and An Lushan's rebellion. At this moment, arrows and spears rain down upon the carriages, killing nearly all of the Golden Turtles. Yang Guozhong runs, as Li E tries to target him with his spear. The prime minister's loyal bodyguards run to his aid, but Li E's group of assassins quickly dispatch them. Li E chases after the prime minister who runs towards a group of the Imperial Guard. He demands their aid and is subsequently declined. As letters are passed around the imperial forces, word reaches them that Yang Guozhong evidently had a hand in the rebellion. The guards present ultimately mutiny his command, and turn on the prime minister, killing him quickly.

The Emperor elects to travel on to Shuzhong, leaving behind the Crown Prince to lead the loyal forces to Lingwu, to stage a resistance force against An Lushan's rebellion, as word reaches them that Chang'an had fallen after three days of fighting. The captives and resources plundered were marched back to General An Lushan's stronghold, Luoyang.

Luoyang, Dayan Kingdom, China, 757 AD (Tang Dynasty)
Li E and his group watch over the procession of prisoners being led into Luoyang from overseeing hills. He Hong'er mentions that An Lushan has not left the city in a long time, therefore infiltration is the only way to reach him. Li E agrees, and insists it is therefore a solo affair. He requests the group all return to General Yan, and aid him in his campaign. Li E performs a leap of faith to the treeline below, before latching underneath a passing carriage, thus entering the city completely undetected.

Li E walks the streets of the city, listening in on its residents. He hears of rumours that An Lushan has fallen ill, and of the fate of his friend Yan Jiming. Li E finds the latter's severed head, removing it down from public display and taking it with him. He takes to a high rooftop and looks over the city. An Lushan's forces have evidently won a big victory, and he has allowed civilians into his palace to pay their respects to the new “Emperor”. Li E sees his opportunity and heads towards the city palace.

Within the palace, An Lushan has become very drunk. His eyesight is apparently failing, and his face is covered in welts. He is displeased by the singers and dancers claimed from Chang'an, and subsequently executes them all. His son tries to get him to return to his bed chambers, but promptly receives a fist to the face, along with a mockery from his father. An Lushan states that if anyone gets in his way, they will be slain. He then marches with his sword to a private part of the residence. Upon entering, he closes the door and receives an arrow shot into his chest. Li E emerges from the
shadows, brandishing a crossbow. The two engage in an epic battle with Li E stabbing spears and swords into An Lushan's large chest, but the huge warrior able to continue to fight. Eventually the loss of blood takes effect, and the would be Emperor collapses off his feet. His vision fading, he sees the faces of the many people he has slain, as Li E slashes across his chest, before brandishing the hidden dagger in his wrist, and slicing into An Lushan's throat – ending his life. Li E escapes to the roof and flees before he is discovered.

Pingyuan County, Shadong Province, China 758 AD (Tang Dynasty)
A year passes and the successful Yan Zhenqing returns with the remains of Yan Jiming, laying him to rest back where he belongs. Yan and the loyalist armies had retaken both Chang'an and Luoyang, leaving An Lushan's rebellion over and finally defeated. Yan writes a letter to his fallen friend as a way to say goodbye.

He Hong'er is filled with grief after finally witnessing the return of her former lover's body. Realising she can no longer continue her duties, she elects to leave, and seeks out Li E and his emerging group of Hidden Ones at a secret fortress. There she takes the name Disciple Hongxian. From then on, Hongxian dedicates herself to the three tenets of the order. The ceremony ends with all the Hidden Ones performing a leap of faith.

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