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    Access The Animus - Assassin's Creed: Bloodstone Review, Summary & Analysis

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



    Assassin's Creed: Bloodstone is the first new transmedia release since June 2018. The latest comic release from Les Deux Royaumes, it is currently only available in the French language. The comic directly relates to the events of the previous two volumes of the Conspirations story (renamed Conspiracies in English), and features several returning characters from those releases.

    Per the cover, the main historical setting revolves around that of the Vietnam war, as we explore the genetic memories of an individual known as Aleksei Gavrani – a former Soviet agent turned CIA operative, as well as a fully trained Assassin of the Brotherhood. Exploring his memories is the new Modern Day protagonist, Tomo Sakagawa – also an Assassin.

    As the events of the comic unfold, you begin to appreciate that this story is actually more of a direct prequel than a sequel to Conspiracies, with the two graphic novels even crossing over at points. That being said, the comic's author - Guillaume Dorison – manages to convey a narrative that takes place in many international locales. I was especially excited to see our first proper glimpses of Modern Day Japan and Vietnam in the franchise, as I have long held the desire to see a more oriental and Far Eastern focus to the settings. We are still treated to both Switzerland and Spain as well, for those who prefer European locations.



    It is worth pointing out that a larger proportion of the storyline takes place in modern times than I was expecting. This is a credit to proceedings, as it allows the usage of many modern day conspiracies, as we take in some controversial historical events such as President Kennedy's assassination in 1963. We also have mentions of Project Bluebird, which was reputedly an exploration of interrogation techniques and creating multiple personalities in subjects and had an offshoot program called MKUltra - which explored various mind control programs. These themes are very pertinent and relevant to the storyline, and are topics that the Assassin's Creed franchise as a whole has covered in the past with its investigation of the Bleeding Effect and the impact that the usage of an Animus can have on an individual. Conspiracies and mystery used to be a major part of the games themselves and an attraction towards them, but they have generally been trimmed away over the years. For this reason alone, it is really easy to appreciate the dark and sinister tone to the narrative of Bloodstone.

    This tone is also reflected in the artwork. Andrea Meloni does an excellent job with the palette colour choices, as colder blues and greens dominate the panels. There is little warmth here, and it feels completely fitting. The artist, Ennio Bufi, manages to capture a vast array and variety of visual architecture and environments, and overall his work meets the steep task set by the complicated and fast moving storyline. If I had one criticism of the art overall, it would only be that the character faces are sometimes difficult to distinct who they are - were it not for the written dialogue. Tomo for example, goes from dark haired Asian to brown haired caucasian depending on what panel you look at it, which is a small nitpick.



    Much like the two volumes that preceded it, Bloodstone is an exploration of some of the darker themes present in this fictional universe. It feigns the need for elaborate action sequences (which honestly never really translate that well to the comic format), and instead focuses on ensuring the dialogue and purpose of characters is strongly portrayed. That may not be for everybody, but to those that enjoy the more fringe aspects of Assassin's Creed, Bloodstone is a recommended read with one caveat. Whilst it is technically not required, I would highly recommend you have read the Conspiracies comics before going into this title. It will make certain story beats all the more rewarding for you.

    Bloodstone Volume 1 releases in France on March 29th 2019, and is available online as well at all good bookstores. An English version is eventually expected, but we do not have any firm information on this at time of writing, and is most likely to appear after the second volume has released in French.


    Story Summary (WARNING: FULL SPOILERS FOLLOW)



    ASSASSINS TRAINING CAMP, JAPAN, KYUSHU ISLAND.
    DECEMBER 6, 2000.

    Yuri and Hajime speak of the Great Purge instigated by the Templar double agent Daniel Cross. Refusing to join the wider Osaka Cell, Yuri aims at training the Assassins in her cell as scientists as best as she can as she believes that the Brotherhood already has enough fighters.

    Yuri is subsequently gunned down by an Abstergo raid on the camp lead by Maxime Gorm, and in her dying moments requests Hajime to save her son - Tomo Sakagawa - as the Brotherhood will need him.


    TOKYO, AREA OF TAKADANOBABA
    JULY 28, 2017.

    Tomo, now an adult and working in an arcade, is berated by his boss for allowing customers to play games for free. Later n a nearby building, Tomo calls Hajime and states that he has tracked down data traces of Maxime Gorm after seventeen years. He mentions a clinic in Switzerland under the control of someone called Nathalie Chapman. Hajime tells him to come and talk at his shop.

    The next morning, Tomo arrives at the shop in the Akihabara district. He relates on how he has discovered that Chapman runs a Neurology service, but that it is a facade to collect genetic data for use by Abstergo's Helix database. He believes all Assassins are walking into a new purge thanks to these new databases. The name of Maxime Gorm had come up from the 2016 archives of the Abstergo Lab in Madrid destroyed by Callum Lynch. Gorm’s name was connected to Thomas and Alice Adler, who were Animus specialists in the building before it was destroyed. When Tomo sees that an Elisa Adler entered Chapman’s clinic in June 2017 under a false identity, he makes the connection understanding that she is the Adlers’ daughter and decides to go and investigate in Switzerland, alone. At first Hajime forbids it but then lets him go.




    LAKE LÉMAN, SWITZERLAND.
    OCTOBER 4, 2017.

    Tomo travels to the clinic in Switzerland, impersonating the identity of a Doctor Florent Carpentier. He meets Doctor Chapman, and relates how is a fan of her published works on regression therapy via hypnosis. She understands he is an expert on brain changes and disorders. Thus she introduces him to the patient Elisa Bouvyer.




    CLINIQUE DES RAMEAUX (CLINIC OF THE BRANCHES).
    OCTOBER 30, 2017.

    Tomo sits with Elisa near a small swimming pool. They discuss several matters, before she reveals that her surname is actually Adler. Shortly afterwards, Tomo is confronted by Doctor Chapman, whom reveals that she knows who he really is. The two share a car ride to a secret bunker location, where they discuss Maxime Gorm and the Animus technology. She reveals that she is impressed by his hacking skills to have found her, but that she is too from the Brotherhood, and their goal is to assassinate Maxime Gorm and dismantling the Project run by the Adler family. Chapman reveals that according to records a certain Boris Pash continued working for the CIA after the second World War, and was involved in the Bluebird Project, before focusing on the Bloodstone Unit - a special group of Assassins operating in the Vietnam war. A member of this group was Julia Gorm, daughter of Eddie Gorm, and ultimately mother to Maxime Gorm. Tomo questions if Pash was perhaps using an Animus to control and “improve” his team, but Chapman is convinced Pash used a different mind controlling device based on artifacts from the First Civilization.

    An Animus Omega is stored within the bunker and is shown to Tomo. It is revealed that Aleksei Gavrani was one of Pash's men in Vietnam, and his genetic data is stored in the Helix databases as Gavrani’s son was part of Warren Vidic’s experiments in the 1980s. Gavrani’s data, though, is available but heavily encrypted. Tomo cracks the file, and is therefore able to access the data. He dons the Animus headset, and enters Aleksei's timeline.


    WALTER REED ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, WASHINGTON.
    8 FEBRUARY, 1957

    Aleksei is in attendance for his first mission at the CIA under Pash. He attemps to enter a restricted area, and is forced to knock out two army personnel. Pash tries to calm him down, and advises him to keep watch whilst he "has to talk to" John Von Neumann in private. Pash returns a short time later clutching an Apple of Eden.
    Tomo temporarily slips into a memory of his youth, discussing with his mother as to why he does not train with the other Assassins. Chapman pulls him out of the Animus, and advises him to focus on the real world.


    BASE OF RESERVES, TAN HIEP. SOUTHERN VIETNAM.
    JANUARY 2, 1963.

    Pash's group of Assassins are assisting the US and South Vietnamese side of the war. Taking flight in a squad of helicopters, Aleksei's chopper is shot down forcing Zenia (the pilot) into a crash landing. He survives, thanks to help from Julia Gorm, who eliminates – using only a knife – a few American soldiers who were closing in on the stricken vehicle. She tells them all that Pash awaits them.




    GULF OF TONKIN, OPERATIONAL BASE, BLOODSTONE UNIT

    Now at Pash's base, Zenia and Aleksei discuss whether the use of torture is really the best way to achieve their goals to uncover the machinations of the Templars in Vietnam. Zenia believes that Pash’s machine is more akin to hypnosis, and relatively harmless as it all ends up forgotten. Aleksei points to the evidence of the relatively unhinged Julia for confirmation that the machine is not entirely harmless, and that they are going against the Creed. Pash overhears their conversation, and states that he does not need soldiers who have lost faith. Sacrifices have to be made and the dogmas of the Brotherhood must be put aside for humanity’s freedom.


    2 NOVEMBER 2017.

    Hajime has also arrived in Switzerland, and both he and Tomo discuss Pash after the realisation that he was in fact in possession of an Apple of Eden. Tomo laments that the Bleeding Effect is causing his memories to be lost and jumbled, but that he is prepared to pay any cost to understand and find Maxime Gorm. He states that his next simulation is that of the President Kennedy assassination.




    TEXAS, UNITED STATES.
    NOVEMBER 22, 1963.

    Special Agent Greer (a member of Aleksei’s team in the chopper in Tan Hiep and the driver of Kennedy's car that day) runs from the assassination scene. In an alleyway, he pulls an Apple of Eden from a pocket. He is confronted by Aleksei, who ironically praises the quality of Kennedy’s assassination. Greer informs him that it was actually Lee Harvey Oswald that took the shot, as an activated sleeper Templar agent. Aleksei rebukes, hypothesizing that both Greer and the three snipers were so well synchronized during the assassination that they had to belong to the Bloodstone Unit. Aleksei beats Greer, before taking the Apple away. Meeting a fellow Assassin contact, he passes over the Apple amidst concerns about the methods Pash is using, and realising that the effects of which are being felt in the Vietnamese region. Aleksei is implored to become again “Agent QJWIN” (an actual cryptonym assigned to a real agent working for CIA prior to Kennedy's death), to deal with Pash and end the Bloodstone Unit.


    CENTER OF GENEVA.
    NOVEMBER 11, 2017.

    Tomo and Elisa play air hockey in an arcade. Afterwards they walk and discuss her amnesia, as well as her relationship to her parents. Over a meal in a restaurant, Elisa reveals that she has been using the Animus (without knowing what it is) as part of Doctor Chapman's treatment programme, to which Tomo remarks that it is highly irregular and that he will be forced to report Chapman to the authorities. He suggests that she go to stay with her parents for her safety.
    Tomo goes to the bathroom, and makes contact with Hajime who is also on site. Tomo believes that Chapman is using the Bleeding Effect of her Animus Omega to implant genetic memories on her test subjects and that it is more effective on younger "virgin" users, much like Daniel Cross and Maxime Gorm. Tomo is convinced that as Elisa is an Adler, meeting her parents will help bring him a step closer to finding Maxime.


    MADRID, THE NEXT DAY…

    In a car parked outside of Elisa's family home, she laments that she has no memory of her parents, and wonders if going to them is the best action. Tomo states that the clinic is no longer safe, and in that very moment he suffers a brief Bleeding Effect seizure whilst getting out of the car. They both meet the parents, and are shocked to discover Maxime Gorm arising from the house cellar. The parents explain that they have been using the Animus on Maxime ultimately in order to help repair her memories. Tomo kills the parents, and after a brief battle, is stabbed by Maxime through the eye. Maxime encourages Elisa to escape with him.


    LAKE LÉMAN.
    ONE HOUR LATER.

    Doctor Chapman returns home whilst on the phone, discovering that the Adlers and Tomo is dead. She requests the recovered Adler data be forwarded on to her. Upon entering her home she notes the alarm has been tripped and calls out to reason with the intruder. She stands near the window, and as an Assassin descends upon her, they are summarily shot by a sniper outside. The sniper is revealed to be her security officer, and she reveals that the dead Assassin was of Hajime's cell. With no way to now access Aleksei Gavrani's memories and having to evacuate her bunker, she advises that they must locate Maxime Gorm before her Assassin rivals do.




    NOVEMBER 15, 2017.

    A wounded Tomo awakens under the care of Hajime's cell in the bunker formerly controlled by Chapman. Despite Tomo's protests, Hajime informs him that he must continue to search for more information on Pash in the Animus. Doctor Chapman's research intends to “resurrect” the dead via their genetic memories, and the imprinted personality of any past Assassin could be brought to the present day - replacing the mind of the host. Hajime remarks that she must be stopped at all costs.



    Final Thoughts

    There are only a few things that you can really analyse here, but I thought I would share some thoughts.

    Firstly, Maxime Gorm is a very odd individual. We see him leading the Abstergo raid in the year 2000, and then later in the year 2017. However, something seems very off in his age and appearance. For example, let's assume he lead the Abstergo raid at the tender age of 18 years old. By the time we see him in Conspiracies, he would therefore be 35 years old, most likely even a few more years older than that. Does this man look nearly 40? Not to my eyes. Is there an-universe reason for this? Or simply artist/narrative inconsistency?

    Bloodstone doesn’t appear to address one of the major issues that came from the Conspiracies plotline - namely that is, how Maxime Gorm was able to witness Eddie Gorm committing suicide, considering that the rules of the Animus establish that genetic memories can only be seen up until the point of conception of a descendant. I suppose it is possible that Eddie’s DNA came from a sample taken directly from his body, or that it was an extrapolated simulation using other sources. It is certainly curious though that we see in Bloodstone that Eddie actually had a daughter whom as of 1963 appears to be in her 20s to 30s and is named Julia - like Julia Dusk, the female Assassin that Eddie seemed to have become infatuated with during the events shown in Conspiracies. Hopefully Volume 2 will provide some answers on this curiosity.



    The imprinting of memories is something we have covered many times, across many articles. It was implied heavily in the previous comics, and has in fact been generally suggested ever since the first Assassin's Creed game. The Bleeding Effect is in of itself, the imprinting of a previous personality upon an individual's own identity. If you argue that all that we are as a person is our memories, if they were to fundamentally be replaced, our brains rewired with different thoughts and experiences, then with enough exposure you could see the potential for a permanent Bleeding Effect upon an Animus user – forever losing the person that exists in the Modern Day. Where could this be leading us to? Could we see previously lost fan favourite Assassins suddenly returning to the franchise in the bodies of existing people in the Present? Potentially. Though we also know that Abstergo has pretty extensive cloning technology, after successfully managing to clone the ancient DNA of Isu. Cloning the DNA of a historical individual, and then strapping said clone to an Animus combined with Isu technology is a route that could potentially bring back any character in the IP from death. The implications of this could be very wide ranging.


    [source]

    Or could they? Well, this is one aspect that many fans have criticised, in that the Transmedia has very much kept its stories self contained and wrapped up inside of their own series. Could this entire plot point completely resolve in just the next issue? Honestly, it is probably the most likely scenario, given past precedence. That being said, we already know that Layla Hassan and her cell are operating in Tokyo in the year 2020, as mentioned on the Kickstarter to Brotherhood of Venice. The tabletop game even promises a mystery fourth Modern Day Assassin to join her story. Could this actually be Tomo? Now that he has lost sight in one eye, he could potentially have lost his sense of vision completely. Many fans have expressed a desire for a blind Assassin to join the ranks of the Brotherhood, and one who could still potentially see via Eagle Sense would be an interesting Daredevil-esque twist to behold. Whether he, and his story, expand beyond the Bloodstone series is something that only time will tell. But a more inter-connected universe is something that I know many fans (myself included) would certainly like to happen.

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    Thanks for reading. For the full article, please view it here; http://www.accesstheanimus.com/ACBlo...Review_Summary

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  2. #2
    Nice review I like to read the comic myself but I just have to wait for a translation I guess.
    Thanks for the summary!
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