Advance Review: Assassin’s Apprentice #1 (of 6)

By | November 27, 2022

For many comic book creators the idea is to get their book some traction, a fanbase and when they hit those dizzy heights, look to move their concept / book over into a wider audience be it a TV show (The Boys, The Umbrella Academy), an animation project (Irredeemable , TMNT) or a movie (too many to mention!).  Very rarely do comic books look to imitate the, possibly, largely forgotten media of books.  Assassin’s Apprentice from Dark Horse Comics is one such beast.

Based on the books by Robin Hobb, this first issue looks to setup the world and characters that we will see, through the journey of Boy, an illegitimate son to a powerful noble.  But the boy is more than he seems, destined to impact the Six Duchies!

Fans of the book will recognise Robin Hobb’s name and the land and characters that he has created.  Hobb is joined by licensing writing expert Jody Houser who provides the script as well as sharing writing credits.  I will admit that I have not read the original book, and based on this interpretation, I don’t think I will be reading it in the future.  I get the whole mysterious “boy with a destiny” trope; for me this oft used idea has to bring something new.  Here, unfortunately, I don’t see it.  Other than a puppy there sis one interesting character in Prince Verity.  I found the monologue to be oppressive, falling into telling me what was on the page.  However, the big thing that annoyed me was that multiple characters stated that the boy was the illegitimate son of the said noble man.  I got the first time, I got it the numerous times it was mentioned thereafter!

The artwork from Ryan Kelly is gorgeous, fitting the medieval environs very well.  With the book be more conversational, albeit the conversation (see above), Kelly has to focus on the emotion and facial impacts of the characters.  For the most part he succeeds, though there is a quiet resignation to boy’s features.  I guess that this in some way is a sing that boy is existing in life rather than living in it.  The colors are from the always fantastic Jordie Bellaire, whose work I have ran out of superlatives for.  Heres there is richness to the textures, the fireplace casting light well observed and demonstrated as is every light source no matter how meagre it may be.  Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou provides the letters utilising a couple of fonts to differentiate the dialogue from the monologue.  Speaking of the monologue.  I am glad that Otsmane-Elhaou refrained from going for a handwritten style.  Also, a quick shout out to Dark Horse who have given Otsmane-Elhaou a much deserved cover credit.  One final point, the cover from Anna Steinbauer is gorgeous.

Dark Horse Comics are known for publishing comic with high production values.  This book is no different.  However, as an introduction to a new series, the plodding script doesn’t really engage, neither does the tell rather than show elements.  It’s as if  Hobb and Houser are focusing more on the text and writing format of a novel, somewhat forgetting that comics are a two point reading exercise.

Writing – 2.5 Stars
Art 3.5 Stars
Colors – 5 Stars

Overall – 3 Stars

Written by; Robin Hobb & Jody Houser
Script by; Jody Houser
Art by; Ryan Kelly
Colors by; Jordie Bellaire
Letters by; Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover by; Anna Steinbauer
Published by; Dark Horse Comics

Assassin’s Apprentice is due out December 14th