Assassin’s Apprentice #1
Dark Horse Comics
Writer: Jody Houser
Artists: Ryan Kelly and Jordie Bellaire
Assassin’s Apprentice #1 was a highly anticipated release for me as a huge Robin Hobb fan. This series is an adaptation of the first in her critically acclaimed trilogy The Farseer Trilogy, with scripts by Jody Houser and art by Ryan Kelly. The series would go on to encompass a massive 13 book saga now known as The Realm of the Elderlings; an epic I devoured all within the span of a year. It’s a series brimming with rich characters, adventures, and a series of events so horrible and depressing that even I was a bit weary of jumping back in. Of course, my expectations were high, but at the same time I approached it with a degree of hesitancy, as adaptations of works so close to the heart are prone to fall short. Though, I’m in for the ride regardless of if that turns out to be the case.
Assassin’s Apprentice opens with a pretty setup heavy debut issue. A young boy known only as ‘Boy’ is dropped unceremoniously into the hands of Buckkeep royalty, under the claim that he’s the bastard son of the king-in-waiting. He’s then passed around a bit before landing in the care of his alleged father’s stable master, where the newly dubbed Fitz is left to sleep with the hounds in a barn. Through these events we’re introduced to several characters who will be key to the story as it unfolds from this point.
One of the things that impressed me from the jump was the art of Ryan Kelly, who’s style lands somewhere between DiGiandemenico and Capullo. I was immediately impressed with his interpretations of visuals that had only been depicted through prose work, as it ended up resembling closely my own interpretation of the writing. Buckkeep looks just as I imagined it, and though the character designs naturally differ more from the versions in my head, none of them are such a far cry that I have trouble connecting the dots. On top of that, his layouts have a sense of dynamism that prevent a dialogue-heavy issue from feeling visually dull. There’s just enough camera movement which feels intuitive and makes the conversations feel natural and you rarely, if ever, find yourself confused on the dynamics of the conversation. Additionally, his depiction of the magic system, the Skill, is only present briefly in this issue, but I did like how he chose to convey it. It’s a bit unfocused and muddy, but that fits in perfectly with where we are in the story so far.
Jody Houser does a terrific job at faithfully interpreting a dense work into a more decompressed format. The novel is not so fresh in my mind that I can’t discern whether any of the dialogue is copied directly from the book, but if it isn’t, her dialogue captures the spirit of the original text perfectly. It avoids being too wordy and filling the pages with flavor text, but still distills the essence of each scene into a reasonable amount of word balloons and caption boxes. Plot-wise, I haven’t noticed a single diversion in the story thus far, and so the series appears to promise a faithful adaptation.
If you’re new to the series, Assassin’s Apprentice #1 may not blow you away. It’s heavy on the setup, and the protagonist speaks hardly a word so it’s natural to not be overly attached at this point. However, speaking as someone who can see the strings, it does exactly what it needs to, and I implore you to continue reading if you find yourself even the slightest bit interested in seeing what happens. It will be well worth your time, even if the first novel is the only one to be adapted. This is a fine first issue for new readers, and a promising one for veterans.
Assassin's Apprentice #1
- Well constructed and faithful adaptation that encapsulates the atmosphere of the original novel
- The hook is perhaps not entirely clear for new readers, as the issue focuses primarily on setup and world building