Let’s look at a comics I just picked up today.
Ender’s Game: Battle School #1
Written by Christopher Yost (based on Orson Scott Card’s novel Ender’s Game)
Illustrated by Pasqual Ferry
I can tell you when and where I was when I first read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. It was Thanksgiving weekend, 1992. I bought it on Black Friday, on my dinner break from work. I was finished by the end of Saturday.
I won’t say that Ender’s Game changed my world, because it didn’t. I liked the book, I found certain sequences, like the final Battle Room sequence where Ender took on four teams, memorable, but much of the book faded into memory. The sequel, Speaker for the Dead, has stayed with me — I thought it was brilliant. I read those two books back-to-back; I’d finished with Speaker certainly by the Wednesday following that Black Friday.
As the years passed I continued to read Card’s work. Some of his older stuff, like the Foundation-inspired Worthing Saga, I really liked. Other books, like the Alvin Maker series, didn’t do a whole lot for me. And I didn’t like the Xenocide duology much at all.
Eventually, not long past the turn of the millennium, I stopped reading Card’s work, because I found it increasingly difficult to separate Card-the-novelist from Card-the-opinionated-bigot. Card, in a different time and place, would have been, as he made clear with his increasingly hate-fueled screeds, a jackbooted thug. And so, I walked away from Card’s work.
A few months ago at work I had to write an article about Card and his work. Obviously, it had to be a positive piece. I had to set my personal feelings about Card aside and write a piece that played up Card and put some hype and some spin on his work. I wrestled with my approach to the article for a day. I read Wikipedia summaries of his books. Finally, I saw that one of my coworkers had a copy of Ender’s Game on his desk, and I flipped through it and found that final Battle Room sequence.
And whatever issues I had with Card’s political views — none of which I share — I had to admit that the man could write some powerful and evocative prose. A good many writers, when you come right down to it, are complete and utter assholes.
Marvel Comics had an adaptation of Ender’s Game coming out, and I decided that, in spite of my vow to never again spend money on a Card product, I would at least give this a look. Because, deep down, I did like Ender’s Game fifteen years ago.
On the subway home I read the first issue of Ender’s Game: Battle School.
It is, so the cover tells me, a five issue miniseries adapting the novel. (The subtitle is because next month Marvel begins an Ender’s Shadow adaptation, with the same subtitle, to show readers that the two stories are interrelated, dovetail together, and then diverge.)
It’s been a very long time since I’ve read Ender’s Game. The first issue covers what I thought was the first chapter of the book — Andrew Wiggin, better known as Ender, is the third child in his family. He has a monitor surgically removed. He’s suddenly “normal” in a world where “Third” is a dire insult. He’s six years old. He’s bullied by his brother. A school bully, twice Ender’s size at least, attacks him in the park, and Ender lashes out viciously. Then the head of the Battle School comes to visit Ender and his family, and he offers Ender the opportunity to study at Battle School and learn how to fight the Formics, a race of aliens (which are depicted as giant mecha) that are poised to destroy humanity. As the issue concludes, Ender accepts the offer, and he arrives at the spaceport ready to loft into orbit and join the Battle School.
As I mentioned, I seem to recall that all of this occurred in the first chapter of the book, or possibly the first two or three. There’s a lot of set-up here of Ender’s family situation. Not of a lot of detail is given on the world Ender lives in, though. The reason for the hatred of Ender as a “Third” isn’t made entirely clear — parents are given birthrights, and they received a special birthright to create Ender as humanity’s potential savior. The bond between Ender and his sister Valentine — and its importance to both of them — is stressed at several points. Writer Christopher Yost did find the right ending point for the first issue, though; Ender leaving Earth for Battle School is the natural breaking point. Ender’s life as a child has ended, and now he’s about to enter a world of brutality that he cannot possibly imagine — let alone, at this point, comprehend. I worry at the pacing of the next four issues, though. How much of the story will have to be cut? How much of the story will have to be truncated? How much of the denouement will we get?
Pasquel Ferry’s artwork has a nice, unreal tone to it. It’s not realistic artwork by any means; there’s a certain shaded quality to it that gives it a sense that this is a world like — and unlike — ours. I had no issue with his rendering of anything, except perhaps the depiction of the Formics. Overall, the artwork is nice to look at, has a wonderful flow, and conveys the mood and action well.
By the way, this comic is not for children. It carries a parental advisory, and Ender’s confrontation with the schoolyard bully is bloody.
I enjoyed the first issue of Ender’s Game: Battle School. I think some familiarity with the book (and the series as a whole) is to the reader’s benefit, but I imagine that someone who has heard of Ender’s Game but not read it will be able to read the comic without great difficulty. And in spite of my antipathy for Card’s work, I think I’ll pick up the next four issues.
I may skip Ender’s Shadow: Battle School, though.