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Review Date: 10/17/2008
 
 ENDER'S GAME: BATTLE SCHOOL #1
COVER BY: PASQUAL FERRY
WRITER: CHRISTOPHER YOST
ORSON SCOTT CARD
PENCILS: PASQUAL FERRY
INKS: PASQUAL FERRY
COLORED BY: FRANK D'ARMATA

     Marvel Comics has just released issue #1 of a 5-issue mini-series comic book version of acclaimed science fiction writer Orson Scott Card's landmark novel "Ender's Game."  Published in 1985, the novel became an instant classic, winning the Nebula and Hugo awards for best science fiction novel of the year and spawning several sequel novels by Card.
     Issue #1 is scripted by Christopher Yost with art by Pasqual Ferry and Frank D'Armata.  The comic faithfully summarizes in graphic format the early chapters of the novel.
     Mankind has barely beat-back two alien invasions by the insect-like Formics, and is faring poorly in a third war.  Earth's military is testing and training young children for entrance into the elite Battle School, where the kids train in interstellar battle simulations, honing their video game abilities to eventually battle the invaders.
     6-year-old Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is identified in early testing as having the potential for being the skilled battle leader that mankind needs to find.  Issue #1 introduces us to the basic characters and their personalities: Ender himself, his loving older sister Valentine, his jealous and violent older brother Peter, his emotionally distant parents, and his competitor schoolmates who jealously see Ender as a threat for the rare tactical qualities which he posseses and they don't. 
     Violent confrontations with these characters are the norm of Ender's young life. Ender is forced to justify his own severe violent actions against a schoolmate to protect himself; his explanation of his defensive violence against a dangerous bully turns out to be the tactical answer that Earth's leadership is seeking in a child battle leader trainee.  As such, by the end of issue #1 Ender is heading off for Interstellar Battle School for elite training with other hopeful child warriors.
     "Ender's Game" is a very dense, complex novel.  In issue #1, the comic book creative team does a fine job of translating the story's key plot elements to the graphic format.  Just as importantly, they have captured the much-acclaimed atmosphere of the novel.  Author Card gave the reader a very violent, desperate, yet extremely credible story of mankind turning to its young children as its last hope against extinction.  The novel had a "Lord Of The Flies" end-of-days feel to it, with Card masterfully convincing the reader that little kids could actually assume realistic adult roles and face the necessity of trying to save the world.
      While issue #1 succeeds in translating these elements of the novel into comic book format, my one concern is whether or not the full necessary elements of the lengthy novel can be condensed into a brief, five-issue mini-series.  If so, hats-off to Marvel Comics, but I have a feeling that a 12-issue series run would do the novel, and the reader, more of the justice that the story deserves.  But its worth going along for the ride and seeing how this comic book tribute turns-out.  So far the effort is off to an excellent start, so my recommendation is a definite thumbs-up if you're looking for a science fiction comic classic to enjoy.


CHECKMATE #29
Written by Bruce Jones
Art and cover by Manuel Garcia

 

      I wasn't familiar with this comic series, but it caught my eye on the That's Entertainment new issues wall, so I thought I'd give it a read and a review.  Fellow comic reviewer Dave LeBlanc was kind enough to fill me in on DC's Checkmate universe, telling me that Checkmate is a covert operations agency that includes superheros, and operatives named after chess pieces (i.e. King, Queen, Knight, etc.)
      Issue #29 is written by Bruce Jones with art by Manuel Garcia.  The plot concerns the Checkmate operatives confronting the phenomenon of dangerous mythological creatures spontaneously appearing and attacking in various cultures around the world. 
      The superhero Chimera parachutes into Venezuela to join a Checkmate superhero team battling a huge mythological monster, with tension quickly developing due to Chimera's lone wolf personality and battle tactics.  In an accompanying sub-plot, Chimera's girlfriend Chloe Roberts confronts the Checkmate bureaucracy to try to find out how they are using him and whats become of this violent loner of an operative.
      The world of Checkmate is an interesting corner of the DC Universe that I wasn't familiar with.  As a newcomer to it, I enjoyed reading the comic; the art is good, and the action-heavy plot was interesting, with the Checkmate battle scenes against the creatures both well-done and creative.
      My one criticism is that there really needs to be a brief blurb at the beginning of the issue just briefing the reader as to what the Checkmate covert organization is all about.  The comic doesn't enlighten the reader about the group at all, with the uninitiated reader puzzled as to why people are referring to each other as Pawn #6, Black Knight, and other chess pieces.
      But armed with that knowledge, its an average comic done well.  I've learned that DC plans on only two more issues of Checkmate, ending with Issue #31, so my advice is either get some back issues to catch-up with the basic Checkmate concept, or wait for the inevitable graphic collection reprint and enjoy this D.C. covert operations world from the beginning.


 Superman #680
Written by: James Robinson
Art by: Renato Guedes
  I stick to doing two comic issue reviews a week, but can't resist giving a short third recommendation for the good D.C. reader to run out and grab a copy of this week's Superman #680.  Written by James Robinson and penciled by Renato Guedes, it's sub-titled "Dog Of Steel" and features a very rare starring role by Superman's Dog, Krypto.  It's an excellent story, with the creative team mixing very nicely Krypto's super abilities with a dog's personality and behavior, particularly his loyalty for his master, Superman.  So a quick, enthusistic thumbs-up, don't miss this one.  Good boy, Krypto, good boy!

New Contest Announcement!

     O.K., we've run contests asking you for your most-favorite- this, or least-favorite-that among existing comics and superheros.  It's time for you to get creative, but in a couch potato way.
     This contest challenges you to create and submit to us a new superhero that you create, whose power would be to make lives easier in a small, ordinary way.  No big powers that save the world, here!  Instead, basically a hero whose abilities help the average lazy couch potato in some mundane, everyday way.
     For example, I personally wish there was a superhero known as Nectarine Lad, who would have the mundane but useful power to make that delicious fruit not too soft, not too hard, but just perfectly ripe for eating.  Mock if you wish, but he'd be the most popular hero during the summer fresh fruit season.
     So give us your Everyday Item Savior, that hero who has the uncanny power to find the one missing sock in a load of laundry, who has the ability to make flossing fun, who...well, you get the picture.  Send all entries to Gordon_A@msn.com, now!

 
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