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Ender's Shadow: Battle School #1

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008
By: Bill Frye

Mike Carey
Sebastian Fiumara
Marvel Comics
Editor's Note: Ender's Shadow: Battle School #1 arrives in stores Thursday, December 4.

I have never read any of Orson Scott Card's Ender series. With that, I entered this adaptation of Ender's Shadow with an open and curious mind, as I had no clue as to what to expect here.

The book starts off with a black page on which white text displays a dialogue between two characters. This dialogue sets a tone for the opening chapter of this series and gives new readers a hint as to the importance of the main character, Bean.

In Rotterdam, Bean works to survive street life. It is here that he experiences some hardships through his interactions with "bullies" who horde what little food is available. Bean uses his smarts to work his way into a group of children by helping them force a bully into an alliance to earn more food rations.

However, it is through this shaky alliance with the bully, Achilles, that Bean experiences that life on the street is not a place for him. Bean turns to Sister Carlotta, who taught the children in Bean's group. She notices early on that Bean has an incredible knack of learning things quickly. Carlotta offers him a chance at a life somewhere different that will allow him to use his mind for purposes other than surviving the streets.

If this adaptation was made to lure fans of Ender's Game to comics and comic fans to Ender's Game, then so far so good. At the end of this first issue I was left wanting more, and I think any reader of this book will do the same. It is Bean's character that draws you into this book. He's little in stature, smart, is willing to do whatever it takes to execute a plan, yet he's scared. Readers will witness this when Bean experiences violence and betrayal on the streets and fears for his own life. When Bean decides to go to wherever it is Carlotta is sending him, you want to go along for the ride as little Bean seems destined for big things.

However, one thing holding this book back from a perfect score is that we're only getting a part of the picture. We know who our main character is. We've learned some of his traits and why we should be emotionally invested in him. However, we don't know fully the world he's living in, only a slice. Once a bigger picture of this world is provided and Bean begins to grow as a person, this series will truly take off.

Also of note is the artwork of Sebastian Fiumara. Fiumara seems to have developed a gritty art style to depict the children's life on the streets of Rotterdam. His pencils create a rough and dirty atmosphere, such when Bean is confronted with the reality of the streets on pages 30 and 31. Here Fiumara shines by showing Bean's fear and the brutality befallen one of his allies. Also interesting is on the last page of the issue, Fiumara teases readers with a slicker art style that shows a space station and a fleet of space ships that Bean seems destined for.



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