Now, before I get too deep into this review, I want you to know that, yes, I know that this graphic novel was produced by Marvel. I know that, as such, it is not considered an indie book, and that I should, therefore, based solely on the name of my column, not be doing a review on this, here. Yes, I am aware of this, but I’m going to go against the norm here and review this book based on the fact that I think my definition of indie comics may differ from yours. You see, just because this book was published by Marvel Comics does not mean it is, particularly, a Marvel comic.
Outside of the comic book medium, my absolute favorite sci-fi author is Orson Scott Card. While some of you may not be familiar with his name, most are familiar with at least one piece of his work: the award-winning novel, Ender’s Game. However, believe it or not, this world famous book about a child who saves the world from an alien invasion is not how I was introduced to Card’s work. Honestly, Ender’s Game was a novel I read after deciding this was a brilliant author. Before I was who and what I am now (aspiring comic book author), I was a long-haul trucker. Yeah, I know what you’ve seen on tv, so I know you’d probably figure a man with a job like that to be something of a brainless oaf. You’d be wrong, of course, but I can see how you would get that idea. On tv, all they ever do is drive, eat, and curse as badly as- or perhaps even worse than- sailors, so there doesn’t seem to be much substance there. However, when all you do is drive, and there aren’t a lot of *ahem* distractions- you can read that as women- then you get the chance to spend time reading.
I read a lot of books on the road, and different kinds too. Lots of sappy love stories and lots of high adventure. I loved the story, Timeline, which explored time travel in a way I had never before seen, and that was the highlight of my reading, until, in one of my more sensitive moods- read missing my girlfriend back home- I stumbled across a book called, Enchantment.
Now, if you’ve read the Ender’s saga, then Enchantment might throw you for a loop, because, it’s nothing like the Ender books. Instead, it’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty wrapped in a story about time travel all the while giving us the action equivalent of The Princess Bride and all the charm that fits into a story about falling in love, despite the odds. Truth to tell, the concept of the book is quite girly, but it’s written in a way that didn’t offend my masculine senses. It was a great book, and I wanted more. That was how I discovered Ender.
The Enderverse books were amazing. Starting with Ender’s Game and continuing with each sequel, Card continued to entertain and amaze me. His grasp of everything, culture, history, personality, all of it brought the characters to life for me and made me want to immerse myself more deeply into the universe he had woven. As such, when each novel ended, I felt a little pang of loss. After all, each story read leaves you with the feeling that, while there is more story to tell, there may not be much more that Card wants to say. Having read The Homecoming Saga, I can tell you that he definitely could tell more stories, but when he, as an author, is finished, then so is the story. I felt like I’d lost a friend when I came to the end of the Ender books, and I was not particularly sure where to go for my fix of complex sci-fi. Then a friend of mine, who is also a Card fan, told me a new Enderverse book had been written. I had to have it, so I went online and bought it. While I was there, however, I discovered that card had written something else in the Enderverse. He had gone back to the beginning and mapped out how Ender’s Game came to be in the form of Marvel Comics produced graphic novels called The Formic Wars.
Illustrated by Giancarlo Caracuzzo and co-written by Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, the Formic Wars is a collection of stories that tell of the first Formic Invasion, referred to in the Enderverse as the Bugger Wars. Finally, after almost three decades, the stories that shaped Ender’s Game have been brought to life, and I could not be more pleased. Not only do we finally see Mazer Rackham, the hero of the first invasion in his prime, and follow him on the adventure that made him a hero, but we get to meet others as well.
We meet an interstellar miner and his family, who upon discovering the coming invaders, risks his life in a small ship trying to reach Earth to warn of the impending danger from creatures whose technology far surpasses our own. We meet a young government official whose guts and need for the truth lead to Earth getting its first warnings. We get to see the world unite against the terror of the bug-faced nightmares that come from the skies to destroy us and take our world for their own, and we are told, in solid terms, why Ender had to be the one to destroy the enemy in the second Formic War.
As a fan of Card’s, I really enjoyed this collection of stories, and I am thoroughly looking forward to reading more. As a fan of good sci-fi, there is a level of complexity to Card’s story-telling that is, oft times lacking from lesser writers. But how does this book stand-up to the fanboy in me?
The truth is, this is what indie comics are to me. We have a story that would not normally be told in the Marvel or DC universes that captures our imaginations and takes us on a ride that the big two either can’t, because their characters are established and their integrity is too important, or won’t because the story or the author is too controversial. Card is a bit of all these things. His stances on his beliefs are concrete, and as such, might be something which might make the big two shy away, but he is a master-craftsman of story-telling. He has a voice that must be heard, despite the differences in politics, and if you look closely enough you can learn something about relationships and community. But, more than that, you’ll be entertained, and isn’t that the real reason to buy indie comics, to find new ways to be entertained?