Orson Scott Card is a New York Times Bestseller and many regard his books as among the pinnacles of modern sci-fi. So a proper adaptation of one of his books would be a joy to read. Thankfully Marvel’s Ender’s Shadow is a very faithful adaptation of the book with that same name.
The story starts with the tiny, yet unusually articulate four-year old, Bean (so named for his size) living on the streets of Rotterdam. Sister Carlotta, a nun working for the European government, notices his unusual intelligence. He goes with her, partially to test himself and partially to get away from his enemy Achilles (pronounced Ah-sheel) whom Bean (correctly) believes wants him dead for seeing Achilles in a moment weakness. He makes it to Battle School, which trains the best and brightest youngsters as child soldiers to fight the alien Formacs in the inevitable war with humanity. While at the school, he is compared to the other prodigy among prodigies, Ender, in whose metaphorical shadow he stands. I can’t say more without totally spoiling the plot, nor go into more depth without turning this from a review into an essay.
The book tells three stories simultaneously. The primary one is Bean’s journey. Whenever you feel like you need a break from that you get one, as Sister Carlotta investigates where this super-genius came from. Finally, at the beginning of each issue is a page of two adults discussing Bean and how to deal with a student smarter than the teachers. Said adults go unnamed, but anyone who reads this carefully (or has read the original novel) can figure out who they are. Simultaneous storytelling can be tough and if done badly, can ruin any work. But here, it is done well, with the secondary story appearing where breaks would naturally go in the primary story and the tertiary story being almost non-existent. All three stories tie together neatly in the end.
The art is fairly gritty and minimalistic. Normally I don’t like that, but here it matches the feel of the story perfectly. I mean, the action takes place in a city called Rotterdam and in an orbiting space station created for the express purpose of making child soldiers. If it were bright and happy, the dissonance between the story and the art could be catastrophic.
This book is not okay for anyone under the age of 15. Really realistic art of living on the streets will do that. (Surprisingly the child soldier parts are less disturbing, because the violence there is simulated and non-graphic.)
This is a great adaptation of a great book, which is a side novel to another great book. You should read this, the book from which this is adapted, and Ender’s Game, the book to which it is a companion. I can’t speak to the quality of the Ender’s Game comics, but if they’re half as good as this, then they’re also worth your time.