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Author Topic: My full review of Formic Wars (long)
Craig Childs
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Rated: 3 stars out of 5

Many of the novels and short stories in Orson Scott Card's Ender series have been adapted into comic book form by Marvel, but this collection represents a brand new story in the series written as a comic. Card and Aaron Johnston co-wrote the story (Johnston wrote the script). They have announced plans to expand on the story in a trilogy of novels, the first of which Earth Unaware was published last month.

The artwork by Giancarlo Caracuzzo is adequate. The panels support the text and were usually easy to follow. His depiction of the Buggers was spot-on as to how I imagined them reading the first book twenty years ago. A few of the covers, especially the last one depicting flaming alien ships falling from the skies, are very evocative and memorable. I had some quibbles with the fact that Captain O'Witt's skin color kept changing hues from white to dark, and it was hard to tell the soldiers apart in a few of the fight scenes inside the enemy ship. Also, I felt the art was too cartoonish; I preferred Pasqual Ferry's more three-dimensional and textured artwork in the original Ender's Game adaptation.

The story itself was fast-paced and exciting, especially the hand-to-hand combat scenes in China between human resistance fighters and the Formic aliens. The focus was clearly on the action and not on detailed plotting or character development. In general this has been true of all the comic adaptations in the series, except Speaker for the Dead. The result is much different than the novels, which are much more focused on characters and politics. If this were a standalone man vs. alien tale, I would probably appreciate it as a simple adventure tale.

How does it fit within the overall scope of the Ender saga? Well, not too well.

It seems Card and Johnston decided to ignore the events of the First Invasion, as originally told in EG. I could understand a few continuity errors, but this will probably require a rewrite of several passages in a future edition of EG.

1. In EG, we learned the first battle of the First Invasion occurred on Eros. The Formics had made Eros their forward base of operations, and they blacked it out so we (humans) couldn't see what they were doing. Earth sent a ship to investigate and the Formics killed all the crew. This was how we learned of the Formics and how the first war started.

In EG, Mazer explains that people on Earth watched via delayed video feed as buggers boarded the ship sent to Eros and methodically killed the crew. He tells Ender that the buggers probably thought they were killing the ship's communications by doing this. In fact, of course, they never disrupted communications at all because it never occurred to them humans might not communicate telepathically. Mazer points this out as a major weakness of the Formics, one of the few advantages Ender can exploit.

Ender's entire understanding of the biology of the Formics, the role of the queen and drones, and the way in which faster-than-light communication occurred all stemmed from what Mazer told him about the Battle of Eros and the final battle of the Second Invasion, in which Mazer destroyed a queen. Ender's decision at the end of EG was directly influenced by these events.

But in Formic Wars, this Battle of Eros did not happen at all.

2. In EG, we learned Formics made no effort to block radio or video communication. Since they communicated to each other via telepathy, it never occurred to them that humans would communicate via technology.

In Formic Wars, the alien ship blocked all radio and satellite communication, at least while in flight. This may have been an inadvertent byproduct of the ship's technology itself rather than an intentional strategic decision by the Buggers. Still, it's a pretty big plot hole.

3. In EG, we learned the First Invasion occurred 30 years before the Second Invastion. Mazer Rackham served in the 2nd Invasiion, and is described as "little known, twice court-martialed" before his victory in the 2nd war. Then, he was stationed on Eros for 20 years. Then, he took a relativistic space flight that aged him 8 years, while 50 years passed on Earth. He appears to be around 60 years old at the time of EG.

If you work the timeline backwards, it is not possible for Rackham to have served in the First Invasion. He would have been 2 years old. Plus, it's hard to believe Rackham is an unknown at the time of the Second Invasion, given his huge role in repelling the First Invasion in Formic Wars.

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