Card, Orson Scott
About the Author:
Orson Scott Card lives in Greensboro, North Carolina.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
Book one of the Tales of Alvin Maker. This book tells the story of a boy who is born in remarkable circumstances to become the seventh son of a seventh son, a sign of greatness. As he grows older the boy, Alvin, begins to develop astonishing powers that give him a 'knack' for making things, he being the first Maker born 'since the one who turned the water into wine'. However, Alvin's opposite, the mysterious Unmaker, turns the ire of a fanatical priest against the boy.
Card tells of an interesting time in a fictional colonial America, when it is ripe with people with magical 'knacks', who have fled from the persecution of Europe's devout Christians. The scene in which Alvin is born is really evocatively written and I loved the idea that water itself holds a grudge against Alvin. However, I have little interest in America's colonial history and the setting of this book is just too Little House on the Prairie for my liking.
I can't deny that the book is well written, but ultimately it comes down to personal taste and this really wasn't my cup of tea.
3 out of 5
Ultimate Iron Man
(Art by Andy Kubert, Mark Bagley, Danny Miki, Batt, Jesse Delperdang, John Dell and Scott Koblish)
Howark Stark works on developing a new type of bio-armour whilst facing an alliance between his chief rival, Zebediah Stane, and his ex-wife Lori. However, when an experiment-gone-awry leads to the death of his second wife and bizarre physiological traits in his newborn son, Howard focuses his time and efforts into protecting little Tony. As he grows, Tony's intelligence and unique physicality lead him into conflict that prompts him to begin development of a powerful suit of armour.
Card has been criticised for making this story such a radical departure from established Iron Man lore, both in the mainstream comics and the Ultimate Universe (he's also been criticised for being a homophobe, but that's not what I'm reviewing here - although I suppose it should be said that knowing the author has bigoted and objectionable views does make it harder to enjoy his work), but personally I actually rather enjoyed it. It felt like an origin story for a whole new superhero, rather than just a retelling of what we already know about Tony Stark. Sure, I get that the Ultimate Universe was supposed to be a purer and less complicated version of the Marvel pantheon, but if you want that for Iron Man then just go watch the movie (still stands up even over a decade later). Instead, what we get here is something very different and often surprising in a way that, for example, the story of Ultimate Captain America is not.
As well as an interesting new take on Tony, I also liked seeing Card's interpretations of others from Iron Man's sphere, including Rhodey and, perhaps most interestingly, the psychopathic child Obadiah Stane.
For me the only thing that stood out as being actively bad was the fact that this book tries to explain away and, to a certain extent, excuse Tony's alcoholism. Considering the character's struggle with the 'demon in a bottle' is one of the major elements of who he is in the mainstream comics, to have it rationalised like this feels like a betrayal. Also, and more significantly, I don't think introducing the idea that alcoholics aren't really responsible for themselves is particularly sensitive to the issue.
4 out of 5
Ultimate Iron Man II
(Art by Pasqual Ferry amd Leonardo Manco)
Picking up immediately after the first Ultimate Iron Man book, Tony and his friends begin working with the government to uncover a terrorist plot that is somehow linked to Howard Stark being framed for murder, as well as a clandestine attempt to seize control of the Iron Man and War Machine suits.
In the first book Card went out on a limb and tried some pretty radical new ideas, which many fans of the OG Iron Man hated but which I felt made a nice change from the usual Ultimates premise of the same old backstories just told by modern writers. Here, however, Card goes in the opposite direction and takes zero risks.
The simple truth is that the vast majority of this book is just boring. Little of significance really happens and the revelation of who is the villain behind all of Tony's woes is singularly unimpressive.
2 out of 5