You know the first author name, no doubt, but might not recognize the second (though the “Card is a decent giveaway). Emily Janice Card is Orson Scott Card’s daughter, and this father-daughter teamup has produced Laddertop, quite an enjoyable first entry into a new science fiction manga series.
Yes, manga. I don’t think I’ve reviewed a comic book on here before, but Laddertop hooked me with its concept and proved itself a story worth reading.
Here’s the main concept behind Laddertop:
Twenty-five years ago, the alien Givers came to Earth. They gave the human race the greatest technology ever seen— four giant towers known as Ladders that rise 36,000 miles into space and culminate in space stations that power the entire planet. Then, for reasons unknown, the Givers disappeared. Due to the unique alien construction of the Laddertop space stations, only a skilled crew of children can perform the maintenance necessary to keep the stations up and running.
Back on Earth, competition is fierce to enter Laddertop Academy. It is an honor few students will achieve. Robbi and Azure, two eleven-year-old girls who are the best of friends, are candidates for the Academy. They will become entangled in a dangerous mystery that may help them solve the riddle of the Givers…if it doesn’t destroy the Earth first!
It’s a quick read, as I breezed through it in little over an hour–but don’t take this to mean it’s insubstantial! Robbi and Azure are the two female leads. Both have strong personalities, even if they express themselves in vastly different ways. Their friendship and support of each other through the Laddertop Academy experience and beyond is one of the main hinges on which the story pivots. And as is the case with many good YA-aimed works, the middle-school characters still appeal to an adult audience with their intelligence, humor, and strength of will.
Beyond that, these opening chapters set up many intriguing mysteries as to the nature of the Givers, the reasons behind Laddertop’s existence, and those who want to control (or worship) the aliens and their architecture. There’s no particular closure or answers provided in this first issue, only hints and the promise of plenty of major revelations to come.
The illustrations flow well, giving the pages a sleek futuristic feel; though if you aren’t familiar with manga, it might take a little bit to get used to the style. Honoel A. Ibardolaza is the illustrator, and does a superb job of bringing life to the characters and the environments, both alien and earth-bound. Even the character sketches at the end are fun to flip through, just to get a closer look at the details.
While it might be a bit different than the usual genre selections gracing your shelves, Laddertop deserves your attention. And those parents looking for stories to read to/with their kids should also give it a closer look (compared to some of the DC reboots being offered, for example).