Volume 24, Number 1, Fall, 2005

Serenity: The Comic Books (1-3)

Story by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews

Script by Brett Matthews
Art by Will Conrad
Colors by Laura Martin
Letters by Michael Heisler
Dark Horse Comics, 2005, $2.95 each

Reviewed by David Wayland

A three part comic book venture sub-titled “Those Left Behind” bridges the gap between the last episode of Firefly and the feature film, Serenity. Fans of either the TV series or the movie will enjoy some of the backstory shown in the comic books, and it’s a neat way to see the familiar crew and universe again.

Issuing a comic book version of events not shown on TV or motion picture allows Whedon to explore his ’Verse is a different medium, and also temper somewhat the appetite of the show’s long-suffering fans; the gimmick of three different covers for each issue might make collectors and fans shell out thrice the cash, but also showcases one character per cover.

These comic books are slim—thirty-two pages each, although advertising filler chips off ten pages per issue—so the best equivalent would be to view all three as one TV episode. Events unfold on a planet where Captain Mal Reynolds and crew appear reduced to robbing a relative impoverished populace. However, a rival group takes off with the loot, and the Serenity crew must flee empty-handed and quite upset with Mal, as usual. Inara is still trying to get off the ship, but the captain procrastinates and makes excuses as to why they can’t make her rendezvous quite yet. At the close of book one, the men with blue hands make their appearance on Whitefall, asking to talk to “the man,” and calmly disposing of the guard in a messy manner reminiscent of TV’s “Ariel” episode.

The crew meets with Badger in book two to explain the theft of their stolen goods, and look for new work. He brings them a tale of treasure from a battle between Alliance and Browncoats. Mal must be getting desperate, resorting now to robbery, not just transporting cargo. Meanwhile, the men with blue hands engage in a conversation with “the man”—it appears they don’t just kill everyone they meet—who turns out to be a former foe of Mal Reynolds, and now lives only to plot the death of Mal. Either I missed something, or there’s a small discontinuity, as Serenity is spotted overhead at one point on Whitefall, shortly after having met with Badger, whose usual home base is on Persephone.

This second installment concludes with images of Serenity amid the hulks and wrecks of a vast space battle, quite nicely done since most visualizations of space battles show all the vessels vaporized. Whedon seems to realize that there is a post-battle reality of drifting metal and corpses, the latter flash-frozen by the coldness of space.

The big pay-off comes in issue three, where the men with blue hands try to board Serenity seeking their lost River, while Mal, Zoe, and Jayne (this trio seems to do all the heavy work outside the ship) hope to find the lost treasure, and instead encounter Mal’s vengeful nemesis. And what of Inara? She does finally manage to depart the ship, but the big shocker showed another member of the crew declaring the intent to also leave, worried about the loss of his soul to Reynold’s casual attitude towards life and human morals.

Overall, “Those Left Behind” succeeds nicely as a single episode linking Firefly and Serenity. When Fox TV (may they burn in hell) cancelled Firefly, only two certainties stood forth, that Inara declared her intent to leave the ship, and Alliance pursuit of River would intensify. Little new development occurs in the comic books, but fans of the show will not be disappointed. My only gripe came from the scant 60 or so pages comprising these three volumes. Time passed far too quickly reading the comic books.

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