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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Serenity: Those Left Behind

Story: Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews
Script: Brett Matthews
Art (pencils and inks): Will Conrad
Colours: Laura Martin
Letters: Michael Heisler
Publisher: Dark Horse

What's it about?
In 2002 a Joss Whedon created show named Firefly was first aired in America.  The episodes were shown out of order and after a paltry 11 episodes the Fox network cancelled the series.  Post DVD release, Firefly developed a large and vocal fanbase and in 2005 a film, Serenity, was released.  This comic bridges the gap between TV show and film and shows us what happened to the characters and the story to take us to the opening sequence of the film.

As to the subject, it's a Western in Space.  From the introductory blurb:

"After the earth was used up we found a new solar system, and hundreds of new earths were terra-formed and colonized.  The central planets formed the alliance and decided all the planets had to join in their rule.  There was some disagreement on that point.  After the War, many of the Independents who had fought and lost drifted to the edge of the system, far from Alliance control.  Out here, people struggled to get by with the most basic technologies; a ship would bring you work, a gun would help you keep it.  A Captain's goal was simple: find a crew, find a job, keep flying."

So, shiny glossy high tech Star Trek this isn't.  Their ship isn't fancy, it's rusty, dark, mechanical looking, there's no plush carpets and it regularly comes close to running out of fuel.  The crew consists of nine men and women, all of whom have one reason or another to stay off the Alliance radar.

The comic starts with a theft gone wrong and the crew being offered a further job, one that looks too good to be true.  This lands them face to face with some old enemies and the fight is on to survive. 

What's good about it?
Like most Whedon shows, Firefly was character driven, and this book is no different.  Although short, we are given enough information to make sense of and distinguish each character, in a way that builds on the themes and tensions laid out in the TV show.  There are some exceptionally strong personalities on the crew and unfortunately, given the brevity of the book, we don't get to see much of each of them.  Having said that, each character is showcased and well defined and the book isn't damaged by not supplying character studies.

For someone coming in new to this Whedon Universe, this book may raise more questions than give answers but it won't spoil anything from the film.  It is more of a tantalising glimpse into life aboard the ship Serenity and will whet your appetite leaving you seeking more. 

What's bad about it?
The screen versions of this show were widely criticised for using Asian imagery, props and language but no Asian actors.  The book makes a small effort to rectify this by including one Asian character, but unfortunately this doesn't solve the problem.  Partly this is because the artist has to work with what he's given and the plot and characters are not Asian, but share between them a mix of White, Black and Brazilian heritage.   Even knowing this, you might well be left wondering if all the other races ganged up on all Asian folk, stole their culture and language, but didn't let them survive to the future.

What's the art like?
Uncommonly for TV and film spin offs the artist has managed to portray a good likeness of the actors used on the show.  The height differentials, body types, postures and taste in clothes are all accurate, thus integrating this story into the mythos nicely.  It also means that if you read this then watch the TV series or the film, you'll be familiar with everyone.

The book opens with some great action scenes including a futuristic car chase and some wonderful displays of derring-do from Kaylee.  There's some real energy and motion coming off the page and it's easy to visualise these events in terms of the TV or film medium.

Other Information
Price: £7.50 (paperback)
ISBN: 1593074492 (paperback)

There is also a hardcover available, details can be found on Amazon.co.uk here.  Both paperback and hardback copies have a 'look inside' feature on Amazon, so if you fancy a sneak peak you can.  It looks like the trades include an introduction by Nathan Fillion (who played Captain Mal Reynolds on Firefly/Serenity and also Caleb in Buffy season 7).


  1. Ah, Saranga ! You can't imagine how much I'm glad to read this article ! Serenity has been for me the real discover of Josh Whedon universe, being not a fan of Buffy or vampire's stuff at all. And I didn't know a comic has been done to link the serie to the film ! This film has been made by people who didn't want to give up, when no one was agree to produce it and to give it life. It has been an adventure itself, as Josh Whedon explain in the DVD, and I regret it probably hasn't been seen by a lot of people, finally.

    I remember when it came out in France, I had some exams to pass, and I missed it. Though I was fascinated by the posters on the walls or on the bus stop... with Nathan Fillion in his brown long coat, in a white desert, and Summer Glau doing the splits with a strange chinese weapon in the hand. But I also remember there weren't any reports in the news or in mags about it, due to a very low budget, and till now, a lot of people unfortunately don't know neither the serie, nor the film.

    I baught the DVD some months later and had one of my best surprises ever. Western and Space Opera do a good marriage for a long time now (Star Wars, Cobura, Captain Future, Captain Harlock, and so on...) but this one was very realistic and credible, and even if I can't imagine your readers don't know it, I join you to advice everyone to discover the adventures of Firefly's crew ! :D

  2. http://a.giscos.free.fr/cinema/S/Serenity/Affiche.jpg

  3. Hi Manu. Thanks for the comments. There has been another set of comics relased and collected into a trade, which I will be reviewed soon. Keep an eye out!

  4. I wasn't expecting much when I read these Serenity comics, mostly to have more Firefly stories.. But they turned out pretty entertaining and interesting!