COMIC REVIEW: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind

Joss Whedon’s Serenity seemed like the end of a story. A story that began with the brilliant TV show, Firefly. The crew of the Firefly class ship, their titular home, had got their message out, but had faced loss. Mal, Zoe, Kaylee, River, Inara, Simon and Jayne had broadcast the signal, proving that the Alliance had murdered 30 million and created the Reavers in the process. Sheppard Book and Wash had paid the ultimate price. Lives mourned. Story concluded.

Dark Horse Comics now brings us Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. Written by Joss’s brother, Zack, and pencilled by Georges Jeanty – best known for Season 8 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – the new series continues the narrative several months on from the events in the film.

Malcolm Reynolds’s crew shook the ’verse to its core when they laid bare the crimes against humanity undertaken by their sinister government—the Alliance. Always outlaws, Mal, a very pregnant Zoe, new pilot River Tam, and the other surviving crew members are in greater danger than ever. Meanwhile, everyone is asking the same question . . .

This is, what I believe, a major issue with storytelling. You are writing and drawing a comic book based on existing and very much-loved characters, and continuing a story familiar to many. However, you are producing in a different medium, so you have to assume that the reader knows little if anything of the back-story. I think Zack Whedon just about manages the balancing act in issue #1.

Our story continues with a media debate about the message sent by the crew from the planet Miranda. Pro- and anti-alliance people argue about its validity, a well-worn but decent way of bringing the readers up to speed with exposition. It seems that Mal and his crew have disappeared but the message has stirred up a rebellion; malcontents (pun intended) rallying against their oppressive masters or terrorists and insurgents (depending on your political leanings). Meanwhile, the alliance are licking their wounds, planning rebuffs and hunting for Serenity. They are still wary of River, the rebels need a leader and the Alliance want justice.

But where are our heroes? Without giving away spoilers, they have moved on too. Relationships have developed. However, a medical emergency forces them out of hiding. But some things stay the same. Jayne is motivated by money, for example. And an old adversary proves he is harder to remove than viewers of the TV show thought. Zack has caught the essence of his brother’s writing (although Joss executive produced this comic). The storytelling continues on from the other media in a similar vein.

Characters behave as you’d expect and the battlegrounds are well drawn. The dialogue is great, and is right out of the TV series, linking scenes and giving the reader a wry smile. Most of the characters don’t look like the exact likeness of their actor counterparts. River in particular looks more like Jewel Staite than Summer Glau. I suspect that might be deliberate as so it’s not distracting. Although there’s a brilliant moment when Zoe is in pain when she looks like Gina Torres to a tee.

The rest of the art is great. Jeanty really captures Whedon’s universe, especially the Alliance ships and of course Serenity herself (both inside and out). Some of the characterisation is awesome, too. There’s a scene toward the end when Jayne is being chased on hover-bikes that is right out of the TV, which is part of the problem.

I’m a huge fan and think other Browncoats will love this as well. They will love the writing and the dialogue and how the characters have moved on, especially Mal. They will love the struggle Zoe has mourning Wash and how poignant the ‘leaf on the wind’ moment truly was. They will enjoy the art (coloring by Laura Martin – lovely and fitting if unspectacular). I do think, however, that a comic book fan who had not yet visited the Firefly universe might not get it. They’d follow the story for sure; the oft-used trope of oppressive government versus the rag-tag band of rebels, but I don’t know if they’d really enjoy it.

Rating: 4/5

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