Wednesday, November 3, 2010

VINTAGE - Those Left Behind, Serenity

WHEDON, Joss & Brett Matthews. Serenity: Those Left Behind. Dark Horse Comics, 2007. ISBN: 9781593078461

Let's talk about the Serenity graphic novel.

It's good. Let's just start there. This story, which actually ran for three Dark Horse comic issues, is collected in this awesome hardcover. I remember because I bought all the issues as it came out. Which was hard, because they were selling out fast. Each issue had three different covers, highlighting one of the nine main stars of Firefly. Unlike many other Vintage titles, it's actually still in-print so you can buy it for your library. And buy it you should. Did I mention it's good? There's a co-writing credit here between Joss Whedon and Bret Matthews. I don't know who did what; let's assume, in typical Joss Whedon comics-fashion that he did much of the story plotting and Bret did much of the nitty gritty writing stuff, like say... dialogue. You can't really tell, because this is so spot on with both the show and the movie that it's a piece of the universe everyone should read in order to... yeah, I'll say it... stay shiny.

Okay, so the plot. Assuming you've all seen Firefly, it centers around a spaceship named Serenity and her crew. Not familiar? That's cool, there's actually plot background that establishes their world in the back just in case you're unfamiliar. Basically, the captain of the ship (Mal Reynolds) and his crew are a bunch of space pirates. Some of the jobs they do are legal and some are less than. Even if they are on the up-and-up, the often find themselves in sticky situations. Most of these resort to violence. One such situation is where the story opens. As Mal and his comrades Zoe and Jayne are looting a bank (okay, so it's not always legal) someone else has beat them to the punch. They're not giving up without a fight. Mal gives it to them and wins, but looses the much-needed cash the ship and crew were depending on. This would be the typical teaser for an episode of the show, and serves as the kind-of opening for Serenity the film, so... awesome. I like that the comic opens in much the same way yet manages to stay fresh somehow.

The story attempts to resolve some dangling plot threads; the "Men in Blue" are both still hunting River and get Agent Dobson- a character thought killed in the original pilot- to help them set up a distraction for the rest of the crew. Dobson wants to kill Mal, so that's pretty much all he cares about. Badger, who hired the crew a few times in the show for odd jobs, is the one the sends them to Dobson, effectively ending their business relationship (and thus, explaining why twins Fanty & Mingo take his place in Serenity). Shepherd Book becomes increasingly frustrated with having to participate in the illicit activities against his faith and better judgment finally punching Mal in the face. This is one of the cooler panels in the story. He makes plans to leave the ship, and Inara is still waiting to depart as well. You kind of forget that this many parts of the story need to be told in this in-between period for the television series-to-film. The story is paced so you kind of don't even notice.

It's great. I have almost no criticism. I would love to discuss someone who reads it but has no prior knowledge of Firefly or Serenity. Maybe it's too complicated without them. Maybe you wouldn't be interested in reading this if you haven't watched one of those first. It would ultimately be a good jumping off point for a book discussion for just these reasons. I like that the blue dudes are dealt with. The fact that they never appear again is kind of a downer; you kind of want to see them get it in the show's end. I also like how Book's growing frustration is an element throughout the story. If you're watching the movie, people who saw the show are like... w-t-f? He left? This is kind a nice grace note to explain that. Anyway, I think it's worth reading and a welcome addition to any comics collection at your local library.

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