The Good: Decent writing, Some real nice panels, Cover art gallery
The Bad: Some of the artwork isn't great
The Basics: In between the television series Firefly and the big-screen Serenity, are the events of Serenity: Those Left Behind which allows fans one more opportunity to enjoy Joss Whedon's universe.
One of the problems with Joss Whedon's creations are that they tend to be dense, layered. This works very well for a television show (Angel's serialization in the third and fourth season helped make the show as great as it was), but poorly for a cinematic adventure. So, when Whedon's Firefly (reviewed here!) was canceled and he won the right to produce the film Serenity (reviewed here!) one of the serious problems with the endeavor was that Serenity had so many plot lines and character threads to try to wrap up. Fortunately for fans of the series, Joss Whedon created a bridge between Firefly and Serenity, a series of comics that were assembled in the trade paperback Serenity: Those Left Behind.
The crew of Serenity, led by Malcolm Reynolds, is in one of its standard bad places. When a bank job goes awry, while Shepherd Book distracts the townspeople of the planet the crew is robbing, the intrepid crew finds themselves once more on the run, low on funds and fuel. As they seek more work from Badger, an enemy from Mal's past allies himself with the blue-gloved agents who are hunting River and Simon Tam.
And the resolution to that conflict leads to the character choices that establish where the crew of Serenity begin the film. This is a smart bridge between the television series and the movie, filling in the important gap between the two. Essentially, this answers the three big questions from the outset of Serenity: Why did Book leave, when did Anara get dropped off and why did the Alliance hire bounty hunters to go after River and Simon when they had the blue-gloved men?
The nice thing about Serenity: Those Left Behind is that because it is written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, the characters all sound like they should. The dialogue reads just like an episode of Firefly. There is not a moment in the trade paperback where the reader feels "[X character] would never say that" or "X does not sound like that." Instead, it's very easy to read this graphic novel with the voices and timing of the actors resonating in the mind of the reader. The writing is crisp and the dialogue reads as correct for the characters and universe created in Firefly.
Moreover, the action in the book is as realistic as it was in the television series. There are no leaps here that use the conceits of comic books. No one suddenly develops special powers or abilities that were not indicated in the show. Instead, this feels very much like the series. And it's a decent story. It satisfies the reader and fan of Firefly.
The only real drawback is some of the artwork. Dark Horse kindly included the covers to the three comic books that this work anthologizes, but both the cover art and the interior art in some cases leaves much to be desired. So, for example, the cover with River is just plain terrible, looking nothing like her. Inside the trade paperback, there are panels that are amazing, like the panel showing Serenity engaging its engines (there are no page numbers, but it's near the end - this was always an awesome effect on screen). But then there are some real duds, like the frames introducing Wash into the story.
I suppose that's standard with comic books, but it's still disappointing to see.
Because this is an anthology of only three comic books, there is not much more to say on Serenity: Those Left Behind without giving everything away. That ought never to be done. On the balance, this is essential for those who are fans of the series, but easily overlooked by those who have never seen Firefly or Serenity.
For other graphic novels that tie-in with films, please check out my reviews of:
Star Trek: Countdown
Transformers: Dark Of The Moon - Foundation
The A-Team: War Stories
For other book reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!
© 2011, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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