Sunday, November 7, 2010

Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale

Written by Joss Whedon and Zack Whedon
Art by Chris Samnee

I'm torn in my reactions to this book, which is an original graphic novel focused on Shepherd Book, the character played on Firefly and in Serenity by Ron Glass.  First, to establish some credentials in this review, I loved Firefly when it was on the air, and have worked my way through the boxed set of dvds a few times.  I liked the Serenity film, but not as much, partly for the way it shuffled off characters like Book in favour of some new folk (Mr. Universe?  That still feels like a bad idea).

Now, I've found the Dark Horse comics to be pretty hit or miss as well.  They're fun while being read, but I felt like they never really contributed much to the mythos.  That's why I was excited about this book - the chance to learn about Book's history, and to find out all of the secrets he'd been keeping.

Book was one of the more compelling characters on the TV show.  He started off being simply what he claimed to be, a Shepherd (think future monk) who is just traveling the 'Verse for a while.  Then the hints started coming - he knew a lot about weapons and ships, and he seemed to be known to the Alliance.

While, this book does fill in all the blanks in his story, and it does it in a very cool backwards narrative structure, so with each new scene, we see a progressively younger Book.  My problem is that the story was over too quickly.  The scene where Book receives his vocation is nicely handled, but I would imagine that a man with his past would have a great deal of trouble adjusting to the life of a holy man, and that is glossed over.  Likewise, there are other things (it's hard to talk about this comic without spoilers) that needed more space to breathe and grow.

I think my largest complaint about this story is that I would have much preferred to see how Book's companions on Serenity would have felt about his past.  It's an incredible story, but without reflecting it through the eyes of the other characters we grew to love on this show, it stays somewhat hollow.

The Whedon's write the book well, although I would have been happier to see some more of the peculiar Whedon-esque speech patterns developed for the show.  Chris Samnee's art is incredible, but that's not really a surprise.  I'm glad that Dark Horse decided to use an artist like him for a book like this - often licensed properties suffer, artistically speaking.

So, in the end, I did enjoy this book, but I think my biggest problem with it is that it only started to scratch my itch for more Firefly-related material (which should not be interpreted as a request for someone to open the floodgates).

1 comment:

Eilonvi said...

I totally agree. I enjoy reading Dark Horse's comics related to firefly and Buffy (though the previous two volumes of the Firefly comics were seriously lacking), but they can never compare to the excellent TV shows they emerged from.

I also agree that the Serenity Movie wasn't anywhere as good as the series - it just wasn't as layered and actually rather superficial - it wrapped all the open questions too quickly.

Great Review :)