Comic Corner: “Leaves on the Wind”

Joss Whedon’s “Firefly.” A sci-fi western television series canceled far too soon with a fanbase whose continual growth and compounding enthusiasm keep the spirit of the show alive and well even though the show has been off the air for more than ten years. As many people are aware, the rabid devotion of the cult following that developed in the wake of “Firefly’s” untimely cancellation was strong enough to convince studio executives to green light a movie sequel to the show in the form of “Serenity,” which was released a few years after the episodes stopped airing. However, the rest of the ways in which the ‘Verse lives on are relatively less well known to the public. Many fans have risen to the task of making their own “Firefly” productions in the form of films, radio and audio dramas, written stories, fan art, and other mediums, gaming companies have released multiple “Firefly”-based games, and as many fans are aware, Dark Horse has released several stories in comic book format under the “Serenity” title. These comics detail the adventures and lives of the characters in the “Firefly” universe, giving many fans the character insights, background information, and continuing storylines they were denied after the show was cancelled. At the beginning of this year, Dark Horse began releasing a six-issue miniseries under the “Serenity” label: “Leaves on the Wind.” This series picks up nine months after the events of the “Serenity” movie and shows the reader how the characters’ actions in that film have changed life in the ‘Verse. This is an ongoing series, so readers who wish to find and read issues #1 and #2 on their own before the third comic comes out are advised to skip the next two paragraphs.

Issue #1 begins approximately nine months after the events of “Serenity,” with life progressing in a relatively expected manner: the Alliance is denying the validity of the incriminating report on Reavers Mal and his crew broadcast to the ‘Verse, many media outlets are calling the broadcast a hoax, and rumblings of a New Rebellion against the Alliance are getting stronger by the day. Everybody is looking for the Serenity: the media and the general populace of the ‘Verse want the crew to come forward with the truth about the Reaver broadcast, the Alliance wants the ship because, among other reasons, River Tam is aboard it, and the New Rebellion wants to find Malcolm Reynolds and make him their leader. With almost the entire ‘Verse after them, the crew of the Serenity hides in one of the only safe places they can find: a spot in the middle of nowhere that lacks the significance of even a name. The crewmembers fans remember from the movie are all still there except for Jayne, who seems to have left of his own volition. Mal finds himself under increasing pressure as the ship’s supplies of money and food continue to dwindle. However, with everyone out looking for his crew and Jayne gone and Zoe incapacitated due to pregnancy, he refuses to risk taking on a job. Zoe, still dealing with the pain of losing Wash, soon finds herself giving birth to his child. However, after the birth, Simon takes Mal aside and warns him that though the baby is healthy, Zoe is bleeding internally and the ship’s equipment is insufficient to determine the extent of the damage. Without hesitation, Mal has Kaylee “fire up the engines” and has River pilot them out of the safety of obscurity to a relatively nearby medical facility. The comic shifts perspective to show the supposedly dead bounty hunter Jubal Early presenting himself to the Alliance as the man who is going to find Malcolm Reynolds. The story ends with members of the New Rebellion bribing Jayne into helping them find Mal.

Issue #2 opens with Jubal Early expounding slightly on his plan to find the Serenity and with Jayne and the New Rebellion continuing their search for Mal. The comic then shifts back to the Serenity where the crew is preparing to dock with a medical ship. The crew plans various ways to try and slow down the inevitable moment when the facility will identify them and alert the Alliance. Despite the high likelihood that the Alliance will find them, Simon and Mal take Zoe into the facility. The doctors on board are able to help her, but tell Mal that it will be several days before she is recovered enough to return to the ship. With the Alliance notified and its soldiers making a beeline for the medical facility, Zoe urges Mal to leave and, promising her that they will come get her when she’s healed up, he follows her suggestion and abandons her to the Alliance. Mal suffers some serious guilt for his actions and cannot come up with a plan for how to rescue Zoe until River points out the bargaining chip they have: her. River offers to go into a medically induced coma so that she can unlock some of the Alliance secrets in her brain. Once she can reach these secrets, she suggests that they offer her silence to the Alliance in exchange for Zoe’s safe return. The crew eventually agrees, but as soon as River is put into her coma, the New Rebellion ship finds the Serenity. Jayne and the current New Rebellion leader, Bea, board the ship. Mal is less than pleased to see them, assuming that someone followed their crew to his own. This assumption turns out to be correct, as the reader soon sees Jubal Early kill everyone aboard the New Rebellion ship and land aboard the Serenity. Back in Alliance facilities, an officer threatens Zoe with permanent imprisonment and separation from her crew and child. The comic ends back on the Serenity with Mal rejecting Jayne’s offer to help with Zoe on the grounds that Mal cannot trust him and with the reveal that Jubal Early has snuck aboard the ship and found the unconscious River.

These comics are great for fans of the “Firefly” universe. The characters and story are written so well and so truly to the spirit of the source material that opening the book honestly feels like stepping right back into the show or the movie. Everything about these comics is engineered to recapture the feel of the original universe and in most cases, it succeeds wildly in that respect. Admittedly, this story is going to be difficult for non-fans to get into, as much of the tale depends on references to or knowledge of prior events in the series. The art is the other main weakness of the series. The backgrounds and objects in the comics are well done and the representations of space are truly excellent and do a great job of capturing the scope and majesty of the Black that the show and movie worked so hard to portray. However, proportions and details on characters are sometimes a bit off, particularly on close-ups. This is most noticeable on characters from the show, since fans already have an established mental image of the actors who play these characters. However, these artistic imperfections are not particularly distracting and they artwork does improve and start to better mimic the look of the original characters. Everything else, the dialogue, the character interactions, the plot, the details of the universe, the little nods to fans, all of it just smacks of everything that made fans fall in love with “Firefly” in the first place. Little can be said about what makes this comic good that has not been said a thousand times over about the show itself. The comic really does capture the feel and appeal of the original work and honestly seems like it could have fit perfectly as another movie or couple episodes in the show. Though a release date has not been announced at the time of this writing, Dark Horse will likely release a trade publication of the entire mini-series after all of the issues have been released. Fans who cannot wait that long are advised that the third issue comes out on March twenty-sixth. Whether by following the issues as they come out or waiting for the bound release of the full story, Browncoats of all kinds who have been itching for more “Firefly” are heavily advised to check out this series.

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