“Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” is an ongoing series published by Dark Horse Comics. It is based on the popular science-fiction/Western television series “Firefly.” Readers who are not familiar with this series are advised to stop reading now and go watch the show. “Leaves on the Wind” takes place about nine months after the events of the “Serenity” movie. In the last two issues, readers discovered the crew of the Serenity hiding from both the Alliance and the newly-forming rebellion while the galaxy reeled with turmoil as its inhabitants decided how to react to the information Mal and his crew broadcast about the Alliance’s involvement with the planet Miranda. Zoe has given birth and been subsequently captured by the Alliance; Mal and his crew have been re-joined by Jayne and a newcomer, the New Rebellion’s leader, Bea. Simon has put River into a temporary coma in the hopes of finding some hidden knowledge in her head to help Zoe. The crew’s old enemy, Jubal Early, has found the Serenity and has snuck on board and begun taking out crew members one by one. The odds are stacked against them, the stakes are high, and they don’t have a whole lot of places they can turn. Seems things are business as usual for the crew of the Serenity.
This issue picks up where the last one left off, introducing the reader into one of the most mysterious places in the “Firefly” universe: River Tam’s head. The trip through her mind takes the reader on a twisted flashback through her time with the Alliance. The story shows her memory of going to the Alliance’s academy clearly enough and then, the brief thread of reality in unravels as glimpses of hellish nightmares and horrible experiences flash through her memory. River starts awake, only to get herself and her brother captured by Jubal Early. It does not take Early long to either capture or contain most of the crew that he did not get to in the last comic. However, it has been a long time since Early has been on the ship and the crew has changed on him since he was last here. Subsequently, he misses one member of the crew and is politely but firmly asked to stand down in the form of Kaylee smacking him in the face with a wrench. Early comes to and finds himself tied to a chair. Kaylee threatens him with all manner of tortures for a while before leaving him to stew.
The crew gathers to discuss their next move. River reveals the meaning behind the visions in her head: she has remembered that she is not the only prodigy who the Alliance attempted to weaponize. There are others like her in the academy where she was “trained.” She demands they go rescue the other victims of the Alliance’s torturous training program, pointing out that it might be easier to rescue Zoe if the crew has others like herself with them. The crewmembers are hesitant, but eventually all agree or at least have their objections silenced. The comic briefly cuts away to Zoe in a fairly stereotypical remote sci-fi prison. She is still determined to get out, but does not seem to have many plausible options for doing so. The story shifts back to Mal making a dangerous journey to recruit a man with the sort of talent his crew will need to break into an Alliance academy and subsequently break Zoe out of prison. The comic ends with Mal asking for help from an unlikely source: none other than The Operative.
The artwork in this issue is similar in quality to the preceding comics: the scenes in space are gorgeous and the portrayals of characters range from pretty good to a bit unskilled. The art only becomes problematic at the end, as the way the Operative’s face is drawn makes it very hard to recognize who he is. The details in the room, however, do help make up the difference when it comes to identifying him. Overall, the art evokes enough of a feel for the original series to trigger the nostalgia button of most fans enough to overlook the small problems. Readers who are not fans of the original “Firefly” might have a hard time overlooking some of the shortcomings in the artwork, but they are few and far between enough to not be particularly distracting.
As for the story itself, this is a bit of a slower issue in the overall series. It seems as though a whole lot of situations are being set up and hopefully there will be some great payoff in the next three issues after all the exposition and set-up in this one. Nonetheless, there was still some character development and interaction that makes the story worth reading. It was great to finally see Mal and Inara actually having some chemistry together in a scene that didn’t take place in a bedroom. Kaylee, on the other hand, seems to have taken a bit of a drastic turn personality-wise. While she has yet to carry anything out on-panel, her threats of sadistic torture towards Early seem a bit out of place for her. However, the readers do not know what all she has been through after the events of “Serenity.” There may well be a justification for this sudden shift, so judgement must be withheld until the story is complete. The most interesting character insight and development definitely came from the trip inside River’s mind. The revelation it gives the audience is not particularly original or shocking; it makes perfect sense that the Alliance would want to train multiple people like River. However, the twisted and trippy way in which this information was revealed as well as the unexpected look inside her mind were definite treats for longtime and new fans alike who have long been clamoring to know more about what happened to her.
Overall in this comic, the stage was set for a great deal of future events and situations but not much actually happened. The character interaction and development was there, but a bit muted and the story moved a bit slower than it did in the last two issues. It is still an enjoyable issue, but hopefully it is setting up for some great things in the second half of the series.