Thursday, August 20, 2009

Moving forward - the same direction as always.

I wrote once before on the initial graphic novel set in the Firefly universe, Those Left Behind. Now there are two such graphic novels; Those Left Behind has been joined by Better Days. While I'll pretty much jump at nearly any chance to revisit this universe, neither of these two graphic novels is completely satisfying, which is oddly disappointing considering my belief that comics is the ideal medium for the Firefly universe to live on, if live on it does.

The problem with each one boils down simply to the fact that they are too short. It took me about twenty minutes to read each one; they're just too slight. It's really pretty frustrating; you would think that comics would give Joss Whedon room to breathe with his Firefly tales, but apparently these books are collections of miniseries that were mandated at just three issues apiece. The result are fun stories full of that Firefly flair that nevertheless flash by, without a real sense of the stories being fleshed out or with the subplots resolved too quickly or not given enough room to breathe.

Those Left Behind is apparently intended to lead right into the movie Serenity, and thus sets up things like Shepherd Book having left the ship when the movie starts and the two "Hands of Blue" pursuers of River Tam having been replaced by The Operative. Thus, parts of Those Left Behind probably won't make sense to anyone who hasn't seen the movie, or if they do make sense, they won't realize how things are resolved at the end of the story.

Better Days tells a "standard" Firefly story; this could have been an episode of the show, really. The crew performs one of its less-than-legal jobs, but unlike most jobs Captain Reynolds and crew take on, this one results in a huge payday, resulting in the crew getting to indulge some fantasies as to what they would do if they had lots and lots and lots of money. (Jayne's fantasy is a hoot, and River Tam's is...well, you'll have to read it yourself.) It's a good story, but again, it contains one too many subplots for a story that is only being told in three issues. Also, since the page count is at a premium, the action sequences in these comics tend to be hard to follow. They almost seem like individual frames taken from filmed action sequences, and as such it's often hard to understand who is doing what.

This is all a shame. I don't know if Firefly has a future in comics or not; while I enjoyed these two books, I can't think they really helped the cause at all. Three issues here, three issues there – that's no way to sustain interest in the 'Verse. Bummer.

(Apparently a third Firefly comic, one which fleshes out the background of Shepherd Book, is on the way at some point.)

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