The promise of continuation comics — those books that pick up where popular shows leave off — can easily be undermined by impossible expectations and poor execution. People are invested in these characters and desperate for more. They grieve for both the silence and the prospect of a true “end” for these stories even if an end has already occurred. With some of these fans, there is a fully formed opinion of what should happen next, and yet, it rarely ever does and that’s fine.
The last thing that these comics should be is predictable and hollow bits of fan service. They should find a balance, providing value within their host universe and beside it, lest they fall flat on their face or occupy the narrative purgatory that lives somewhere in between the land of burnt feet and heavenly blessings. A place born from a disconnect between what those characters were and what they are.
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, is a highly anticipated new continuation comic series that seeks to pick-up where Joss Whedon left off following the end of Serenity (the feature film follow-up to the sinfully short Firefly TV series). After reading the first issue — from artist Georges Jeanty and writer Zack Whedon (brother of Joss) — though, it seems like this latest adaptation (there are some rich Firefly stories that precede this attempt) may be headed for limbo.
What steers this book away from its potential? For starters, these characters both feel and look unfamiliar. Gone is the winning dialogue that served both Firefly and Serenity so well. In its place is a lifeless script that shoehorns way too much into twenty seven pages while still managing to make the journey feel like a joyless trudge.
Granted, this is a story that takes place with Malcolm Reynold’s crew on the run, still grieving months after the events of Serenity so levity isn’t expected, but there is simply no hum or anima to the characters. It also doesn’t help that major events (and a few blatant bits of fanservice) occur without explanation, as if to say that there is no time to acclimate readers to the new shape of things despite the book’s dedication to do just that with regard to the challenges facing the crew in the book’s first nine pages.
As for the art, what can I say? Georges Jeanty is the well regarded artist for both Buffy Season 8 and Season 9. If you liked that work, you’re gonna really like this. If you are like me and you feel that Jeanty’s style does not translate well to something where people have a pre-installed view of what these characters look like, then you’re not goona feel great about the job that he does. I should say that it is, by no means, the work of someone who is incapable. The interiors and exteriors of the Serenity ship are quite good, but Jeanty’s penchant for doe eyed and occasionally interchangeable looking characters can be distracting, but that doesn’t figure to change.
The good news is that I can easily see things improving on the story side over the next few months. Yes, Whedon bit off more than he could chew this time out, but as his six issue arc continues on he won’t be saddled with the burden of re-introducing these characters and re-living their horrors. I’m still skeptical about some of those aforementioned “major changes” and how they’ll play out, but Zack Whedon is also someone who has done good work in this ‘verse before, so that alone earns him another chance to try and strike that right balance.
Serenity: Leaves on the WindWriter: Zack WhedonArtist: Georges Jeanty and (Colorist) Laura Martin