This review of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3 contains some spoilers. Read on with caution!
Jubal Early is, to my mind, the very best of the all-too-small roster of rogues in the Firefly universe. That’s not to take anything away from the operatic grandeur of The Operative, but Early creeps like a spider toward his prey in a way that is so deliberate, sexual, and unsettling. The hunt arouses him, as does the smell of fear. There isn’t a more uncomfortable moment in all of the Whedonverse than that moment in “Objects in Space” when Early betrays his docile tone to ask Kayee Fry, our goofy kid sister, if she has ever been raped. It shocks us, it upsets us, and it makes it clear that Early is a monster that is capable of anything.
At the conclusion of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #2 (the best issue of this brief run) when we see Early standing over a slumbering River Tam after slaughtering a ship full of would-be revolutionaries, that feeling comes rushing back and we understand why Zack Whedon brought back the character, but it is fleeting.
We aren’t afraid of Early in Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3. Yes, he stalks, he waxes philosophical, and he attacks, but despite his full appearance as this issue’s big bad, every bit of this feels more like an ill conceived sequel to “Objects in Space” than a worthwhile stand-alone story or a justified return for the character. Particularly when Kaylee is given a chance to both quote Early to Early and exact a small sliver of revenge in a moment that seems to faintly echo Michonne’s retaliation against The Governor in The Walking Dead before Kaylee backs away with a bit of goofy humor.
As for River, her journey into her own psyche both opens the book (with an interesting set of visuals by Georges Jeanty that seem to place River in the role of a girl playing with a horrifying dollhouse filled with scenes from her life) and provides series writer Zack Whedon with the jumpstart to another story thread that will split time with the search for Zoe. Unfortunately, there is little advancement on the Zoe front. The Alliance still has her and Mal still wants to find her. But while the last panel of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3 showcases a surprising ally who will surely aid in that pursuit, that may not be enough to earn your continued dedication..
These characters still feel unfamiliar when compared to the source material (particularly Inara, whose unexplained relationship with Mal now feels forced, needlessly robbing us of their sometimes prickly back and forths while compromising her independence) and the story feels busy and unmanageable. In our review of issue one, I said that continuation comics like this needed to find “a balance, providing value within their host universe and beside it” to avoid falling into limbo. After three issues, Serenity: Leaves on the Wind still hasn’t done that, and at this point, time is running short for Zack Whedon to turn things around before this gets truly lost in space.
Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #3 is available through Dark Horse Digital and wherever fine comic books are sold.