Sunday, January 1, 2012

GN Review -- Serenity: Those Left Behind / Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews and Will Conrad

I seem to be on a tear of comics that are made from pre-existing series these days.

For those of you who haven't seen it, Firefly, the short-lived sci-fi/western show off of which Serenity: Those Left Behind is based, is one of the best shows you've likely never seen.  It only lasted 14 episodes, but developed a dedicated following that endures to this day.  The writing, characterizations, and story arcs were intriguing and gripping, and even though the show was cancelled, it managed to get a movie to wrap up the story in Serenity.

Those Left Behind takes place between the end of Firefly and the beginning of the film Serenity, serving as both a bridge between the two stories and a decent enough action tale on its own.  Starting off with a situation typical of ship captain Malcolm Reynolds' bad luck, we come to see that the crew of Serenity has fallen on hard times and is struggling to make enough money to keep their ship running.  When an associate appears and gives them a job that seems to easy for the money it offers, they find that more than one enemy of theirs has laid a trap for them, and will stop at nothing to tear them apart.

It's a fun little story, and feels just like an episode of the show on which it's based.  This shouldn't be any surprise with series creator (and director of forthcoming movie The Avengers!) Joss Whedon penning the script in conjunction with Brett Matthews.  The crew of Serenity is where they normally are: down on their luck, on the move, and scrounging to make ends meet.  They're the classic underdogs in any fight, and yet they always manage to pull off the slimmest of victories in a fashion that is both convincing and endearing.

The dialog and characterization are also spot-on in this story.  From the judicious use of Mandarin Chinese to the slight country cadence that comes through in their speech, we know that we're in the Firefly 'verse from the dialog alone.  The main characters are also well preserved in speech, manner, and action.  Wash, the ship's pilot, whines at Mal in a manner reminiscent of Alan Tudyk, the actor who plays him, while ship's engineer Kaylee Frye continues to epitomize cuteness, even in high-stress situations.  For fans of the show, these little touches are invaluable to the narrative.

The artwork is wonderful throughout.  I'm not familiar with Will Conrad's other work, but looking at his renditions of the characters was about as close as I figured you could come to seeing the show again as you can in comic books.  It's a step above what I consider the norm for comics, and keeps you looking the book over even after you've read the story.  This volume also contains reprints of the covers by various artists featuring the various crew of Serenity originally done for the single issues that made up this story, and they are also a beautiful addition to the story.

Overall, a highly enjoyable read that won't take you very long.  If you're a Firefly fan and haven't read this book, what's wrong with you?  Read it!  For anyone looking for a good action sci-fi tale with beautiful artwork and interesting characters, definitely check out Serenity: Those Left Behind.  Highly recommended.

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