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SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND #1 Advance Review

Believe it or not, it’s been nearly nine years since the movie Serenity came out in theaters. In the years since, at almost every single convention, and with nearly every single interview given, creator Joss Whedon gets asked, “when will we get Serenity 2?” from some hardcore fan. And although his stock answer has always been “when someone out there gives me money to make one”, I think Joss secretly held out hope that somehow, someway, a sequel to Serenity would happen, and so he’s held out on letting the story begun in Firefly continue in any form. Oh, there’s been random prequel comics here and there, but no out-and-out continuations of the story for these past nine years. But he has finally relented, and we finally are getting a sequel to the events of the movie in comic book form from Dark Horse Comics. In other words, folks, this is as close to a Serenity 2 or a third season of Firefly as we are ever likely to get, so if you really care what happens to these characters from now, ya better get on board.

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind picks up nine months after the events of the 2005 movie; we find that the galaxy is teetering on the brink of another civil war, much like the one the Browncoats like Malcolm Reynolds and Zoe fought in before the events of the Firefly television series. Why are things so damn tense? You might remember, at the end of Serenity, Captain Mal Reynolds discovered the real reason why the galaxy ruling Alliance were in hot pursuit of his “guest” River Tam; not because she’s a kick-ass psychic living weapon, but because with the use of her psychic powers, she discovered some very nasty business the Alliance tried to hide; their tampering of the colony planet Miranda resulted not only in the deaths of thirty million innocent people, but the creation of the cannibalistic Reavers as well. Malcolm Reynolds broadcast this message (along with proof) to everyone in the known universe, revealing the government’s dirty, dirty business to a population of trillions, like some kind of intergalactic Edward Snowden.

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As the first issue opens, we see a bunch of news pundits from all over the galaxy weighing in on the aftermath of receiving that message, which apparently split the galactic populace in two – those who believe the whole Miranda reveal was faked and is an elaborate hoax (after all, how does one cover up something like that?) and those who believe it’s the real deal, which means their supposedly benevolent Alliance government is capable of incredible atrocities, and then doing everything in their power to cover it up. The opening bits with the arguing news pundits seems like a bit of an homage to Frank Miller’s  The Dark Knight Returns, but it’s not overdone and it’s not in any kind of heavy handed way. They’re mostly just used for exposition and explaining the state of the universe since last we left it.

In the meantime, everyone and their mother is looking for Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the crew of Serenity. The Alliance want them to pay for what they did, and the budding rebels see Mal as some kind of Che Guevara type figure, just the leader and figurehead their fledgling revolution needs. One of the rebels introduced early in the book says “Malcolm Reynolds is the greatest military mind alive” which, if you’ve seen the show, you’d know is a bunch of BS. But it’s clear that after the events of the movie, Mal and the crew of Serenity have become the stuff of tall tales and legends in a very brief amount of time.

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And just where is the crew of Serenity? I don’t want to give too much away, as part of the joy for longtime fans is finding out just what their beloved crew has been up to all this time. (well, nine years for us, just nine months for them. That’s the beauty of doing this as a comic.) But I will say that all the Mal/Inara shippers out there will get a scene in the comic that they desperately will wish was done in live action. I will also say, for all of you out there who were traumatized by the deaths of Book and Wash in the movie, that none of the other crew members have died or been maimed in the interim… but that doesn’t mean everyone is still on the ship where we last left them. In fact, one crew member leaves the ship before the start of the series. Worry not though, this crew member will be seen in the book regardless of whether they are a member of Mal’s crew anymore or not. And other surprises abound for longtime Firefly fans in this issue.  Writer Zack Whedon manages to give everyone at least one moment to shine in this first issue, which is harder than it sounds with a cast as big as this one.

Although Joss Whedon himself didn’t write this (he’s slightly busy these days. You might have heard of one or two of his current projects in development), he entrusted his brother Zack to do the honors this time, with former Buffy the Vampire Slayer seasons eight and nine artist Georges Jeanty doing the pencils. Joss still gets an “executive producer” credit, so I’m guessing a lot of the story’s broad strokes came from him. Zack is certainly a talented writer, and if anything, he gets the “voice” of these characters just right. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Joss wrote this himself, and that’s the highest compliment I can give. Certainly Zack’s voice as a writer seems more in tune with his older brother Joss’ than his other brother Jed’s (who is the showrunner on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D); Nothing against  Jed, but right now I’m leaning towards Zack as my favorite non-Joss member of the Whedon family, just based on his work on this first issue.

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Georges Jeanty’s art is just as good as it was on Buffy; he has a way of evoking the likeness of the actors without looking like he just traced some publicity stills from the show (or, what I’d like to call “pulling a Greg Land.”) For some readers they might look a little bit too cartoony for their tastes, but for me they’re just right, reminding me that this is a comic book and not a show or a movie. The thing I hate most about comics based on live action properties is that they just look like traced photographs. Georges Jeanty never lets that happen, and I prefer this, even if occasionally, the characters don’t exactly look like the actors.

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is the first of six issues, and if you love the Firefly universe then you’d be a fool to miss what might be the only sequel or continuation it is ever going to get, so I’d recommend getting this one when it hits on January 29th. (And if you’re not a fan, I’d suggest you watch the entire series and the movie and then pick this up. There are only fourteen episodes, you marathoned through Breaking Bad on Netflix, you can probably marathon through all of Firefly in a week.)  Whether you are a hardcore or casual fan, be prepared to get totally emotionally invested in this crew all over again. Highly recommended.

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