COMICS THAT NO ONE GIVES A CRAP ABOUT #4: “Serenity: Those Left Behind” (2005)

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“Firefly” was the best completely new SF show of the 21st century. Not a reboot, not a re-imagining, not a fantasy, and not clearly cribbing from any other show on TV. Imagine! A show that isn’t just like every other show, whoda’thunk it? But because it was brilliant and untested, the television gods were angered, and prophesied that it should be consigned to the outer darkness of the FOX network, amidst wailing and gnashing of teeth, and occasional pitchforkings from network suits with nothing better to do. It got such unfairly bad treatment that another studio bought up the property and decided to re-launch it as a movie that picked up where the series left off and wrapped up some stuff. “The little show that could,” fans like me called it. Alas, “The Little Show That Could” quickly proved to be “The Little Show That Couldn’t,” and the movie was a bomb. Even I wasn’t too impressed with it. Some of my comments are online here

So much for that.

Now, the movie picked up about three months after the final episode of the series, and as part of the hype campaign to promote the movie before it was released, they decided to do a three-issue miniseries set solidly in that ‘lost’ period between show and cinema. Everyone was pretty excited about this, and sales were really good. I, myself, preordered it and held off reading it until *after* I’d seen the movie, so as not to unwittingly expose myself to any spoilers.

Unfortunately, it’s exactly the kind of comic that no one really gives a crap about, and for good reason.


In issue one, we’re treated to a heist gone horribly wrong for Mal and the crew. While Shepherd Book is preaching in church, they’re robbing something but bump in to another team. A kerfluffle ensues, which probably should come across as a lot cooler and more action-packed than it actually is. The sirens blare, and everyone makes a mad dash to escape. Shepherd Book grudgingly saves the day after his longest Chinese utterance ever (“Joo ah, nee ming ming jee dao wuh shr bang nee tzwo shr, yo huh bee jao wuh ma fan nuh?” which translates out roughly as “Oh Lord, You know I‘m trying to do Your work. Why must there be such trouble for me?”)

Meanwhile, the Men With Blue Hands meet up with Agent Dobson. I’ll confess the first time I read this, I thought Dobson was a new character, but on the second reading I realized he was the “Mole” in the first episode who was working for the government, and whom Mal shot in the head and chucked out the back door of the ship. Though clearly, unquestionably dead there, he’s alive here, but with a robot eye. He’s obsessively insane and wants to kill Mal, and the Men With Blue Hands agree to let him do this if he’ll lead them to the Tams. He agrees, of course.

Mal and company meet up with Badger, then kidnap him figuring he betrayed them at the heist. He buys his safety by telling them of a fortune in gold that was lost in a battle from the Unification war, and offering to split it with them if they retrieve it. Shepherd Book punched Mal during all this, since he’s upset over the way things went down during his sermon.

Without too much trouble, Serenity makes it’s way to a fairly typical Sargasso Sea in space in which the wreckages of a whole bunch of Alliance and Independent ships are drifting around. Using Badgers info, they find the right one, and go aboard. Inside, it all turns out to be a trap, and Dobson and a passel of hired goons get the drop on Team Mal. Yet another kerfluffle ensues, while outside the ship the Men With Blue Hands immobilize Serenity and board her, with only Kaylee and Book on hand to fend them off.

Evidently Kaylee somehow manages to trap the Men With Blue Hands in the airlock - I say evidently because the writing and art are hard to follow at this point, while Wash destroys their ship. Then, somehow - it’s not entirely clear - the Men With Blue Hands are killed. Probably by Book. Meanwhile, Mal shoots Dobson again.

The relatively good guys having defeated the relatively bad guys, they leave, still no richer since the gold was just bait for the trap. Book can no longer live with what his life of Piracy demands of him, so he says he’s leaving, and Mal (finally) takes Inara to the chapterhouse. With the death of the Men With Blue Hands, “The Agent” gets a cameo…



The problem with this ‘interquel’ is pretty much the exact same problem with the Star Wars prequels, and prequels in general: the over-arching story is based entirely on things we knew or strongly suspected anyway. Book and Inara weren’t on Serenity in the movie, ergo they must have left, right? Big whoop. The story is entirely incidental, and entirely uninvolving at that. The Blue Hands are killed off - what, there were only two of ‘em? - and The Agent is introduced. A thread that wasn’t even dangling from the original show is yanked loose simply so the bad guy can be someone we (vaguely) know. It’s all quite a bore, and not worth your time. It’s not inspired, even if it is Canon.

The artwork of the characters is really good, they look like who they are, but the backgrounds and locations are all very vague and undefined, as though the artists aren’t really familiar with the milieu and don’t even have publicity stills to work from. The blocking is awkward, and the panels don’t really flow one-in-to another. In the big fight scene in the end, it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on.

Of the Comics that no one gives a crap about that we’ve reviewed here on Republibot, this is actually the one that people are *most* likely to give a crap about, simply because it’s Firefly/Wheedon, and people tend to go gaga over that. For good reason. Firefly is great. Serenity is less so, and this comic is the least of all.

I’m told there’s another 3-issue Miniseries and a one-shot about Book that came out after this, but I think we’ve hit the point of diminishing returns in this franchise. I find that not only is this a comic that no one gives a crap about, it’s also a comic that managed to more-or-less make me think “Why bother” about the continuation of the Serenity storyline in other venues.

Go watch “Castle” instead. It’s not very good, but it’s got Nathan Fillion. But if you're looking for Firefly-styled goodness in a comic, this isn't the place to go. You'd be better off checking out Sean Wang's "Runners" webcomic instead!