Serenity (comics)

Serenity (comics)

Several comic book miniseries have been released under the "Serenity" title, set in the fictional universe created for Joss Whedon's "Firefly" television series and "Serenity" film.

Written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, and illustrated by Will Conrad, the first miniseries, "Those Left Behind", was created as a bridge between the events of the series and film. "Those Left Behind" was popular: the first issue was the highest-selling comic published by Dark Horse Comics until the release of "Buffy Season 8" in 2007, while the trade paperback is still one of the highest ranking items by sale quantity from that company. In early 2008, a second miniseries was released. Titled "Better Days", it was set before "Those Left Behind", with the storyline based around a heist that went in the characters' favour. A third miniseries, "The Shepherd's Tale" is planned for the end of 2008, and will focus on the story of Shepherd Book's past.

In addition to the miniseries, a single-shot comic written by Jim Krueger and titled "The Other Half" was released in the August 2008 issue of "Dark Horse Presents".

Reaction to the comics has been mixed: while widely accepted by fans of the cancelled television series and movie, several reviews have commented that the comics are inaccessible to those without this prerequesite knowledge. So far, both miniseries have been three-issue runs, and have retailed for US$2.99.


Whedon invited Brett Matthews to co-write a story to bridge the series and the film. Matthews had previously worked as Whedon's assistant on several "Buffy", "Angel", and "Firefly" episodes, and had written the script for "Firefly" episode "Heart of Gold". [cite web |url= |title=Brett Matthews (II) |accessdate=2008-04-18 |work=IMDb ] According to Matthews, "Those Left Behind" was originally an anime project, but difficulties led to the story being released in comic form.cite web |url= |title=Old Friends: Matthews talks "Serenity: Better Days" |accessdate=2008-04-18 |last=Furey |first=Emmett |date=2008-03-07 |publisher=Comic Book Resources ]

Dark Horse Comics senior editor Scott Allie was supportive of the "Serenity" comics from the beginning.

The second limited series was announced by Dirk Wood of Dark Horse Comics during WonderCon 2006. [cite web|year=2006-02-12 |first=NekoDono |url= |title=Wondercon '06: Dark Horse Panel |publisher=Whedonesque |accessdate=2006-06-30] Whedon, Matthews, and Conrad were again involved.


All of the mini-series are intended to exist within the same fictional continuity as the television series and movie.

"Those Left Behind"

title=Serenity: Those Left Behind

caption=Cover of the trade paperback. Art by Adam Hughes.
format=Limited series
publisher=Dark Horse Comics
date=July 20, 2005 - Issue #1
August, 2005clarifyme - Issue #2
September 9, 2005 - Issue #3
main_char_team=Main characters
writers=Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews
artists=Will Conrad
letterers=Michael Heisler
colorists=Laura Martin
TPB=Trade paperback
"Serenity: Those Left Behind" is a three-issue limited series, created in 2005 as a tie-in to the film "Serenity". The series was written by Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, illustrated by Will Conrad, lettered by Michael Heisler, and colored by Laura Martin.

The story is set between the "Firefly" series and the film, and was intended to bridge the two and lead into the movie. It is used to set up the beginning of the film by depicting Inara's departure and Book's intention to leave the ship, introduces several characters important to "Serenity"’s storyline, including The Operative and Mingo and Fanty, and resolves the Hands of Blue plotline.

The comic also re-introduces Lawrence Dobson, an Alliance agent who was (apparently) killed by Mal in the "Firefly" pilot episode. Whedon had always planned to bring back Dobson, but did not have the opportunity before the series was cancelled."Firefly: The Official Companion - Volume One", pg 13]

Plot summary

The first issue begins with Shepherd Book giving a sermon on a border-planet town, which Mal, Zoe, and Jayne use as cover for a bank heist. The heist is interruped by a rival crew, working for Mingo and Fanty, who in the ensuing firefight escape with the money, while a grenade explosion draws the townsfolk. Book steals a vehicle to collect the others, while Wash and Kaylee use "Serenity" to knock over a water tower to stun the pursuing townsfolk. Back aboard the ship, Inara reminds Mal that she is leaving "Serenity". Meanwhile, on Whitefall, the Hands of Blue appear and kill the bodyguard of the man they want to see.

Issue #2 continues with the Hands of Blue, and reveals that the man they seek is Lawrence Dobson, who fires a warning shot at the Hands. The Hands reveal that they and Dobson are seeking the same thing: "Serenity". Dobson clarifies that he only wants Mal, and that he has a plan to do it, but could use the Hands' assistance. On Persephone, "Serenity"’s crew encounter Badger, and after taking out his bodyguards, bring him aboard to discuss the failed heist. Badger talks of a major space battle during the war, which he claims was over a shipload of cash. The crew dump Badger and discuss the job, during which Inara demands that she be taken to her destination first, and after Mal refuses, he and Book have an argument which results in the shepherd punching Mal. "Serenity" arrives at the debris field from the battle, and while Mal, Zoe, and Jayne investigate one of the ships, the Hands of Blue find "Serenity".

Issue #3 begins by depicting Mal, Zoe, and Jayne as they search the ship for the money, while the small craft used by the Hands of Blue sneaks up and docks with "Serenity"’s underside. River Tam, sensing the presence of the Hands, tries to drug herself with several doses of anesthetic, before revealing to Simon and Inara that something is wrong with "Serenity"’s 'belly'. Mal and company reach the coordinates supplied by Badger, and encounter the waiting Dobson and his group. Mal kills Dobson in the ensuing firefight, then shoots him again to ensure he is dead. At the same time, Kaylee and Simon investigate the underside cargo hatch, and find the Hands of Blue trying to break in. Simon, Kaylee, and Book hold off the Hands, while Wash flies through the debris field to try and scrape the Hands' ship off. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are collected at speed, before Wash destroys the pursuing ship by going to 'full burn'. Inara is delivered to her destination, although Mal is unable to say goodbye. Later, when in space, Book announces to Mal that he intends to leave "Serenity". The comic ends with The Operative retrieving the remains of the Hands, and accepting the assignment to locate River.


Each issue was released with three different covers, so that over the course of the series each main character would be depicted. Each cover was illustrated by a different artist, with the characters depicted against a white background for consistency.cite web |url= |title=Serenity: Better Days Interview |accessdate=2008-04-08 |last=Schedeen |first=Jesse |date=2008-04-07 |publisher=IGN |pages=( [ first page] , [ second page] )]

Two collections have been released, both with new cover art. The first, published in January 2006, featured Mal and Inara on the cover, with "Serenity" taking off in the background. The second, a hardcover collection released in October 2007 featured Mal, Zoe, and Jayne on the cover. The original nine covers appear in both releases as chapter dividers.

"Better Days"

title=Serenity: Better Days

caption=Combined triptych coverart
format=Limited series
publisher=Dark Horse Comics
date=March 12, 2008 - Issue #1
April 9, 2008 - Issue #2
May 14, 2008 - Issue #3
main_char_team=Main characters
writers=Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews
artists=Will Conrad
letterers=Michael Heisler
colorists=Michelle Madsen
TPB=Trade paperback
The second three-issue miniseries, "", began in March 2008. Whedon, Matthews, Conrad, and Heisler returned, but colourist Laura Martin was replaced by Michelle Madsen. Unlike the previous series, Adam Hughes illustrated the three covers, each of which depicts three of the nine cast members, and together form a triptych.

Again, the mini-series is set between the series and the film. However, "Better Days" is set before the events of "Those Left Behind", in order to have all the characters aboard the ship, and to better capture the "heart and status quo -- in as much as there even is one -- of the [television] series". The comic sees the crew of "Serenity" pulling off a successful job, which results in unexpected wealth and the related complications.

Plot summary

Issue #1 opens with an unnamed man presenting a new automated security drone, and setting it up for a demonstration. It cuts to Mal, Zoe, and Jayne robbing an art gallery, with Simon advising on the value of the works. While trying to escape in a delivery van, the four attract the attention of the security drone, which chases them down a highway and destroys the van, with the thieves using their hovercraft 'Mule' to escape. The chase is interspersed with the drone operator's commentary on the drone's capabilities, until Mal leads it into a trap. Kaylee disables the drone, which is the "Serenity" crew's actual target. Meanwhile, Inara is with a client: Ephraim, an Alliance special operations agent tasked with hunting down Independent terrorists known as 'Dust Devils'. Mal delivers the drone to his client, and in exchange for the vital component, the man tells them of a stash of money hidden in a temple by a gang whose members killed each other before they could collect it. The crew retrieve the cash without incident, excluding a monk who recognises Jayne as the Hero of Canton. Following their escape, Mal checks the money and realises it is significantly more than they expected.

The second issue shows the fantasies of several of the characters as to what they would do with unlimited wealth, while they take a vacation on a luxury world. Inara, after arranging to meet a client, asks Mal about the Dust Devils, while Ephraim briefs his team to take down Mal. The drone operator tortures Mal's client to find "Serenity"’s location. Mal and his crew foil a robbery at the resort, after which Mal and Zoe note the landing of an Alliance special ops ship, with Mal theorising that the ship belongs to Ephraim, and that he is after the Dust Devils. On going to investigate Inara's shuttle, Mal sees Simon leave, before he is knocked unconscious.

"The Other Half"

The August 2008 issue of "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" included a single-shot, eight-page comic titled "Serenity: The Other Half". [Accessible from [ MySpace Dark Horse Presents] ] While Conrad remained responsible for the artwork and Heisler stayed on as letterer, the author and colourist were replaced by Jim Krueger and Julius Ohta respectively. Joss Whedon is credited as the executive producer.

The story revolves around the "Serenity" crew aboard a hover-stagecoach, protecting it from Reavers as they try to deliver their seriously wounded passenger to their destination, in order to claim the second half of his fare. While helping Simon to keep the passenger alive, River detects that their passenger is an Alliance agent who tracks smugglers and leads Alliance soldiers to kill them. Aware that River may be the escaped psychic the Alliance is hunting, the agent tries and fails to shoot River when Simon is knocked unconscious. She disposes of the gun, and while the rest of the crew assume that stray munitions from the Reavers killed the agent, Mal takes River aside, tells her that he "had a bad feelin'" about the passenger, and welcomes her to the crew.

"A Shepherd's Tale"

During the 2007 Browncoat Cruise, a "Firefly" convention held aboard a cruise ship, Ron Glass announced (with Whedon's permission) several pieces of Shepherd Derrial Book's backstory, as well as that Book was to be the focus of the third miniseries: "A Shepherd's Tale".cite web |url= |title=Ron Glass announces “A Shepherd’s Tale” comic, reveals (some) secrets |accessdate=2008-04-13 |date=2007-12-12 | - News blog] The comic was later confirmed by Scott Allie, senior editor at Dark Horse Comics, who stated in the letters section of " #1" that a comic based on Book's past was slated for a late 2008 release. [Allie, Scott (March 2008). "Transmissions from the Cortex". In Whedon, Joss & Matthews, Brett, " #1". Milwaukie: Dark Horse Comics.]

According to Allie, "A Shepherd's Tale" is set primarily before "Firefly", and as it is focused on a single character, it is an opportunity for the "Serenity" comics franchise to "go in a real different direction."cite interview |last=Allie |first=Scott |interviewer=Ullrich, Chris |title=Interview: Scott Allie on Shepherd Book's 'Serenity' Spin-Off and 'Solomon Kane' |url= |format=Transcript | |date=2008-06-13 |accessdate=2008-08-12] Joss Whedon will remain as one of the writers, but Allie implies that the other contributors will be changing. The success of ther miniseries may lead to other comics focusing on the rest of the "Firefly" cast, but as of June 2008, no other "Serenity"-based projects are in development at Dark Horse.


According to Dark Horse Comics, the trade paperback of "Those Left Behind" had sold 85,000 copies as of October 2007.cite web |url= |title=Buffy Season 8 - the Shape of Things to Come? |accessdate=2008-04-18 |last=Moss |first=Wil |date=2007-10-23 |publisher=Publishers Weekly] cite web |url= |title=Serenity: Better Days #1 (of 3) |accessdate=2008-04-14 |] Sales data from Baker & Taylor lists the trade paperback of "Those Left Behind" as the most popular graphic novel not published by Marvel or DC Comics between June and December 2006, [cite journal |year=2007 |month=February |title=Graphic Novels |journal=Library Journal |volume=132 |issue=2 |pages=110 |id=ISSN|03630277 |accessdate=2008-06-02] while Diamond Comic Distributors listed "Those Left Behind" as the 49th highest selling graphic novel in 2007 by units sold, although the retail ranking was only 187th.cite web |url = |title=Diamond' 2007 year end sales charts and market share report |accessdate=2008-04-18 |] It was the third-highest selling Dark Horse graphic novel in 2007, behind a hardcover edition of "300" (5th on the Diamond list) and the "Buffy Season 8: The Long Way Home" trade paperback (30th). Scott Allie claims that "Those Left Behind" was significantly more popular than expected, and that Issue #1 of "Those Left Behind" was the highest selling comic published by Dark Horse until the first issue of "Buffy Season 8". Issues #1 and #2 had to be reprinted during the original release run to meet demand,Fact|date=June 2008 and the success of "Those Left Behind" prompted Whedon to go ahead with "Buffy Season 8".Fact|date=June 2008

Most reviews for both "Serenity" miniseries state that while enjoyable and rewarding to fans of the televison series and movie, the comic is unsuited for uninitiated readers. [cite web |url= |title=Serenity: Better Days #1 (Advance Reviews) |accessdate=2008-04-18 |last=Davis |first=Frank |date=2008-03-09 |publisher=Fractal Matter ] One review pans the lack of background and plot in "Those Left Behind", while praising the artwork and commenting that the comic has an "aura of character study" that fans will enjoy. [cite journal |last=Coleman |first=Tina |year=2006 |month=February |title=Those Left Behind: Serenity 1 |journal=Booklist |volume=102 |issue=11 |pages=41 |id=ISSN|00067385 |accessdate=2008-06-02] Another recommended that those unfamiliar with the background and the characters would be better off acquiring the series and movie before reading the comic.cite web |url= |title=AICN Comics reviews spectacular Spidey cartoon! Wonder Woman! Serenity! And more! > Serenity: Better Days #1 |accessdate=2008-04-08 |author=Optimous Douche |date=2008-03-19 |publisher=Ain't It Cool News]

Despite requests from fans, Joss Whedon has stated that "Serenity" is unlikely to be released as a regular publication series.cite web |url= |title=Whedon can't get enough "Serenity" |accessdate=2008-04-18 |last=Moss |first=Wil |date=2007-11-06 |publisher=Publishers Weekly ] He believes that the pacing and storyarc structure he created for "Firefly" would work poorly as a regular series, and unlike the monthly-issued "Buffy Season 8" comic series, does not have the wealth of background material generated by seven seasons of television. However, Dark Horse senior editor Scott Allie wants to produce new miniseries on a more regular basis, reducing the three-year wait between "Those Left Behind" and "Better Days".

ee also

* List of comics based on television programs
* List of comics based on films

Notes and references

External links

* [ Firefly-Serenity Chinese Pinyinary] - Translations of the comics' Chinese text.
* [ Making of a comic: Serenity Better Days #1] (Flash) - Flash animation showing how the first six pages of "Better Days" #1 evolved from a plain script to the end product.
* [ MySpace Dark Horse Presents: Issue 13 (August 2008)] - Includes "Serenity: The Other Half".

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