Okay, nobody really calls them the Brothers Whedon. But perhaps they should.
The Shepherd’s Tale is the story of Shepherd Book from Firefly. If you are not a fan of Firefly, what the hell, dude? Why are you reading this review instead of watching Firefly from start to finish? I’m only going to spoil it anyway so you might as well trot along and watch it. I promise it will be worth your time. If you are a fan of Firefly, you are probably aware that Shepherd Derrial Book is a man with a mysterious past. From his keen knowledge of what the bad guys are thinking, to the fancy-pants medical treatment the Alliance gives him for free, to the time that one scary guy was all “That’s no Shepherd,” you know the man has a story to tell (“That’s my whole problem with picking up tourists; they ain’t never what they claim to be”).
The Shepherd’s Tale tells that story. It begins at the end, when the Operative has ordered an attack on Book’s home planet, and skips back and back and back in Book’s life. Before he was fighting for his life on a planet called Haven, he was shipping out on a ship called Serenity, and giving strawberries to a bright-faced girl with a parasol; and before that…you’ll have to read it to find out.
But I warn you that it left me unsatisfied. It was clunky. The transitions between time periods were TV show transitions, where Scene A ends, and Scene B starts with a line of dialogue that could have been a response to the last thing that happened in Scene A, but in fact is the beginning of Scene B. It doesn’t work quite as well in comics.
A bigger problem, as far as clunkiness goes, is that the revelation of the backstory of a character in an ensemble cast isn’t interesting when it involves zero interaction with said ensemble cast. As I was reading the comic, I kept being ZOMG, Mal’s going to be upset when he finds out about this! and then feeling sad that I would never, ever get to see Mal’s reaction to it. Book’s story is interesting on its own, I suppose, but I kept comparing it to how amazing it would have been if it had been revealed in dribs and drabs over many happy (well, this is Joss Whedon; over many bleak but enjoyable) seasons of Firefly.
Firefly comics just make my heart hurt from missing Firefly. I hate it that the show was canceled, and the movie was insufficiently successful to cause future movies to get made. I wanted so much more. I wanted Saffron to come back (and maybe in my head, she comes back and happens to mention to Mal that she didn’t kiss Inara NOT THAT I HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THIS TOO MUCH OR ANYTHING). I wanted Inara’s and Shepherd Book’s backstories revealed, slowly, with reaction shots and snide comments from the rest of the crew. I hoped possibly there would be an episode where the Alliance tried to use Simon’s worthless parents to get at him and River. I may or may not have invented a whole scenario where Zoe got pregnant and Jayne was adorably overprotective of her.
Basically I just want Firefly back. I want it back. Please come back.