Review: Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale, the Brothers Whedon

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.

Buffy’s eighth series

So I was mysteriously untempted by the Buffy Season Eight comics for a really long time, and then Fyrefly (inventor of the book blog search, hooray!) started getting all reviewy of them, and that reminded me that I love Buffy like a fat kid loves cake (or a skinny kid – any kid really), and today I went to Bongs & Noodles and (don’t tell) read all four volumes that they had, which was The Long Way Home and No Future for You and Wolves at the Gate and Time of Your Life, but there’s apparently another one after that.  But they didn’t have Fray.  So I wasn’t always sure what was going on with Fray.  Many will be the Buffy spoilers coming up, because, you know, I assume you’ve all already seen Buffy.  If not you should.  It is lovely.

Several years on from the end of the series, Buffy and Xander are at Slayer Central handling up on a large-scale slaying the bad guys operation.  Willow is off getting trained in some super-fancy magics by a v. sexy mermaid type character, and feeling the Tara guilt (I miss Tara – couldn’t we bring Tara back to life?).  Giles and Buffy are not speaking, and Anya, as you may recall, is dead.  And Dawn has turned into a giant, a situation whose causes are unclear and Dawn’s not saying (until she does).  The Big Bad for this season (will there be more seasons?) is a shady character called Twilight, who is leading something that looks a lot like the Initiative, in that it’s American military and doesn’t like Buffy and Riley (pfft) is part of it.

Riley.  Oh how I dislike him.  Remember that time when he was all, “Yeah, Buffy’s great, this and that, I’m so in love…But she doesn’t love me,” throwing poor Xander and THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE into agonizing uncomfortableness for the rest of Riley’s story arc?  Blech.  How glad was I when he finally left?

I’m so pleased I took the morning to read these Buffy comics.  It is just like Buffy as a TV show – insofar as the characters all still have their same voices and relationships, and it’s all old friends again.  I would still like to see it as a TV show, although with all the different locations and special effects and Christian Bale fantasies, that might be difficult to swing.  I would especially like to see Michelle Trachtenberg do the Dawn storyline – she has such a fun storyline, and Michelle Trachtenberg is so adorable… I miss Michelle Trachtenberg!  I am going to watch the end of series five – except that would be the hugest downer ever.  I am going to watch some part of Buffy that contains lil Dawnie!

I will say, I have seen the writers of the comic say that it’s great to have a limitless special effects budget, and – well – I don’t know that it’s good for them to have an unlimited special effects budget.  There are only a certain number of monsters and destruction my eyes can take in all at once, and then I get tired and start flipping pages that aren’t all green and screamy.

However, I was enchanted by the fact that Buffy was having a fantasy featuring Little Women Christian Bale and Reign of Fire Christian Bale.  Not because I like Christian Bale, because I don’t, pretentious mouth face, but because I SO FEEL IT.  When my sister and I are picking out our dream casts for films and books that we like, we make cast choices like Snarly Hugh Jackman, and Charlotte Gray Billy Crudup (mmmm).

I know that it has been suggested that Buffy is too angsty about it being lonely to be her, but I never stopped feeling sympathetic with Buffy.  Oo, except for in the seventh series when she was being totally mean to everyone.  I don’t care how mean she is to Spike, but she was totally mean to Xander, who by then was my favorite character because everyone else had been evil by then.  But mostly, poor little Buffy.  It would be a total bummer to be her, and I can see why Satsu would be an appealing prospect.  I am completely enjoying this season, and I hope they continue and do a ninth one.  Is that greedy?