Nothing upsets fans quite like a fabulous TV series being cruelly cut down in its prime. Such was the sad fate of Joss Whedon’s cult sci-fi classic Firefly, which ran for one glorious season. Luckily, there’s a solution, growing in popularity: official continuation in comic form, which is particularly suited for this job. I was delighted to see the Dark Horse comic miniseries Serenity: Leaves on the Wind. This is science fiction excellence rooted firmly in its characters and filled with equal parts heart and humor, whether it’s Kaylee’s quiet care of Zoe’s baby or Mal’s dry one-liners. Fans of Firefly will devour it. The dialogue is on point, perfectly tuned in to how each character spoke.
Though by no means a new phenomenon, the mainstreaming of comics (and the fans of Joss Whedon) have made such official continuations much more popular in recent years, starting with Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer comics, and continuing on into shows like Charmed and Farscape. Comics, like TV, rely solely on visuals and dialogue to tell a story. Comics also allow for the same sort of jump cuts TV shows utilize, visually setting the new scene instantly without taking the added descriptive set-up time a novelization would need.
Written by the brilliant Zack Whedon (brother to aforementioned Joss) and drawn by the talented Georges Jeanty, the hardcover compilation of all six issues of Leaves on the Wind (plus a bonus short) is a gem. Obvious spoilers for both Firefly and Serenity (the movie sequel) ahead, which, if you haven’t seen by now, I mean, it’s been ten years. If you don’t care about me spoiling things, but are totally lost, basically all you need to know is: a Western set in space. Plus one ninja psychic. Oh, and some of us remain in complete denial about the existence of the movie, Serenity, because we find the ending traumatizing.
Leaves on the Wind picks up a few months after Serenity ends. Wash, Shepherd, and my soul are all dead and Mal and the crew, including a very pregnant Zoe and minus one Jayne, are in hiding after having revealed the horrible experiments the Alliance government has perpetuated. The series opens with a Fox News-esque panel discussion made frightfully chilling by how closely it actually resembles the Ferguson coverage late last summer, for all that this first issue came out in January of 2014:
“Come on, Audrey, don’t tell me you’re that naive…These people are sowing seeds of unrest. The wounds of the Unification War have only just begun to heal and these…these terrorists—”
“—Yes, these terrorists come along and tear them wide open. What are they calling themselves, ‘The New Resistance’? Sounds militaristic to me.”
“They’re activists. Young civic-minded people who want to be heard.”
“We’ve seen rioting—”
“You mean protests.”
“No, I mean mobs of angry people destroying public property—last time I checked that’s a riot.”
“That’s a gross misrepresentation of what has been going on—”
After this introduction and the reassurance that the Alliance has no plans to leave the Serenity crew alone, the plot jumps to high speed. Complications during Zoe’s delivery force Mal to drop out of hiding to take her to a hospital and then abandon her there, very much at her insistence, to avoid capture himself. With Zoe locked up who knows where and a whole host of old enemies on their tail, it’s going to take all of the crew’s creativity plus the help of friends both new and old, as well as the assistance—willing or otherwise—of some old enemies to get Zoe back and save all their butts.
Much like its predecessor, Leaves on the Wind is heavy on the action: exploding spaceships, drug-induced dream sequences, sword fights, prison breaks—all beautifully rendered. It can’t be easy translating real live actors into comic book drawings. I say this based on the number of terrible translations I’ve seen and not because I have any artistic talent. It’s one thing to draw a portrait that looks like a real character, but to translate that into a moving, dynamic image with various expressions—putting a real, breathing human on a page—takes talent. Which luckily Jeanty has in abundance, as amply proved with his earlier work on Buffy.
Though obviously those who’ve already seen Firefly and Serenity will get the most out of this, Leaves on the Wind serves as a fairly decent entry point. The ending, though resolved enough to be a proper ending, teases at a continuation of the series. Hopefully it doesn’t take another ten years. Meanwhile, I’ll be off rewatching Firefly again, because “you can’t take the sky from me.”
Allyce Amidon is the associate editor at Foreword Reviews, where she blogs about comics and graphic novels. You can follow her on Twitter @allyce_amidon