Overview

??Since I Found Serenity??

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I have a lot of regrets in my life. But one of my biggest is not watching Firefly as it first aired in 2002. FOX, the network that was the original home to the series, didn’t help much. They put the show on Friday nights at 8pm, a time when most of America is away from home, doing something else. I know I was.

I discovered Firefly through rebroadcasts on the Sci-Fi Network. This led me to pick up the DVD set of the original series. I quickly burned through that, watching multiple episodes per night. I finished the entire set in a few scant days.

To me, Firefly was a show so good that I could kick myself for not watching it when it first came on. Maybe if I did, its original run might have lasted more than 11 episodes (3 unaired episodes were added to its Sci-Fi run). The show definitely was one of the best, if not the best, genre based shows in the last ten years. And yes, I am counting Heroes, Lost and Battlestar Galactica on that list.

But instead, Firefly and its big screen sequel Serenity reside in the land of the cult favorite. The chance of another TV series or movie is remote at best. However, the franchise lives on, as do all of Whedon’s creations, in the realm of comic books. Tomorrow’s Serenity: Better Days is the second miniseries to come from Dark Horse and takes place, like Serenity: Those Left Behind, between the end of the TV series and the start of the feature film.

What do you need to know in order to jump on the series tomorrow?  Let me give you a crash course. 

Firefly/Serenity takes place in 2517, a future where the American and the Chinese have colonized outer space. The further away you get from the core of the colonization, the more wild and untamed the settlements are. Think of the Westward expansion in the United States of the 19th Century, with these “border planets” being the Wild, Wild West.

Serenity is the name of the Firefly-class spaceship (so named because it resembles the insect) owned by Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Reynolds was a revolutionary, and named his ship after the valley where a major battle in the outlying worlds war to stave of unification with the Sino-American Alliance took place. The revolt wasn’t successful, but that didn’t quell Reynolds’ rebellious spirit. He uses his spaceship to stay just outside Alliance control, often dabbling in illegal smuggling enterprises.

His crew consists of Zoe, a soldier who served with Reynolds in the Unification War and acts as his second-in-command, her husband Wash, the wise-cracking though highly skilled pilot, Jayne, who flat-out is a mercenary who always looks out for himself first, and Kaylee, the ship’s mechanic who intuitively knows the inner workings of the ship.

The ship is also home to a “Companion” by the name of Inara, a future version of a courtesan who is afforded great status and respect by the futuristic society. And, during the show, they are joined by Shepherd Book, a holy man with a mysterious past, and a brother and sister by the name of Simon and River Tam.

Simon has stolen River away from an Alliance research laboratory, where they had performed mysterious experiments on the intelligent child. The experiments have turned River into a telepathic killing machine, and she must always struggle to keep her dark side in check. Both are chased after by Alliance forces, who desperately want River back.

The above description cannot possibly do justice to the series any more than calling it a sci-fi western could adequately describe it. The joy of the concept comes from the characters, each unique and individual, and how they interact with their finely constructed world. If you have a few extra bucks in your pocket tomorrow, give this series a chance. At worst, you have made the possibility of another miniseries for the rest of us fans a little better. At best, you will be logging on to Amazon to make some more DVD purchases.

Also out this week:

The Last Defenders #1:

The Defenders is a concept Marvel keeps on returning to. From the 150+ series that ran in the 1970s and 1980s, to Erik Larsen and Kurt Busiek’s stab at it in 2001, to DeMatteis/ Giffen/ Maguire trying to Justice League-ize the team in 2005, the Defenders are never far away from comic store shelves.

This time around, Nighthawk is heading up New Jersey’s resident superteam, joined (for a few issues anyway) by Colossus, She-Hulk and Blazing Skull. This is his big shot at redemption. Can these four polar opposites put aside their differences and learn to work together? Or will the team become the first Initiative team Iron Man shuts down? And will this really be the last Defenders series we see?

Joe Casey (W), Jim Muniz (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99.   Six-Issue Miniseries.

JLA Classified #54:

Is the anthology book such a damaged concept that not even the team of John Byrne and Roger Stern can save it? Apparently, the answer is yes, because the finale to their arc is also the end of their series.  JSA Classified is set to join it a few issues from now as well.

I like anthology books, but I may be alone in liking them. To be fair, most anthologies are hit or miss in quality. This series was the perfect example of that. When it was good, it was very good. When it was bad, it was pretty bad.

I believe anthology books expose new writers and characters to comic readers. They were once the foundation that comics were built on. I wish they could find some way to make them a success.

Roger Stern (W), John Byrne (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Final Issue.

Pogrom #1:

Some things just really don’t seem to go together. Oil and water is one example. Pickles and ice cream is another. Devil’s Due adds another to the list—The Da Vinci Code and Hellraiser. Its solicitation for this series says it is a mix of those two franchises. I can’t really see Tom Hanks mixing it up with Pinhead. But that’s just me.

Perhaps even more problematic than that comparison is the fact that the series title is a term referring to mob violence against a particular group, more often than not, the Jews. The powers that be at Devil’s Due should be glad that their company is pretty far down the comic publishing ladder. Because while they say there is no such thing as bad publicity, I doubt the company would be equipped to handle questions from the mainstream media as to why a publisher whose name references Satan is putting out a book whose title has anti-Semitic overtones.    

Matthew Tomao (W), Josh Medors (A), Devil’s Due Publishing, $5.50.  Seven-Issue Miniseries.

Screamland #1:

When you have hot, up and coming creator Matt Fraction saying that he wishes the first book he wrote was as good as yours, you seldom get higher praise. But that is what the creators of this book have received.

It’s hard to be a classic Hollywood monster in these CGI intensive days. Many of the old school creatures have fallen by the wayside. Take Frankenstein’s Monster for instance. Once he was on top of the food chain. Now, he’s an alcoholic loser who lost all his money in a shady internet venture. When luck brings another chance at the big time his way, will he be able to carry through on it? Or is he too far down to pull himself back up?

Harold Sipe (W), Hector Casanova (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Five-Issue Miniseries.

Superman #674:

And now, for the first time in comics continuity, Smallville’s Chloe Sullivan makes her debut!

Or, well, maybe not. Lois Lane’s small-town cousin was originally supposed to be introduced in this issue, but things have changed since January. Now, on DC’s website, no trace of Ms. Sullivan can be found in the solicitation for this issue.  

As more and more comic properties are adapted to other medium, the comic companies have been more persistent in altering the comics so they match the TV show or movie. I guess the idea is so that fans of Smallville or the Spider-Man movies could more readily identify with the comic. But it’s not always a good fit. Maybe that’s why Chloe got the boot.

Kurt Busiek (W), Renato Guedes (A), DC Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Astounding Wolf-Man #5:

On paper, this series had everything going for it. It’s written by Robert Kirkman, and seems to be a cross between his two other Image books, Invincible and The Walking Dead—a little horror mixed up with your superhero, a little superhero mixed up with your horror.

But the publishing schedule for this series has been, to say the least, erratic. Two months went by between issue #2 and issue #3, and three months between issues #3 and #4. And this issue was actually supposed to come out two months ago. It’s hard to build momentum when the book never comes out.

Anyway, this issue is an all-new story arc which advertises itself as the ideal jumping on point for new readers. Just keep in mind that if you do jump on, it might be a while before a new issue is in your hands.

Robert Kirkman (W), Jason Howard (A), Image Comics, $2.99. Ongoing Series.

Avengers Fairy Tales #1:

If Marvel can be commended for anything, it should be their willingness to take chances with their properties. They are not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to reinterpreting their characters in new and interesting ways. Their line of fairy tale adaptations is living proof of that.

This time, it’s the Avengers getting the nursery rhyme treatment. The first issue features the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cast in a tale inspired by Peter Pan. Imagine the Scarlet Witch as Wendy, the Wasp as Tinkerbell and Captain America as the boy who never grew up.

So, if you are a fan of the Avengers, a fan of fairy tales, or have a youngster who is in need of something to read, then this series is for you.

C.B. Cebulski (W), Joäo Lemos (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99.  Four-Issue Miniseries.

###

William Gatevackes is a professional writer living in Mamaroneck, NY with his wife Jennifer. He also writes periodic comic reviews for PopMatters, is a weekly contributor to Film Buff Online and writes title descriptions for Human Computing’s Comicbase collection management software. Links to his writing can be found at his website, www.williamgatevackes.com.

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