Or – “Zoe Washburn…  Will You Marry Me?”


Everybody wants to think that they’re cool, that they’re unique, that their contribution to the world is distinctive and unmistakable, that they are a beautiful snowflake.  It’s only at certain times that we realize that every single person in the world turns into a walking cliche on occasion.  For me, every time I encounter a smart, hot, @$$-kicking woman (especially one with dark eyes) I turn into the Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons, trying to put Lucy Lawless in Mylar between Tom Baker and the Yellow Submarine.  So, you can say what you will about my crush on Zoe, but I’m still entranced by Captain Reynolds’ right hand woman, and I’m not afraid to say it:  Best First Officer EVERRRRRR…

Previously, on Serenity: Better Days:  Malcolm Reynolds was a freedom fighter, once.  Now, he captains a just-this-side-of-derelict freighter through the known worlds, picking up jobs where Se1.jpghe can to keep his crew eating regularly, or at least often enough.  His second-in-command, Zoe, was his lieutenant during the war and maintains her position as advisor/conscience Greek chorus aboard Serenity.  Her husband, Hoban Washburn (wisely going by the sobriquet “Wash”) pilots the ship with aplomb, while Kaylee Frye provides the spit and ties the baling wire to keep her running.  Thick as a brick, but good in a fight, Jayne Cobb may or may not be dangerous, depending on the day, but you can always figure he’s out for himself.  The ship’s doctor, Simon Tam, is on the run from the Alliance that runs pretty much the entire damn galaxy for busting his could-possibly-be psychic sister River out of a “medical facility” that would have made Josef Mengele proud.  On hand for spiritual advice is Shepherd Book, a man who is certainly a lot more than he seems, and the only denizen of Serenity with an honest job is Inara Serra, a licensed Companion who accompanies and entertains those who meet her prerequisites and credit checks.  Nine characters, in search of a payoff, whose day has finally come.

We start with a standard-issue, tough-as-nails cop with a facial scar, rolling out his newest weapon, a tank-like automaton for catching criminals.  “All it requires,” he expositions, “is someone stupid enough to attract its attention.”  Cut to Jayne, screaming “We’re gonna be rich!”  Heh.  “That’s an ashtray,” Simon points out.  HA!  Turns out that they, along with Mal and Zoe are knocking over a museum, a score that’s someone out of their usual criminal zones.  Simon mentions how this isn’t their usual target, and Mal poo-poos his remark, picking the most expensive items they can find.  Loading a truck with theirs stolen wares, Serenity’s crew is faced with the crime-stopper tank.  “Depower your vehicle immediately,” the computer voice calls.  “I hate machines tellin’ me what to do,” replies Mal…  and RAMS IT with his truck.

As they make a run for it, Jayne shoots the think with everything he’s got, high caliber bullets by the bucketload, to no avail.  When the machine shoots back, Mal realizes they’re outgunned, and he and his crew leap into their mule for additional escaping speed.  They cut down an access tunnel, only to have the drone follow them.  Mal makes what seems like a personal sacrifice, leaping from the mule to bring the machine after him, and he’s locked in it’s sights, seconds from elimination…

…when Kaylee bungies down from the ceiling to slap some sort of pack on the machine.  Turns out that the device was the target all along, and the art heist just a cover to draw the thing out.  Back on board Serenity, Inara is…  Um.  Inara is “entertaining” her latest client in a rather carnal fashion, and finds herself shocked to be fantasizing about Malcolm while doing so.  She offers a massage, and her client talks about his job: hunting down former members of the Independent army.  He refers to them as the “Dust Devils,” and explains the type of man he hunts.  “Headstrong.  Suspicious.  Usually some kind of petty thief…”  She cracks his neck (accidentally?) at that remark, in a pretty funny bit of business. 

As for the object of her imaginary affections, he’s busy fencing some stolen goods…  Unfortunately, his reciever doesn’t have the cash on him.  Of course, like every good idiot, he knows where the money can be found.  Mal and company are forced to take on ANOTHER illegal gig to help get paid for the FIRST crime.  What a tangled blah blah blah fishcakes.  The expected money is hidden in a Buddhist temple, and the cracking of said vault will take the entire crew to pull off,  raising an enormous stone statue to find treasure underneath, a relatively simple task, all told.  “At least this part’s goin’ smooth enough,” remarks Mal…  as an unexpected person enters.  “Why do I open my mouth?” he asks.  Heh…  The disturbance turns out to be a monk, shocked at the malcontents in his midst.  Jayne throws some of the money at him, and the man is shocked.  “The hero of Canton!  He’s real!”  Hee…  As the gang takes off in Serenity, they gather to count their ill-gotten booty (or perhaps ill-booten gotty.)  Mal counts the cash, muttering “This can’t be right!”  What was supposed to be a huge sum of money is actually just…  a RIDICULOUSLY HUGE sum of money.  “It’s millions,” marvels Malcolm.  “We’re rich.”  Well, obviously that’s good, right?  Right? 

It’s a pretty interesting issue, but as with certain moments in Dark Horse’s Buffy comics, I wonder how it’s going to play to non-fans, especially since the tale takes place BEFORE the ‘Serenity’ movie.  (Some of the cast aren’t in the same state as they were at the end of that movie, notably…)  Of course, as my manager Deon points out, the vast majority of those who read Joss Whedon comics seem to already be Joss Whedon fans, so that may not be as much of an issue.  Brett Matthews does pretty good art here, although he can’t quite get the face of Adam Baldwin, who plays Jayne, down.  The writing of Joss Whedon, of course, is like pizza, good even when it’s the worst of its kind.  My only complaint is that since the issue takes place on, respectively, an Alliance world and in a temple, it doesn’t have the authentic dusty frontier feel that I expect from Firefly/Serenity.  Still and all, it’s a minor complaint, as all the characters sound right, the story gives us something we haven’t seen before (A job that goes RIGHT!) and sets up a compelling bit of business going forward.  Serenity: Better Days #1 is easily a 3 out of 5 star issue, even if I’m not sure how the casual comic reader might take it all…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. March 22, 2008 at 10:01 pm — Reply

    It’s definitely not going to have wide spread appeal. It’s meant for those who already have a working knowledge of the various characters in this ‘Verse. The one thing that I do pick about is how the Anglo-Sino characters do not translate in the word bubbles. Other than that, another fun excursion into those aboard the good ship Serenity.

  2. Sanlear
    March 24, 2008 at 8:21 am — Reply

    Definitely on my “to buy list”. I was a big fan of the tv show and movie.

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