The crew of Serenity made a difficult strike against the forces of The Alliance, but that doesn’t mean that the threat is over. With one of their own missing, and terrible new revelations from River Tam, Mal and his makeshift family may have bitten off more than they can chew…
Your Major Spoilers review of Serenity: Leaves On The Wind #4 awaits!
SERENITY: LEAVES ON THE WIND #4
Writer: Zack Whedon
Penciler: Georges Jeanty
Inker: Karl Story
Colorist: Laura Martin
Letterer: Michael Heisler
Editor: Scott Allie
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Serenity: Leaves On The Wind: Dealing a blow to the Alliance with the events of the Serenity film, Mal Reynolds is now a well-known criminal. This makes for complications when his right-hand woman Zoe gives birth to her daughter, but complications force her to seek medical attention in an official capacity, forcing Mal to leave her behind in the hands of their evil overlords. Meanwhile, Mal and the rest of his crew have hooked up with the mysterious Operative (last seen in the movie helping them rebuild their ship, and lamenting that his world is over) in an attempt to finally figure out just what it is that River Tam has become, in the hopes that they can barter such information for Zoe’s freedom.
IT’S ALL SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR
I’ve been a regular reader of Joss Whedon’s Expanded Universe at Dark Horse since the beginning of Buffy Season 8 some years ago, and while I enjoyed much of that book, there’s a sameness about the Whedonverse comics. Each season of Buffy sets up an intriguing new wrinkle, toys with it for a while, then falls back on familiar characters, situations and dialogue popping up to engage my nostalgia for the TV show, ending with a big fight that resets the whole process. Issue #1 of ‘Leaves On The Wind’ had me interested in the new lives of the crew of Serenity, changing relationships and the status quo, but each issue has added more and more Serenity lore to our story without really engaging me with something new. As this issue opens, we find Mal, along with The Operative and Jayne’s new crew (who feel a little bit too ‘Star Wars: Rebels’ for me) seeking out answers about River while Zoe languishes on a remote prison planet. She does get a nice moment of combat to prove that she’s back up to snuff, but it’s a sequence that feels a little bit forced to me, and also unrealistic given her recent physical traumas. The use of the art team of Jeanty and Story makes for dynamic visuals, but they also draw (no pun intended) attention to the Buffy parallels, with new supporting character Bea looking for all the world like future slayer Fray, and only the spaceships to really separate this visually from an issue of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
TOO MUCH PADDING
The other major sticking point with this issue is one of pacing. Zack Whedon may be an excellent writer (I’ve never read anything he’s done that wasn’t one of his brother’s comic properties, so I don’t want to prejudge), but this issue feels like a lot of filler, with Zoe’s fight sequence taking up several pages, and almost a full quarter of the book devoted to “arriving at the mysterious Alliance facility where River was experimented on.” It’s a stylistic choice, certainly, one meant to try to evoke the television series, but it sends up taking a lot of real estate in the issue and feeling like excessive deconstruction. The big reveal and cliffhanger of the issue ends up being a two-edged sword for me as well: On the one hand, it’s a credible and meaningful threat to the status quo of both Alliance and Mal’s rebellious family. From the other side, though, it just feels like more variations on a theme (“If 1 was scary, imagine ONE HUNDRED!”) and once again draws comparison to Buffy. I’m left with an issue that undermines the big problems with comic book continuations: Either they break entirely new ground, risking alienation of the core fanbase, or they continue recycling the existing stuff. This issue features callback after callback, including The Operative himself, Jayne’s one true love Vera, and more, and feels like they’re playing entirely to me as hardcore fan, commending me for my memory and cleverness without doing much new with the characters.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A VERY BLAND EXPERIENCE
This issue features practically no Kaylee, no Simon, and the only Inara bit we get is a passionate good-luck kiss for her new boyfriend, relegating her to the role of love interest, and while part of me really wants to know more about River’s transformation, the revelations found in the lab fall flat and overly melodramatic for me. I can’t help but realize how much not having the charismatic portrayals of the actors affects my enjoyment of this issue, as well. All in all, Serenity: Leaves On The Wind #4 is an okay comic book, but disappointing as a Serenity story, missing a lot of the joie de vivre I associate with Mal and his band, featuring art that is well-rendered, but overly familiar, earning a somewhat disappointed 2.5 out of 5 stars overall. I understand the desire to create a ‘house style’ with the Whedon properties at Dark Horse, and I understand that a Serenity comic (or ANY comic, for that matter) has to engage the extant fans in order to sell enough copies to grow the readership, but the story being told in these pages feels a bit underdeveloped and self-referential, which is a disservice to Mal and his crew.