Of all the Serenity comics, and there have been several very good ones up until now, the new Leaves on the Wind follows most directly after the events of the Serenity film. While other books such as The Shepherd’s Tale or Float Out dealt with specific characters, this new comic extends the story and deals with the consequences of the dramatic events of the 2005 film. It picks up right where things left off, with talking heads on news programs dramatically discussing the ramifications of the revelations about the planet Miranda. This sort of media spin is familiar, with some calling the Serenity crew “terrorists” and challenging the established facts, in this case that the population of Miranda was treated with an experimental drug that killed most of the people and drove the rest into the insane fury of the “Reavers”. Meanwhile, the Alliance is still looking for Serenity out of the need to avenge the death of the “Operative” from the film and to capture the still-dangerous River Tam.
Zack Whedon, the least sentimental and most “adult” of the Whedon brothers, wrote Leaves on the Wind. He brings a welcome deepening and darkening of tone to the characters, never failing – amongst all the sci-fi and adventure quipping – to remind the reader of how desperate and hunted the surviving members of the Serenity crew really are. He also ups the ante on the sexual content of the Firefly universe, giving us some fairly steamy scenes between the two couples on the ship.
Yes, there are now two couples on Serenity. SPOILERS for those who don’t wish to find out just yet, but Malcolm and Inara have finally consummated their long-simmering feelings. Inara has officially “retired” from her profession as a Companion (a line of work with various names), which leaves her free to be with her Captain and also to remind him forcefully that, with her loss of Companion income, it’s more important than ever for them to commit some crimes and bring in some money. The other couple in question is, of course, Kaylee and Simon, who had made their status official before the end of the film. Zack Whedon stages these scenes masterfully, counterpointing Mal and Inara’s rutting with that of Kaylee and Simon and leaving the sad, lonely Zoe with only River to comfort her. Zoe has a wonderfully emotional moment where she tearfully remembers Wash’s death and says, “Hoban Washburne, I will never forgive you for making me do this alone.”
Another plot thread picked up from the comics (particularly Float Out) is Zoe’s pregnancy, which finally ends in this first issue of Leaves on the Wind with a beautiful little girl she names Emma. But there are complications with the delivery, and while Simon uses all his skills, there is internal bleeding and he advises Mal that they need to get Zoe to a hospital. Serenity’s new pilot, River Tam, invokes the memory of a friend by saying “I am a leaf on the wind”, and she proceeds to fire up the engines and head the ship towards the nearest mining station for help.
In Whedonesque tradition, the “Big Bad” of this storyline is introduced at the end, and while we can admit here that it is a villain from the original TV series, in the interests of maintaining some level of suspense, I won’t reveal who.
Pencils in this handsome comic are by Georges Jeanty, who is best known for drawing the lion’s share of Buffy Seasons 8 and 9 for Dark Horse, and his style perfectly suits the Whedon ‘verse. Illustrating Whedon stories must be a challenge, because the action is cartoonish and a great deal of the surroundings and situations conform to traditional genre styles, but the human interactions are extremely realistic and emotional. In terms of comic book art, that is a difficult line to walk, but Jeanty does it perfectly, especially with his ability to convey a broad range of emotions through faces. His backgrounds, inked by Karl Story and colored by Laura Martin, are also gorgeous, particularly the wide-open, inky black space scenes dotted with tasteful celestial color highlights. And the book isn’t afraid to stray from traditional panel-to-panel storytelling, for example, setting Zoe’s delivery against four panels of the rest of the crew waiting for news in the dining room, with no dialogue. When Serenity kicks into gear to go searching for medical help, it fairly explodes off the page.
Due to the various twists and turns of history and fate, all we Firefly fans have in terms of new stories in the ‘verse are these comics, so I think all the creators involved deserve copious praise for setting some dramatic and powerful narrative events in motion. Bring on the rest of the series.