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Serenity: Leaves on the Wind

on Mon, 12/29/2014 - 00:00

The television shows of Joss Whedon have found a way to continue within the medium of comic books long after their time on the small screen has come to an end. Starting with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 2007, Dark Horse has published tomes officially sanctioned by Whedon of each of the writer/director’s creations, including Angel, Dollhouse and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. The short-lived Firefly is no exception, as its follow-up big screen sequel Serenity has likewise witnessed the transformation to the graphic pages. While previous adaptations were centered on events prior to the motion picture, however, the 2014 six-issue miniseries Serenity: Leaves on the Wind is the first volume of narratives to explore the adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew following the heroic—as well as tragic—events of the film.

“The thing about changing the world,” Buffy Summers reflects on the opening pages of the Buffy Season Eight comic book series. “Once you do it, the world’s all different.” Five hundred years in the future, meanwhile, the small band of space scavengers on the Firefly-class Serenity likewise changed the world, but they have discovered that their world is no different from the one in which they already resided. Reynolds fought on the losing side of the War for Unification years earlier, and has been determined ever since to steer clear of the all-controlling Alliance that emerged victorious. This often placed him on the wrong side of the law, while his decision to give refuge to wanted renegades River Tam and her brother Simon made him a wanted man as well.

River Tam was a brilliant teenager that was forced into a clandestine government experiment engineered to create psychic assassins for the Alliance. She was rescued by Simon Tam, but the effects still linger and often erupt into nonsensical ramblings and acts of violence. Because of the secrets locked within her brain, the Alliance sent a highly-trained Operative to find her in Serenity. Reynolds was able to stay out of reach during the ensuing cat-and-mouse game, but not without a heavy loss of life, and it wasn’t until River remembered one of the darkest secrets of the Alliance that the crew of Serenity was finally able to elude the Operative. In an attempt to control the vast regions under its authority, the Alliance government unleashed an experimental chemical on a distant planet called Miranda designed to suppress aggression within the planet’s population. The toxin, however, either worked too effectively—causing people to become docile and die from inaction—or transformed them into cannibalistic Reavers that now roamed the outreaches of space.

Malcom Reynolds was able to transmit this discover across the known galaxy at the end of Serenity, but apparently the New World Order that the revelation might have triggered failed to materialize. Serenity: Leaves on the Wind opens with a television-style talk show where a government official “spins” the news of Miranda as fiction and labels the unknown whistle-blowers who uncovered the conspiracy as criminals. Although the Operative abandoned his mission of capturing River Tam after Reynold’s broadcast, the Alliance military is now even more determined to apprehend not only River but the entire crew of Serenity. Bounties are thus placed on the heads of Malcolm Reynolds and his fellow space scavengers, making it even more difficult to find work and safety in even the furthest edges of the Firefly Universe.

Bounty hunters and government agents are not the only ones searching for Reynolds, however, as a new underground movement in opposition to the Alliance has materialized, and they consider Malcolm Reynolds to be a hero. “This movement has a lot going for it,” Bea, a member of the New Resistance, tells her cohorts. “People are fired up. They’re angry. We’ve gotten organized. We actually have some money behind us for once. One thing we are surely lacking, though, is a leader. And Malcolm Reynolds is it—even if he doesn’t know it yet.” Then there’s Jubal Early, a bounty hunter who infiltrated Serenity during the final episode of the short-lived Firefly television series and was later sent adrift in deep space with no apparent means of survival. Only survive he did, and Early is now determined to not only collect the new reward offered by the Alliance but is seeking a measure of revenge as well.

As for Malcolm Reynolds and the rest of his Serenity family, they are doing their best to lay low and out of sight from both friends and foes alike. With no work on the horizon, however, food is running scarce and tension is in the air. Then there’s the fact that first mate Zoe Washburne is pregnant. Husband Hoban “Wash” Washburne had been Serenity’s pilot but was killed during the big screen sequel, leaving Zoe on her own to deal with impending parenthood. While Zoe successfully gives birth to a baby girl within the pages of Leaves on the Wind, complications arise that require hospital treatment for the widowed mother. It doesn’t take long before a wave of red flags warn the Alliance of Malcolm Reynolds whereabouts, and Reynolds is left with no choice but to abandon Zoe at the hospital with the promise of rescuing her once she is healed. The Alliance official who arrives at Zoe’s bedside, meanwhile, promises to send her to the furthest and harshest penal colony in the galaxy—where no one will ever see her again, let alone save her from imprisonment.

Early in the first issue of Serenity: Leaves on the Wind, resistance fighter Bea refers to Malcolm Reynolds as “the greatest military mind alive.” When she finally meets the man face-to-face, Bea instead becomes disillusioned by Reynolds’ refusal to join the cause and brisk dismissal of her. “Shouldn’t have believed the legends,” she later laments. Yet in many ways, the legends are indeed true as throughout Firefly the television series and Serenity the motion picture, Malcolm Reynolds continually concocts plans that are layered with back-up plans that ultimately find success no matter how great the odds are against him. The same holds true within the pages of Leaves on the Wind as Reynolds is not only able to find and rescue Zoe, but infiltrate the facility in which River Tam had once been held captive in order to free yet another government-created psychic assassin.

“It is a period of transition,” writer Zack Whedon explained to Comic Book Resources in December 2013 of the Serenity: Leaves on the Wind narrative. “The life they were leading in the series—taking odd jobs, doing some smuggling here and there—is not one they are able to lead now in the wake of their big throw down with the Alliance. So everything is a bit off balance. I think part of my goal with this series is to get them back to some kind of equilibrium, where you could imagine their lives getting back on track, even if that track is an illegal, itinerant one. We are taking these characters into the future, seeing a new chapter of their lives, something that every fan, myself included, has wanted to see for years. As we charge ahead in the stories, I hope that I can get the crew back to the kind of adventures you would expect to see if the show had never ended.”

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind may indeed be a transitional story—bridging the aftermath of the big screen Serenity to potentially new adventures of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his crew of space scavengers in the future—but it is still filled with the endearing spirit of the original Firefly. While Hoban “Wash” Washburne and Shepard Derrial Book may be gone, Malcolm Reynolds, Zoe Washburne, River Tam, Simon Tam, Kaylee Frye, Inara Serra and Jayne Cobb are still very much alive and exhibit the same characteristics that attracted a loyal and faithful legion of fans ever since Firefly was cancelled by FOX in 2002. Firefly may never return to television, and Serenity may never have a big screen sequel, but thanks to Dark Horse Comics, the show and film continue nonetheless.

Anthony Letizia

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