Before we move on to the very later Serenity comics release, I’d like to take a look at two more of the short-form comics that have been released over the years on Free Comic Book Day, with two very varying stories, styles and tones.
First up is It’s Never Easy, written by Zach Whedon, with artwork by Fabio Moon. I had actually almost forgotten It’s Never Easy, which is another post-Serenity story, indeed, it is a post-Float Out story. It’s another simple one: With the rest of the crew, led by a pregnant Zoe, on a supply run, Mal is waylaid by a random opportunist who tries to to steal the ship out from under him, taking a bullet in the shoulder for his trouble. But all ends well when a hidden River takes out the highwayman, before Serenity goes on its merry way.
It’s Never Easy is, like the other 12 page Serenity comics, just about alright. It doesn’t have enough time to have much depth or much characterisation, and it certainly doesn’t have enough time to offer a lot of interesting viewpoints on a post-Serenity era: no time for Mal/Inara or Kaylee/Simon, that’s for sure. But it still has some great moments in its limited time, not least a focus on Mal that some of the other comics have eschewed. This is the heroic lone wolf Mal that we have very occasionally got a glimpse of before, the Patriarch leader willing to risk life and limb for his ship and his crew. The antagonist is a nobody, but that’s OK: It’s Never Easy actually manages to turn that person into a believable threat to Serenity and its captain.
It’s also neat to see a bit of River post-Serenity, now seemingly in full control of her martial arts faculties even if she still appears to be a little flimsy on the mental side of things. While It’s Never Easy falls into the same trap as Downtime and The Other Half of having River as a very predictable and easy plot resolver, this time I like it a bit better because it is out in the open and not some vague creepy secret: here, Mal gets to actually express some gratitude for River’s actions, which have rapidly become an indispensable asset to the crew’s daily lives. It’s Never Easy also allows us a glimpse into the kind dramatic story-telling that could have come from Zoe’s pregnancy – here, arguing the case for her to continue take a leading role in the crew’s activities – to the slight objections of Mal, caught between respect for Zoe his right hand woman and Zoe the expectant mother.
But It’s Never Easy has its flaws, not least the art work, which I think is horrible, goofy and altogether distracting. Let me tell you, the only time comic characters should have pin pricks for eyes is if they are the Joker. And a frame where River takes down the would-be thief with the stupidest look of insanity on her face is rather laughable to say the least. This is a recurring complaint of mine I know, but there has consistently been something that bothers me about the artwork for the Serenity comics.
It’s Never Easy stands in stark contrast to the most recent of the 12 page stories, The Warrior And The Wind, written by Chris Robertsom, with artwork by Stephen Byrne. This is a radical departure from the others, being, essentially, the story of Serenity in the form of a fairytale, told by River to Zoe’s baby daughter, Emma. The characters take on fantastical forms: a pirate captain, a possessed preacher a surly giant, a beautiful archer, a lost doctor and a broken dancer.
But at the centre of it are the titular pair, the Warrior, Zoe, and the Wind, Wash. River’s story paints the relationship between the two in the most romantic way possible, as two very lonely people, in different ways, brought together by happenstance. It’s unbearably sweet and achingly sad to see, especially the stories resolution, was the Wind, in order to save the Warrior and the crew from a legion of foes, sacrifices himself to conjure up a storm. That’s actually amazingly done, the author and the artist effectively combining both the finale of the film with some of Wash’s lines in the pilot: “Here’s something you can’t do”. All that’s left is for baby Emma to be found up a tree, just as the Wind was, and for Zoe in “real life” to thank River for her version of their story.
I think one of the reasons that I like The Warrior And The Wind as much as I do is because I have always been a fan of Elseworlds and alternative universe, from Bearded Spock to evil Teal’c. Firefly was never going to have such a thing, save in dream sequences, or the exact kind of thing that The Wind And The Warrior depicts. And what an episode that could have been. It’s always fun to see familiar characters in new ways, even if it’s such a radical departure. This comic does that, and while it has more than a faint whiff of fan fiction, at least it’s a good smell. The art’s also a wonderful change from some of the crudeness and unimaginative depictions of previous Serenity comics: here, the artwork is a wonderful way of depicting the story, full of colour, soft imagery and life. And it’s just an original piece: it doesn’t need River to save the day at the end, and it doesn’t have to include some moment of barbaric violence to grab your attention or to get its point across. It’s clever, refreshing and it looks great. The comics of this canon could use more of that.
We haven’t seen the last of Serenity once-off’s I’m sure. If anything it seems to have become a convention for one of them to be released every year. And whole there have been a few duds in the bunch, I’ll take Serenity and Firefly where I can get them, and in whatever format.