So we come to Leaves On The Wind, the official full scale comic continuation of the Firefly/Serenity story, written by Zach Whedon with art work by Georges Jeanty. In the next six entries, I’d like to take a walkthrough through the pages of Leaves On The Wind and offer some thoughts on this piece of work, which is obviously so important when it comes to the large canon.
The opening panels serve both as a bit of an info dump in the way they describe the Miranda broad-wave – just in case anyone reading hasn’t seen Serenity I suppose – but work more as a sort of commentary on modern political “talking heads” commentary, especially of the American variety. We have the bullish conservative, more than a little like Glenn Beck, browbeating the more progressive person on the other side, with the aid of state media. We’ve all seen that recently.
But from the TV screens, we are quickly back to reality, showcasing a dingy Eavesdown Docks-esque scene of run down houses and run down people listening to the commentators spout back and forth. It’s not a bad way of both showing and telling I suppose, as the time after Miranda is quickly depicted as one of protest, rebellion and political strife.
From there we are thrust into the main plot and characters, but I like the third page more because it shows the welcome return of the Tahoka-class Alliance ship, the skyscraper design we saw in a few Firefly episodes but was then ditched for the movie. It’s probably the canon’s most unique ship design.
The Alliance is up to no good again it seems. There are no easy endings: the Operative warned Mal the Alliance would be back for him eventually, and they are on their way again, the officers here pointedly using the word “disciples” on the same image of a sword to make the point.
What may be a fairly major plot point for the future is set-up here, as the Alliance officer posits there are “other things” that River Tam may know about apart from the fate of Miranda, surely something that will come into play later. The two here are the second so far to ask where Serenity is, which will presumably jolt the reader into realising that we are five pages in and have yet to actually see Mal and company.
And we’ll be waiting a bit longer. The ragtag “New Resistance” – what was wrong with “Dust Devils”? – is set-up fast in terms of status (meeting in a shed), look (all rundown and scruffy), and motivation: they don’t want to just go about over-turning the domination of the Alliance, they want a leader. They want the man the woman here hilariously refers to to as the “greatest military mind alive”. The fact that Mal doesn’t even know this yet implies a few possible things, most notably that his participation in the New Resistance will be involuntary if not offered willingly.
Later, we see the same woman looking miserable out in the snow, listening to the same talking heads discuss Serenity, this time on the topic of Mr Universe, that “sexual deviant”. She seems a bit of a lost soul here, isolated alone, following along the half-mythical events on the newsfeeds. But she also has a bit of a hard side too.
Here things are really brought home: we’re a third of the way through this issue and we still haven’t actually seen Serenity, which is a bit of a risk for the author to take, but at least the right time is being given to the set-up.
Where Serenity is, is somewhere broken, hiding out on a wrecked moon that doesn’t even have a name. It actually looks a bit like Peragus from Knights Of The Old Republic II. Maybe Zach Whedon was a fan. Quickly, we see a few things noteworthy: River serving in the pilots chair, Inara dressed in more setting appropriate clothing than we have previously seen here in, and Wash’s dinosaur’s still resolutely where they were the last time her was there. Mal and Inara bicker back and forth about their situation, prompting River to note that they “fight a lot”. This will bring a reminder of Mal’s comments in Serenity, that them fighting is the normal state of affairs. It’s when they stop fighting that there is a problem.
Here, Inara notes that she has been “decommissioned”, a rather militant term for what is presumably a sacking from the companions guild. She and Mal continue to fight over Inara’s previous occupation. It’s all set-up of course, for…
Sexy times! That Mal and Inara are apparently “together” could be seen as fan-service from the creators, but honestly fits with the way that things were left at the conclusion of Serenity, though the way they tumble into bed here is a bit hard to stomach. In more plot-relevant terms, Inara notes that it has been eight months since Miranda, and that Jayne is no longer on the ship.
Things get surprisingly graphic here, though it’s hardly a new departure for Firefly/Serenity. The TV show had two full-on sex scenes after all, in the pilot and “Heart Of Gold”. It’s contrasted interestingly with another intimate moment, namely River listening to Zoe’s very pregnant belly.
Here we see that, while River appears to be on the mend, she is still prone to bouts of fantastical perception, listening to Zoe’s womb and hearing the universe, in words and images that draw to mind 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s contrasted harshly with Zoe’s hard reality: “I’m just hungry” she says in response to River’s obtuse musings, and then cries the moment River leaves.
Which leads us to ghost Wash, sitting at the table as if it is the cockpit. It’s natural that Zoe would have a hard time letting go, but this goes beyond that, into full-blown PTSD territory, up to and including a graphic representation of Wash’s death. A question mark is put on how badly Zoe is being affected.
Enter both Simon and Kaylee, rapidly pulling clothes together to attend to Zoe. I’m not sure why they don’t get the same kind of graphic representation of their love life that Mal and Inara did – it’s arguably as important in plot terms for the characters – but here we are. Also of note in this page is that River appears to be wearing Wash’s old flight outfits.
A classic waiting room scene follows, with Mal literally pacing around the kitchen floor. Enter Simon with the good news, though his appearance in the bottom panel is bizarrely angular.
Though if that’s a flaw of the art, the depiction of baby Emma is a triumph: she actually does look like a cross of Wash and Zoe. But back on the bad, in the last few panels, it’s hard to tell Simon from Mal.
Rather awesome is River’s “I know” when Mal goes to order her to fly to the nearest medical centre: the “reading” is still part and parcel of things anyway. In a moment of somewhat insipid sentimentality, River repeats Wash’s dying words as Serenity flies away, which I felt a tad overblown: River should be owning her own position by now, not echoing Wash.
Here, it would appear that Marvel supervillain Magneto arrives on the Tahoka, proceeding to butcher a load of Alliance officers, one of whom looks rather like the Alliance commander on the Tahoka in “The Train Job”.
In the first of a few upcoming plot twists, Magneto is revealed to be none other than Jubal Early, having somehow survived the events of “Objects In Space”. Early’s return isn’t hard to swallow, as he seemed the exact kind of villain with the exact kind of fate to make a return at some point, but I was wary, on my first treading, of the way Early retreads old lines. If there was one thing I was worried about in these comics, it was the potential for fan service, for just rehashing all the stuff fans loved about what came before. Also something to take note of is how the Alliance officer looks a little like River, just with neater hair.
Page Twenty One
Time for action though, and who better to provide it than Jayne Cobb? The chase here is a simple bit of exhilaration after the talking of the previous panels, and also serves a a nice re-introduction to Jayne, still doing what he does even if he isn’t on Serenity.
Page Twenty Two
Jayne returns to what appears to be his family home. There’s more callbacks and fan-service stuff here, as we all remember the letter (and cunning hat) Jayne received from his mother in “The Message”. More importantly Jayne relates that he’s just stolen from some bandits, seemingly on his own initiative. A changed man?
Page Twenty Three
It’s the background details in the last page that I like, such as Jayne’s mother calmly knitting despite the large amount of people in her living room, or the picture of a young Jayne on the mantelpiece. Stands to reason that Jayne hasn’t changed all that much though, happily agreeing to lead the “New Resistance” to Mal in exchange for a suitcase of cashy money.
Leaves On The Wind #1 has to do a lot of set-up, but already the things I was worried about before reading are evident, namely the fact that it all feels a little too much like fan gratifying fan-fiction instead of actual official Serenity stories. But there were five issues left to make-up for that, and I can forgive a little sentimentality in the first issue. But could Zach Whedon pick it up a bit for #2? Find out next week.