So, a new year but same old Serenity. Let’s take a closer look at Leaves On The Wind #3.
#3 opens very clearly on a dream sequence, River lost in a white negative space. I thought reading first that the whole issue would be dedicated to this, but that was not to be. That might have been a better idea, considering.
River’s memories of being packed off to the Academy are juxtaposed by the sight of a giant River looking back at them, giving everything a sort of trippy Alice In Wonderland vibe. A nice look at River’s bedroom as a child, filled with ballerina posters. “She always did love to dance…”.
The strange juxtaposition continues, now with added horror elements. They treat River’s recollection that there were others like her as some big revelation in this issue, but The R Tam Sessions already confirmed this within the canon.
The pale-faced girl on the lawn transforms into River, being experimented on by the Alliance. We’ve been at this point in the narrative before, in episodes of Firefly and in Serenity, and Leaves On The Wind cuts into it, by having Jubal Early’s ghostly eyes interject, with River’s dream consciousness realising that something is wrong.
This page is a big set-up for what is to come, and it is rather well executed. Initially, the zombie-like faces of those crowding around River appear to be after her, but as River remembers her escape with Simon, she reaches back out to them, realising that the hordes don’t want to hurt her, they want to come with her. Elements of these panels remind me of Game Of Thrones‘ “Mhysa”, with River taking on a sort of saviour role.
Jubal commences his take-down of the crew, in much the same manner as he did in “Objects In Space”. Kaylee’s fear is well drawn here, and her inclusion in this page is enough to make us suddenly discount her later.
Things take a sudden turn with Mal and Inara discussing Serenity’s bleak rationing situation in Mal’s quarters. Some awkward bits here, like the sight of Mal zipping up his pants or Inara’s painfully trite “You. All of you” line.
Inara’s shuttle looks messy, like she temporarily moved back in there and then left in a hurry. Jubal gets the drop on Mal, again, which admittedly seems a little hard to swallow a second time.
Bea laments her bad fortune, and Jayne tries to comfort her, getting over the fact that for half the page the artist didn’t seem to think that he should have eyes. I liked Jayne’s advice for Bea though, essentially telling her to manipulate Mal’s sense of justice, which you sort of imagine Jayne did at one time.
Jayne heads to his quarters, clearly a little into Bea and already regretting his usual lines. Enter Jubal, suddenly caught by Bea, who doesn’t realise that he isn’t part of the crew, adding a delicious tension to the following page.
There’s something great about this page. I think it’s that Jubal just doesn’t know how to react, and seems almost scared by the idea that he could be considered part of the Serenity crew, like the idea is one so alien to him that it causes him fear. At the end of the page, as the time comes to put Bea under like the rest, he looks regretful, which speaks volumes about his mindset.
Jubal stands triumphant, looking down at Mal from a weird Dutch angle. I’m not sure what the comic is trying to say by having Jubal call Inara a whore, maybe trying to draw a line between him and Mal in a twisted way? Something really downbeat about the way the two go over Serenity’s crew and how a lot of them are all dead, missing or incapacitated.
More of Jubal being random and crazy. Yawn. And a bit ineffective too, as he forgets that Kaylee is on the ship, which seems a bit hard to believe.
At least it need with a real nice shot – “WHAK!” and all – of Kaylee braining Jubal, after which the tables are turned.
I hate this page and the last, for two key reasons. One, it goes completely against the character of Kaylee, to be this sort of malevolent threatening entity, and it goes against Jubal too, who should be doing everything he can to get out of the chair. Instead, he evacuates his bowels. Uh huh. Listen, I know that the interaction between Jubal and Kaylee in “Objects In Space” wad disturbing and made Kaylee look weak, but that was the whole point. Has enough happened in-between for Kaylee to suddenly be the type to knock him unconscious with a wrench and then threaten to torture him? No.
A nice group shot here, save for the fact that only Inara has eyes. River suddenly wakes up to the possibility that rescuing others like here is a good idea. Not much more to say.
Just sort of padding things out in this page, as Jayne points out that ten more River’s might not be as useful as River thinks. We’re just sort of treading water in the last couple of pages, revisiting dialogue that’s been done to death in the series and movie.
Mal and Inara hang out in the cockpit, with Inara drawn funny in the first panel, but better in the others. Mal comes to a decision: he needs some help. Who could it be? Badger? Fanty and Mingo? Or…
I guess we’ll find out in a second. The next two pages are dedicated to Zoe, being transported to an “unnamed” Alliance prison colony. Surrounded by burlier, tougher looking convicts, Zoe is effectively made to look small and desperate, even if the strange red lights around the actual prison are rather distracting.
Classic “What are you in for?” stuff here, but this page brings up a problem for me with this whole plot line. Firstly, the Alliance shouldn’t be hiding Zoe away, they should have her front and centre as part of some propaganda show trial. And why would the Alliance, that gigantic bureaucracy that has no regard for human life, even bother having a prison camp that no-one ever gets released from? Good artwork on that last shot of Zoe though.
Mal labours up a mountain slope: I’ll assume Serenity couldn’t handle the winds. It’s all very Batman Begins anyway. If you look at the details of the last panel, it gives away the identity of the figure just a tad early.
I guess everyone is coming back! Yes, here is the Operative himself, now with fashionable recluse beard. The question has to be asked as to how Mal knows where the Operative is, or why he thinks the Operative would be willing to help him at all. And like the stuff with Jubal Early, this smacks of a “Greatest Hits” sentiment. But here he is all the same, and that last panel is a very nice representation of Serenity’s villain.
OK, so #3 is also treading water, with some bad choices in terms of narrative direction and, again, some fuzzy artwork. We’re also halfway through, and this whole issue felt like a stalling measure in many respects. Will we finally get to the good stuff in #4? Stay tuned and find out.