As we all sit around and mourn the cancellation of Caprica, let’s revisit another excellent sci-fi show that was over all too quickly: Firefly. In case you’re not familiar with it, Firefly was a space western, about a band of outcasts and their overworked spaceship, finding work where they could and on the run from the Alliance. Created by Joss Whedon, the show was smart and funny and lasted only one season, but the outpouring of fan support eventually led to a feature film, Serenity, which was sort of a two-hour Season Two.
Of course, one film isn’t enough to tie up all the loose ends started in Season One, and Whedon has revisited Firefly in the world of comics. Serenity: Those Left Behind and Better Days (from Dark Horse Comics) both take place between the end of the television series and the beginning of the movie, filling in a few gaps.
One big mystery that was never resolved, though, was the history of one particular character: Shepherd Derrial Book. Now, thanks to a new graphic novel just released yesterday, we can finally learn the rest of the story.
Shepherd Book was a fascinating character in the television series. Played by Ron Glass, he’s a pastor of some sort, holding to a different moral code than many of the other crew aboard Serenity. But although he’s a man of the cloth, various incidents hint at his past—he’s trained in combat and firearms, and has some unknown link to the Alliance.
Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale finally explains all of that, through a series of flashbacks that delve deeper and deeper into Book’s past. We start off the book in a scene close to where we find Book in the movie—moments before his death. But then we jump a couple years in the past, while he’s on board Serenity. Pretty soon, though, we’ve left behind the TV show and have moved into unexplored territory, and there are quite a few revelations there.
I won’t give you any spoilers, although when the comic was first announced they revealed that “part of [him] is artificial, he found God in a bowl of soup, and [he] is best known for his greatest failure.” These are all addressed in the graphic novel, and it’s great to finally get some answers.
The comic is written by Joss’s little brother Zack Whedon (following an outline that Joss provided), and although it’s pretty well done, it doesn’t quite have the feel of watching an episode of Firefly the way that the Joss-penned Those Left Behind did. Also, I did get a little annoyed by the format at times: “Oh, here we go back another ten years. Again.” But I have to admit that each step back revealed just a little more, and by the end of the book I’m glad they told it that way.
You can read a preview online, but if you’re a fan of Firefly you should consider picking this one up, to finally get those answers about who Book really was. (And if you haven’t watched Firefly, it’s definitely worth having a look. I didn’t actually see it until after the movie was made, and then wondered why I hadn’t watched it from the start.)
Disclosure: Dark Horse Comics provided a PDF preview of the book.