Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale
Written by Joss & Zack Whedon
Art by Chris Samnee & Dave Stewart
Cover by Steve Morris
It’s no secret that I love me some Firefly/Serenity. But when something you love so much ends without resolving everything it intended to, it can be extremely frustrating. Such is the case of the backstory of Serenity’s resident preacher, Shepherd Derrial Book. Throughout the series and the film it was made clear there was much more to his past than he let on, and that he wasn’t always a man of God. But with the series’ cancellation and the character’s death in the film, it seemed these questions would go unanswered. Happily, creator Joss Whedon used his relationship with Dark Horse comics to bring us this OGN that finally provides answers. Joss provided the framework while his brother Zack fleshed out the story. What resulted is a wonderful tale of the highs and lows in the life of a fascinating man.
Much like the film Memento, Shepherd’s Tale starts at the end and works backwards. The first scene shows Book’s actions immediately before his death in the film. From there we jump back to a time when he was part of Mal’s crew, which allows appearances from nearly all of the show’s characters. It’s brief, but everyone is perfectly in character: Jayne is gruff, River is odd, Kaylee is adorable, Wash is snarky, Zöe is stoic, and Mal… is Mal. Following that we go back and see what Book was doing right before he joined up with them in the show’s pilot episode. Then comes the stuff we Browncoats have been waiting for: Book’s lowest point, his religious revelations, his role within the Alliance and how he came to leave it, his time before joining it, his true reasons for joining it, and finally his childhood. I’m not going to go into things too in-depth here; you’ll have to read it yourself for that. But suffice it to say, two things that I previously believed about the character were proven wrong. (For the record, when Joss said that Book found God in a bowl of soup, I was expecting something like alphabet soup. What really happens is much better and quite a bit more existential. Also, I had Book pegged as a former Operative like Chiwetel Ejiofor played in the film. I was wrong on that count, too.)
This book is superb. Not only does it give answers to questions that fans have been waiting years for, it does so in a way that is highly entertaining. Zack’s work here is the best of what he’s done in comics so far, and I’d love to see him do more Firefly/Serenity work in the future. Especially with Jayne, who’s small amount of dialogue here was spot-on. (For Dark Horse’s next Firefly/Serenity project I propose they do another OGN like this, but instead of one story it should be an anthology with different writers and artists each doing shorter stories spotlighting each of the main characters.) Ever since I first saw his work on DC’s highly underrated series The Mighty, I’ve been keeping an eye out for Samnee. His work seems to get better with every project, and this is no exception. It can be tough to pull off art in a licensed comic, finding a way to make the character’s recognizable while not sacrificing your own artistic style, but Samnee does a superlative job here, as every previously established character can be instantly identified. Mark my words, if he keeps up output like this, Samnee is going to be a top-tier artist in the near future. I give Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale 4.75 out of 5 glasses of water.