Pullbox Reviews Firefly: Brand New ‘Verse – A new generation of thrilling heroics in the Black…

Things haven’t always been easy for the crew of Serenity, and they’ve never been simple. Life on the raggedy edge always seems to have way of spinning things right when you think you’ve got it licked. In the middle of a job- a “simple job”- the intrepid criminals find themselves in possession of unconventional cargo. Said cargo, recently liberated from a Blue Sun transport, has Serentiy scrambling to stay one step ahead of Madame Klef & her high tech kill team. Perpetually short on safe havens and reasonable options, Captain Zoe Washburne will turn to anyone she can to keep her ship, her crew, her family safe.

First of all, yes you read that right. Captain Zoe is still flying, still taking her days one job at a time, still doing whatever it takes to keep Serenity afloat. Since taking command of the ship, she’s had to fill a few positions left open along the way. Lu Bao is her mechanic, taking a pipe wrench to the old girl’s innards as needed. Salo is… okay, so I’m not quite sure what Salo does just yet, but he’s a big fella who knows his way around the med bay and meditates in his downtime. Finally, as sure a hand at the stick as will ever be found, young Emma Washburne keeps her eyes on the Captain’s chair, waiting for her turn at running things (and playing with her dad’s plastic dinosaurs when she should be paying attention to the job).

Despite cries from fans for the crew of Serenity to return to the Black, I think it’s pretty safe to say that it’s not gonna happen. There can’t be any doubt that Firefly’s longevity can be attributed to its crew. The show brought together a cast who was able to take an oddball idea- a “space western”- and make magic happen. Now, near 20 years later, everyone has gone their separate ways, continued with their careers as they may. One will be sorely missed. It’s safe to say that the only way Serenity might take flight again would be with a new crew at the helm.

Y’know what we need? A time jump!

Fast forward twenty years and Josh Lee Gordon has the breathing room that previous Firefly writer Greg Pak really didn’t get. Still a part of the extended family, Serenity is in the capable hands of Zoe, without all of the baggage and stumbling blocks created by trying to cling to a full ensamble of characters Browncoats know & love. In all honesty, if we were going to home in on a character that never really got a chance to shine in the spotlight, someone with a little room to build a bigger story around, it would be Zoe (although I’d love to see more of Book’s story… I never really bought into The Shepherd’s Tale). That gray area, along with the new additions to Serenity’s crew, is giving Gordon the chance to roll up the ol’ shirtsleeves and get to creating, more or less unhampered.

Likewise, the artistic team of Fabiana Mascolo & Lucia Di Giammarino can step out from beneath the pressure of upholding expectations. When it comes to drawing people as well-known as the cast of Firefly, options can be limited. An illustrator would either have to knuckle down and go off of photographic references every step of the way, or swing the other direction and play fast & loose with the details. Mascolo is able to stretch out and create new characters, only held to established people in a handful of cases (the first issue only had Zoe & Inara to keep to, & they were spot on). It does seem like ship design and space action might not be in Mascolo’s comfort zone, but the character work has been outstanding. Coupled with Di Giammarino’s work, fleshing out the ‘Verse with color, the visuals in the first two issues have been really good.

A nod has to go out to the entire team for taking on the challenge of locking down the look & feel in the world of Firefly. French Carlomagno earns my respect for the attention to detail given to character design. It would have been easy to put mechanic Lu Bao in a generic jumpsuit, minus the teddy bears, but more care was taken than that. The result is that the characters, new & old, look like they’ve lived lives and done stuff prior to settling into the pages of a comic book. Letterer Jim Campbell always delivers quality work, and in this case he carries the added responsibility of genuine Chinese characters in the dialogue. Granted, I’m not the least bit fluent in Chinese, but if I had to guess I’d say that the dips into the language are as authentic here as they were in the original show (if you want a chuckle, look up interviews where the cast talks about the fun of being coached through cursing in actual Mandarin).

All of the elements of a comic book have to come together, from script to pencils to colors to lettering. In the case of Firefly: Brand New ‘Verse, it’s all coming along nicely. Two issues in, everyone seems to be working together, settling in and getting comfortable outside of the constraints of Firefly’s established history. I’m actually happy to be able to step away from the old, to get into a new story that honors what’s been done before without having to carry the weight of it all.

Final Score: 10/13

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