Pullbox Reviews – Firefly: the Outlaw Ma Reynolds… Still Flying, Still Mighty

BOOM! Studios, in partnership with 20th Century Fox, today revealed a first look at FIREFLY: THE OUTLAW MA REYNOLDS, an oversized special one-shot written by acclaimed writer Greg Pak (Ronin Island), artists Davide Gianfelice (Nightwing) and George Kambadais (The Black Ghost), colorist Joana Lafuente (Jim Henson’s Labyrinth), and letterer Jim Campbell (Abbott, Coda), about the singular person who shaped Captain Malcolm Reynolds into the fearsome Browncoat and fearless leader he is today—his mother.

Captain Malcolm Reynolds—thief, smuggler, resistance fighter, and now captain of a crew of outcasts all the way on the farthest reaches of the ‘verse—wasn’t born an outlaw but he comes by it honestly. Turns out, his mother, the infamous Maude Reynolds, is at the top of the Alliance’s Most Wanted, and if Mal doesn’t get to her first, the Alliance will! Kicking off a new year of Firefly, discover the secret history of Mal and his mother, what that will mean for the rest of the ‘verse…and a new brewing war to end all wars.

After narrowly avoiding disaster in a second Unification War, the Browncoats have scattered into the Black. Staying behind to cover their withdrawal (it ain’t a retreat if it’s done all clever like), Captain Malcolm Reynolds cut a deal in order to avoid doing some hard time. Now acting as a duly deputized agent of the Alliance (HA!), Mal has been tasked with tracking down, apprehending, and bringing to justice the leader of the new Browncoat uprising, one Maude Reynolds.

Mal just calls her Ma.

Family, am I right?

The new Firefly stories coming from Boom! Studios might take a little getting used to, especially fans who’ve been onboard for a while. They aren’t following the exact timeline as it was established in the all-too short lived television series, and they’re taking a few liberties by way of character development. Basically, the creative minds behind the comic series have stretched the period between the end of the show and the movie Serenity, allowing more time to be spent with the crew before the untimely demise of (spoilers… pfft, like you haven’t watched the movie already) Book & Wash.

The decision is giving writer Greg Pak the chance to play around a bit, fleshing out a couple of the characters who’d been short-changed & inserting some new folk into the ‘Verse. In the case of this story, readers are getting a bit of a peek into Mal’s past as the issue zeroes in on Maude “Ma” Reynolds, previously introduced in the regular title’s run. Pak takes a dive into her life as the widowed wife of a cattle rancher on the planet Shadow, raising a son and bucking a system that seems to be set against her. Ma Reynolds is a hardened frontier woman, sparse with praise for her boy but quick with a slap when she feels that his attention is lagging. Honestly, as she’s shown here, there isn’t much to like about ol’ Maude but as with all who do not bend, you do have to give her a grudging bit of respect.

Thankfully, Pak seems to have a pretty solid handle on the more established characters of Firefly. Here in particular, Mal’s personality has that roguish, wry wit that made him- and actor Nathan Fillion- a fan favorite. It’s a fine line to walk, as a writer who’s been handed the keys to an established title with a loyal fan following. Pak acknowledges what it is about these characters that makes them resonate with those fans, the traits that keep them popular and in demand, while moving the characters forward and adding to their stories. This is, without a doubt, Mal… however, Pak isn’t keeping himself restricted exclusively to the figure we were introduced to in the show.

Also adding onto what’s gone before, Davide Gianfelice & George Kambadais are doing their share of ‘Verse building. The visuals on The Outlaw Ma Reynolds more than do the job in regards to character building and environment. If I’m being totally honest, I like their style here more than I do on the regular title. The characters are a little more consistent in their design, less stylized and a little easier to digest. Don’t get me wrong, the visual team on the main title do a good job for the most part, but it doesn’t really appeal to me personally. The collective work of Gianfelice & Kambadais, with Joana LaFuente on colors & Jim Campbell on letters, give me a little more to work with. The impression I get is that there isn’t as much effort spent trying to force a resemblance to the series’ actors. That could very well be all in my head, but in the end the visual style here works a little better for me and doesn’t take me out of the story at all.

Whatever it is, whoever’s behind the work on the page, it’s all coming together to bring me more Firefly and I’m gonna call that a win. Remember that the TV show Firefly has been off the air since 2003, and even then only aired 13 episodes before a very untimely cancellation (thanks again, Fox). In all that time, Firefly has been in demand by and continues to hold the attention of fans, first as a title with Dark Horse and now Boom! Studios.

Do the job… Keep flying!

Final Score: 9

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