What Did I Learn?: Serenity Tales
Submitted by Delos on May 6, 2009 - 10:00
Serenity Tales Anthology by various artists is… well, it’s not exactly an official anthology that I’m reviewing. It is actually multiple unedited comics unofficially based on the characters and universe of the tv show Firefly and movie Serenity.
It’s a science fiction universe with American old west trappings and a few twists. The Chinese language is used often, especially as slang and the point of view is a little different from what you might expect; the rebels. There was a war between the empire and the rebels and the rebels have lost. The rebels are known as Browncoats and are now supposed to reintegrate themselves back into the day to day existence of the empire, much like Confederate soldiers had to after the Civil War. The characters are trying not only to survive from day to day but also dodge the vicious empire lawmen and criminals that abound. The characters are based on a spaceship called Serenity and they try to earn their keep by delivering goods from place to place. There’s more to know about the setting, of course, but that’s the gist.
There was an official graphic novel that was produced, but the fans (known as Browncoats) have also produced their own material for the enjoyment of other fans. I wanted to see what sorts of comics fans would make all based on the same characters and setting. Would they stay true to the source material or wander widely into their own pipe dreams about the Firefly/Serenity setting? What does an (almost) unedited fan anthology look like?
One of them is a single page entitled What It Means [Written by Annie Kallen and illustrated by Elizabeth Hodgson.] The Browncoats in the Firefly/Serenity universe are loyal to one another and take good care of each other. This comic reflects the source work very well. So far so good.
Another comic was the humorous spoof called Job Interview by David Stroup; where the Captain (Mal) and the ship’s thug (Jayne) interview folks for crew positions on the ship. Apparently, the cast of Cowboy Beebop and the singer Steve Miller aren’t cut out for the gig. ha! This one was also fun and it played off the tropes of the show, if not exactly falling within them.
There was another black and white comic called Dropout by Neal Skorpen. This one reflects that the setting also has some tragic, mournful edges to it. It’s always the little, easily overlooked things that brings us happiness in a very unhappy world. This is a story that would definitely happen in this universe.
The next comic I looked at was The Black by Bill Mudron. It was done in pencil and colored digitally. This resulted in a more subtle, slower read where you let the depth of the comic sink in before reading on. The story is all about personal sacrifice and is more western than science fiction, but it certainly falls within the Firfely universe of stories.
Beginner’s Luck was by Jonathan V. Last (words), Mike Russell (art) and Bill Mudron (colors.) This one has a touch of humor to it, and much like Job Interview, it plays off elements of the show where the Serenity crew has to steal like bandits did in the old west.
Notes on a Fridge [on a spaceship] was written and assembled by Arwen Bijker with some artwork by Ursula Vernon. This was really amusing and a nice, solid step outside the show’s realm. The characters really wouldn’t be that talkative but this plays nicely off the characters instead of playing off the setting.
Diversionary Tactics with words by Mark Bourne and pictures by David Stroup; is another character story. Like Notes on a Fridge, you need to have some idea of the characters to appreciate it. Very well done.
There’s another one hosted, but I’m not a fan of the source ‘twist,’ so to speak. There are links to various webcomics that had Firefly or Serenity references and jokes in them to check out. There’s also some art to enjoy. That covers all the comics posted up to December 2006. (Ed: More have been posted since this review was written.) June 2008 was the last time this site was updated.
What Did I Learn?
Give the fans some credit. I’d like to see more. As an anthology of Firefly material, Serenity Tales is a nice compilation of what the fans appreciate about the show. They like the science fiction, old west tropes and the characters. I learned that the individual tales showed us different facets of the ‘verse and did not require anything more than the shared vision of the show to be coherent. No one really chased themselves into a fevered dream only barely related to the spirit of Serenity and I was very pleased with the variety of comics. Enjoy the fun on Serenity Tales and maybe submit an entry.