Comic Book Review: ‘Serenity: Float Out’

Writer: Patton Oswalt
Penciler: Patric Reynolds

It’s been two years since the last Serenity comic, the Firefly-era Better Days, and five years since Serenity itself. And yet the fanbase just seems to keep growing, the love for these characters and their world deepening with each passing year. So, I mean, Dark Horse could put out a comic that consists entirely of Simon and River grocery shopping, and people would buy it. Actually…why haven’t they done that yet? I would definitely buy that. (As someone joked a few years back, I believe on Whedonesque, if Universal didn’t want to put up the money for a full-on, big-budget Serenity sequel, they could just give Joss Whedon a few g’s and let him film the characters peeling potatoes. It would still be better than anything else at your local multiplex.)

Or they could release a comic book in which characters we’ve never met before talk about how awesome Wash was, with hardly any actual Wash appearances. Which is exactly what they’ve done with Serenity: Float Out. But wait! It’s written by amazing comedian and certifiable dork Patton Oswalt, who appeared in two episodes of Whedon’s Dollhouse. And hey! Instead of the serviceable, likeness-heavy art from previous Serenity comics, Patric Reynolds’ work is semi-artsy, and pretty damn good to boot. Plus his last name is Reynolds! Unfortunately, as much as I would like to get excited–and was excited–the result is a bit of a disappointment.

As nice as the premise is, it’s also what holds the book back. Several weeks/months following Wash’s tragic death, three of his old crewmates get together to eulogize our unlikely hero, as well as to christen a new Firefly in his honor, the Jetwash. Maybe it’s just how the premise is executed: we don’t know these three gentlemen, and the few opening pages spent on some sort of conflict between them, despite setting the mood, are largely dead air. And the flashbacks to Wash’s derring-do, while mostly effective, are curiously choppy and unexciting. It doesn’t seem as if there’s enough input from Wash himself. Looking back over the flashbacks, Wash definitely gets in some jokes and one-liners, but at times they still read a little flat. Though of course, there’s nothing about  “Theodore Rex, Jurassic therapist!” that isn’t made of win.

The most effective part of the book, and the one that cuts closest to the heart of why these characters (and us) miss Wash so much, is, unsurprisingly, a special guest appearance from one of Serenity‘s crew. I won’t say anything more except that there is definitely a surprise involved, and that this surprise may possibly have caused me to get a little verklempt. Whether this leads to more stories set after the film, or if it’s merely a coda to the beloved series, it works.

At the back of the book, in addition to Reynolds sketches and a letters column fielding queries dating back to Better Days (seriously, what with this and the insanely out-of-date Buffy lettercol, I don’t think editor Scott Allie knows how in the hell to run these things), there are two Augie, the Littlest Reaver strips by Mike Russell, who runs the apparently on-hold Serenity Tales website. They are hilariously morbid bite-sized pieces of genius which would easily steal the book were it not for that special guest star. I ache for more. Oh well, for now I’ll just settle for his other death-filled funny.

Speaking of more, Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale is out this November. It’s a stand-alone graphic novel plotted by Joss and written by his brother Zack, which will finally explain Shepherd Book’s backstory. My guess: he was an Operative. We shall see. Check out an interview with Zack, and some of Chris Samnee’s beautiful sketches, over here. I’d place good money on The Shepherd’s Tale being a more satisfying product than Float Out, and I hope the brothers Whedon prove me right.

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