Saturday, July 12, 2014

CBR Serenity: Better Days


Our space cowboys are back in all-new adventures!

Want more Jess Whedon cult classics, check these previous reviews!

Comic title: Serenity Vol. 2: Better Days and Other Stories 
Written by Joss Whedon, Jim Krueger, Brett Matthews, Patton Oswalt & Zack Whedon
Illustrated by Will Conrad, Patric Reynolds & Chris Samnee

Published by Dark Horse Comics
From (2008) 2011
Lineup Firefly/Serenity series
Format: Hardcover Trade Paperback collecting the mini-series Better Days #1-3, The Short Story "Serenity: The Other Half" from Myspace Dark Horse Presents #13, Downtime a webcomic from the USA Today website and the One-Shot Serenity: Float Out.

The cult classic TV Show Firefly created by Joss Whedon was a fan favorite... but sadly only ran on Fox for a more 11 episodes of the 14 filmed.

But great success on home release helped bring our space cowboys back in a feature lenght blockbuster movie-sequel, Serenity.

Firefly/Serenity takes place in the 26th century and follows the adventures of a ragtag team of ex-mercenaries and fugitives aboard the Firefly Class 03-K64 spaceship nicknamed "the Serenity".

If like me that wasn't enough Serenity for you, then you'll be glad to know Dark Horse Comics has since then decided to follow upon the film and TV series via several comic book mini-series.

Better Days was the second mini-series which ran for 3 issues in 2008 and was first collected once as a trade paperback in 2008. Since then several more one-shots revolving around the 'Verse were made. All those were collected along a second much better Better Days collection in hardcover and softcover formats in 2011, re-titled Better Days and Other Stories. These short stories were the one-shot Float Out and the short stories The Other Half and Downtime - in addition to the three issues of Better Days.

Once again they were scripted by Joss Whedon himself, with writers Brett Mathews and Zack Whedon. Will Conrad was back as artist of the main series along the likes of Chris Samnee.

This is the perfect book if you wanted some more of the 'Verse, and it's well worth a look if anything since it contains the standalone stories included here as well.

The main attraction of this book is Serenity: Better Days.

As perfect as a place to start if you were still missing Firefly/Serenity. And it's great to get some more from everyone's favorite scifi show/movie! Joss Whedon creation continues on living through the comic book medium!

While Serenity: Those Left Behind was used to bridge the gab between the TV show and film, Better Days serves as a nostalgic entry to reminisce back on the "Better Days" of the crew (hence the title).

Like Those Left Behind, it's another very short 3-issue mini-series. It might be shorter than the usual standard trade paperback storyarc-long minis, at least it's a great way to keep the story focused, as good quality as the show and the script tight enough to have the same feel from its original TV format.

Better Days also takes place prior to the film - obviously - but it also is a prequel to the last comic. As so to keep the tone closer to an episode from the TV show. Set before those events to have all these characters aboard the ship before... things got complicated. 

We find our space-western heroes during a heist. Captain Malcolm Reynolds decided to take the occasion of a live demonstration of a new tactical robotic drone (something we never truly got to see on the show which the comic allows, since the medium is not subject to the same limited budget) to attempt the biggest heist the Serenity ever did. And for once, things went right for our crew!

Mal's rag-tag team were able to pull it off! And now they're rich, filthy rich!

Our heroes decide to offer themselves a little vacation. And spend the next following issues fantasizing what they would do with that much money - as some forgotten foes from their past come back after them...

Finally some good luck for our heroes, for a change!

Since they succeeded this big heist and are now loaded with money, more than they ever hoped, they all talk about what they dream to do following this last time spent together. Wash wishes to own a luxury ship, Jayne hopes to turn into this decorated captain figure looking for adventure and booty to pilage for the rest of his life. We do get one hilarious epic panel with Sepherd Book. Meanwhile Inara gets into some trouble with this terrorist group called Dust Devils...

But crashing that Alliance prototype drone test got them on the wrong side of the wrong people...

Mal was already living out the life he wants - so he's not really bothered by the loss of the money at the end... which sets up the stage for the previous book. 

It's a fun albeit almost pointless little story stretched out as far as possible. Well written by our duoe of Joss Whedon and Brett Matthews, featuring art from Will Conrad.

The same artist from the first mini-series came back. I do find the artwork a bit less consistent here compared to the previous volumes, the faces not as well done. It's fun to get to see stuff the actual show couldn't have afforded such as a robot.

Artist Jo Chen did the original trade and this new one's cover art. Simply stunning. While Adam Hughes illustrated the beautiful covers for the issues which could be joined into a lovely panorama featuring the entire crew.

There's also an afterword by Adam Baldwin. Great stuff.

Next up are the short stories also collected here.

The first one is Serenity: The Other Half. The Other Half was an 8-page story originally from Dark Horse MySpace Presents! It was written by Jim Krueger and also penciled by series artist Will Conrad. It finds our crew running from a Reaver attack, while trying to escort a client in their protection. The Doc', Simon Tam is knocked out and his sister River Tam escapes from him. She finds Alliance agents tracking them - turns out this client wasn't that honest with our crew. She attacks them all by herself.. It's a fun new episode, but probably a bit too short in my taste. The art from Conrad was much better this time around!

Then is the previously uncollected Serenity: Downtime. This 2010 one-shot was part of Dark Horse digital program with USA Today for their website. It's - as  Zack Whedon puts it - a little "slice-of-life, day-on-the-ship story". Our crew gets stranded on a cold icy planet... or do they? It turns out Wash is actually making this on purpose to buy himself some alone time with Zoë. The rest of the crew complains about food to our favorite Captain. Meanwhile Jayne is suffering from burning sensation after a night in a brothel. Some locals go after our heroes, but River stops them in time and kills them all!! I truly adored this little cute story, featuring amazing art by the immensly talented cartoonist Chris Samnee. My favorite of the bunch no doubt!

And finally there's the one-shot Serenity: Float Out! Float Out was originally released as a one shot focusing on the life of "Hoban Washburne", aka "Wash". Serving actually as the sole unique follow-up to the movie but telling us stories taking place prior to the actual TV show, a prequel of sorts as well. This one was written by a personal friend of Joss Whedon, comedian Patton Oswalt who guest-starred on many previous Joss Whedon shows. By his demand, he wanted to write a Serenity comic for a very long time and had already sent him several previous pitches before. With Whedon's input he finally began writing this story Joss finally accepted for the comic. Artist Patric Reynolds specially asked to draw this one out and both Oswalt and Joss Whedon accepted (with Jo Chen back on the cover art once more). The story is set after the epilogue of the Serenity film, SPOILER ALERT Wash is now deceased. We met these three never-seen-previously old friends of Wash. They just acquired a new spaceship they decide to call the "JetWash" in memory of everyone's favorite pilot. They start thinking about our character, reminiscent of old Wash adventures which probably took place just prior to the show, told via flashbacks. It's a pretty strange thing to not have any actual main character from the series used here (besides the cameo at the end). The art style is a bit rough and the story is a bit harder to get into if you're not a die hard fan of the series. I kinda feel this could have been better had Joss Whedon himself written this farwell to Wash instead, it's a bit off-putting to get invested in these new protagonists for the occasion.

And that is it for this 2nd Volume of Serenity!

Overall, it's a pretty decent follow-up to the first mini-series. Joss Whedon is this time joined by some great writers and artists such as Patton Oswalt and his brother and co-writer Zack Whedon, and also Jim Krueger.

This was a fairly decent follow-up to the great bestselling Serenity series from back in 2005.

Don't mind me, it's a great new addition if it could have been a bit better around the edges. If anything it's great to get to revisit once more these great character.

It's always impressive we get to have more stories following this short-lived fantastic 2002 sci-fi TV series Firefly and the 2005 Serenity film! Each time feels like this could be our last chance we got to see all these character.

I wouldn't mind more Serenity in the form of an Anthology collection instead, to provide us with some more little sweet short stories like this set in the 'Verse and interpreted by a wider range of artists and writers for a change.

I give it:
2 / 3 Aaylas!

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