Monday, March 24, 2008

Serenity: Better Days #1

Non-Buffyverse Related

What Is It?: Serenity: Better Days #1 (Written by Brett Matthews and Joss Whedon)

Timing: After "Firefly," before "Those Left Behind."

REVIEW: Serenity- Those Left Behind was a good idea. It bridged the series and the movie, filling in a gap that really did need filling in. It was a bit bland, though, and came off as a mediocre 'lost episode' of "Firefly," but it was definitely worth a read. So, when this comic was announced, I figured it would also take place between the series and the movie, but also AFTER "Those Left Behind," as that ground has already been covered.
However, it wasn't. This comic is set between the series and "Those Left Behind." Why? This what I think:
1. Joss doesn't want to write a Serenity comic that takes place after the movie, because he still has hope that a sequel will be green lit. Fair enough, but that leads to boring comics that have little to no impact on the story line or the characters. We get that Mal and Inara secretly love/lust after each other, but how long can that be written about? We get the whole Simon/Kaylee cute flirtation hesitant thing, but come on. It's been going on forever. How long will the same plot threads be stamped over?

2. Joss doesn't want to write a Serenity comic that takes place after "Those Left Behind" because he won't have Inara and Book to play with. Well, sorry, but that's just a bad excuse. As interesting as those characters are, this SHOULD have been set after "Those Left Behind."
As far as the substance of the actual comic, it's average. The whole idea of the gang actually carrying out a successful heist is interesting, and Inara's little dilemma with her client was entertaining. However, none of this really seemed to stick with me. Not to mention, the 'heist' scene (with Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Simon being chased and then the stuff that follows) was one of the most awkward comic scenes I've read. I'm disappointed, because the first few pages read really well, but things just teetered off towards the end. Unlike the new Buffy and Angel comics, "Serenity: Better Days" didn't do it for me.
All in all, I'm left with a feeling of "eh, so what?" When Joss is ready to take these characters on a journey that actually has an impact on them and the 'verse, I'll be happy, but until then, it looks like I'll be bored.
Art: Insides, good. A bit boring, but good enough. The cover, though? Horrible. Horrible in an incredibly creepy way. The bodies are very comicy, but the faces are photo-realistic. However, all of the faces are also twisted into creepy, pervy smiles. No, not "I'm happy, the heist went well," but nasty looking smiles. Zoe looks like she's a smirking supervillain and Mal looks like he's about to sneak into little Jimmy's room. And Wash? Wash looks like Wash.

Rating: 4/10

Non-Buffyverse Related

11 comments:

Thomas said...

I couldn't agree more. I think this is the first comic that Joss Whedon was involved in making, that I do not like.

Loki said...

I'll read this review more in depth this weekend when I have more time, but dude, I fundamentally disagree with your premise for not being happy with this. You can't penalize a story for WHEN IT'S SET. You can critizise the makers for writing this story in the first place, but when you review the comic, the actual story that's been produced is your subject matter - not the metaphysical whys and hows of how this particular story is the one to be told. You're free to mention that in your review, of course, but it shouldn't hold any effect on your opinion of the actual story that's told.

It's also not quite fair to put yourself in the chair of Joss and decide where there are holes to fill. My argument above would still be valid if you had a more consistantly objective argument and disliked everything that didn't further the story, but at least you'd have a somewhat more objective standpoint. That is, if your stance was "everything new should take plae AFTER the movie, because that's where the story can be furthered", fair enough. Doesn't have anything to do with this story's merit in and of itself, but at least it's a logical opinion in its own right. But critizising Joss for writing BD but not TLB is, to me, rather arrogant. If he thinks there's a hole to be filled and a story to be told in this space of the continuity, how can you say there isn't and at the same time agree on TLB? TLB didn't further the story either. It fleshed out the background of things we already knew. So will this comic. It probably won't flesh out any one or two specific things mentioned or implied in the movie, but it WILL flesh out the characters in it, their backstory, and what brought them to the point where the movie takes place. Which is inherently no different from what TLB did.


Totally independently from these two points, I'd like to add that this issue pleasantly surprised me. I was not overexultantly happy with TL, and had meagre hopes. So far, I'm very, very positively surprised and looking greatly forward to the rest of this story.

PatShand said...

Loki said... "I'll read this review more in depth this weekend when I have more time, but dude, I fundamentally disagree with your premise for not being happy with this. You can't penalize a story for WHEN IT'S SET."

The timing of the story isn't my entire premise of being unhappy with it, it's simly one of the many reasons.

Loki said... "You can critizise the makers for writing this story in the first place, but when you review the comic, the actual story that's been produced is your subject matter - not the metaphysical whys and hows of how this particular story is the one to be told. You're free to mention that in your review, of course, but it shouldn't hold any effect on your opinion of the actual story that's told."

Well, that's kinda what I was doing. My reviews are very free form, and my argument against the timing chosen IS a criticism that the writers made this story in the first place. The only reason my opinion is influenced by the timing is that, because of the timing, the story seems to be hammering a nail that's already been hammered in.

Loki said... "It's also not quite fair to put yourself in the chair of Joss and decide where there are holes to fill. My argument above would still be valid if you had a more consistantly objective argument and disliked everything that didn't further the story, but at least you'd have a somewhat more objective standpoint. That is, if your stance was "everything new should take plae AFTER the movie, because that's where the story can be furthered", fair enough. Doesn't have anything to do with this story's merit in and of itself, but at least it's a logical opinion in its own right. But critizising Joss for writing BD but not TLB is, to me, rather arrogant."

Not putting myself in Joss's chair or being arrogant, just stating my opinion. This story, with the millionth Inara yearns for Mal, Kaylee yearns for Simon scenes... reeks of not having anything extra to say.

Loki said... "If he thinks there's a hole to be filled and a story to be told in this space of the continuity, how can you say there isn't and at the same time agree on TLB? TLB didn't further the story either. It fleshed out the background of things we already knew. So will this comic. It probably won't flesh out any one or two specific things mentioned or implied in the movie, but it WILL flesh out the characters in it, their backstory, and what brought them to the point where the movie takes place. Which is inherently no different from what TLB did."

As you've seen in my review for TLB, I don't think that TLB did a GOOD job at filling in the space. However, did the space need to be filled in? Yeah. Inara and Book were there for the series finale, but gone from the ship in "Serenity." I wasn't saying "TLB was amazing because it cleared up some stuff that happened between Firefly ad Serenity," I simply stated thaat "it bridged the series and the movie, filling in a gap that really did need filling in." I didn't say that it did a bad job because (a) this isn't the review for TLB and (b) I already covered that in the review for TLB. My point with that small part of my review was only that there were things that needed a bit of explanation between "Firefly" and "Serenity." However, there weren't really any burning questions I had about what happened between "Firefly" and "Those Left Behind."

Loki said... "Totally independently from these two points, I'd like to add that this issue pleasantly surprised me. I was not overexultantly happy with TL, and had meagre hopes. So far, I'm very, very positively surprised and looking greatly forward to the rest of this story."

I'd like to talk to your further about this issue. I was happy with the first few pages--I beleive we talked about how good the preview looked--but the rest was a major disappointment for me. I'd especially like to get your take on the scene where Mal hops from the 'car' and Kaylee makes the 'big steal.'

Loki said...

I will give you those this weekend. Really busy this week, you see. ;)

And I think I might have been a tiny bit rash in my previous comment, not having read your review well enough.

One thing, by the way, since I thought of it immediately - the Kaylee-pining-for-Simon-scene was a wonderful insight in the relationship she and Wash had, a character-pairing we almost never saw anything of in Firefly or Serenity. I loved that character moment, not because of what they talked about, but because of how they talked with each other. I thought that scene alone warranted this issue as a fleshing out of the two characters relationships and backstories.

Loki said...

There, I read your review more carefully. Still don't really agree. Is this mind-blowingly awesome of epic proporitions? Of course not. That'd not be Firefly.


Firefly is a story of a ragged pesudo-family of people making a living on the fringes of society (in space), and it's not about the huge big dramatical stuff or the gigantic battle-scenes and epicness of Buffy/Angel. A first issue of any story of these people that impressed and astonished like an issue of Buffy or Angel could do would in its very nature feel very wrong to me. These aren't superheroes. Their stories does not begin with Los Angeles being sucked into Hell or being attacked by shapeshifting Japanese vampires.

That's not to say it can't have big, impressive moments. But they have to be earned in this setting. You get to them. You don't start out with thim. This is a first issue of three, and serves to set up a situation in where we could get such moments. I very, very much feel like it does that.

As for the flight/fight-scene, I loved it. Or, well, maybe not loved it, but certainly liked it a lot. My one complaint is that Kaylee being lowered down on the attack-drone-thingie seemed a little unrealisticly easy, but that's one hickup in a series of pages I really liked.

Further, the issue had a wonderfully sweet conversation between Wash and Kaylee, a character-pairing and thus a relationship we almost never saw on the show, which was of great interest to me.

You critizise this for being a new episode of Firefly and nothing else. I honestly don't see what else it should be. A new episode of Firefly is what the audience wants. It's certainly what I want. This seems to be giving me that - and a rather original and interesting one to boot, which is more than can be said for TLB. Was this a top-scale comic of pure awesomeness? Heck no. But to me it was good, solidly so. I don't usually grade comics, and certainly not single issues of a greater story I've not read all of yet, but for now I'd put this firmly on the 7. Might even stretch higher. And the following issues need to thoroughly disappoint if I'm to lower this issue's rating to a 6.

PatShand said...

I'm not criticizing it for just being another episode of "Firefly," I'm criticizing it because it--for me--was just all types of boring, covering new ground. I'd love a new episode of "Firefly," if it were as good as even a 'good' episode of the series. But, to me, it's really just not. In no way do I expect Angel or Buffy-scale antics. As you said... that ain't "Firefly." But I would like it if there were more new ideas.

For instance, I thought the *idea* behind the series was cool. A heist gone well. Thing is, the whole way it was executed--pretty much a good chunk of the issue--couldn't have worked less for me. The artist is good with capturing likenesses, but the action of it all seems very hard to follow.

What can I say though? This just didn't do it for me. Wasn't horrid at all, but not Joss's best work by a nautical mile.

Loki said...

Oh, not Joss' best work by a long-shot, agreed. I guess we just have different expectations to this, or maybe different criteria to judge it by. 'Cause I'm looking a lot forward to the next two issues, actually. As you say, I find the premise to be interesting.

Matt said...

I think it would have been a bad idea to set the book between "Those Left Behind" and Serenity. It makes a certain kind of sense that some time would have passed between the departure of Inara and the start of the film, but I think tossing a grand adventure in between just because does little more than muddle the history.

Honestly, if Whedon isn't ready to follow up Serenity with something that's NOT a second feature film, that's his prerogative. And given that, it makes sense that he has a fairly limited time-table in which to set the thing.

And not that I don't WANT to see the story continued, but that was never what "Better Days" was about. It was meant to A.) Follow up the massively successful first mini-series, and B.) tell an adventure during a time in which the crew was all alive, together, and (relatively) happy - it's set during "Better Days," and that's kind of the point.

-M

Loki said...

Agreed, to all points.

PatShand said...

I agree, that is the point, and... again... I wasn't taking away points because it was set between "Firefly" and "Those Left Behind," I was taking away points because I didn't feel like any new character ground was being covered at all. You're welcome to disagree, of course, but I just don't think this issue did anything but hammer at nails that've already been hammered all the way in with the romantic character arcs.

Quique12 said...

With respect to the art, I thought the art here was better than the art in the Buffy comics. Although I agree with you that the cover is creepy (although Zoe looks good in the cover, Mal looks weird and Wash looks strange too).
I thought the story was good enough, it is hard to judge an issue just on the issue without seeing the next 2 (as it is a 3-part thing). I agree with your complaints about Inara/Mal and Kaylee/Simon. However I think that the story is better if it before Those Left Behind because we can have all the characters and that's cool.