New graphic novel provides ‘Serenity’Written by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The hand of director Joss Whedon writes, and having writ, produces a moving little graphic novel. “Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale” should appeal to readers of many stripes on your holiday list this year.
Whedon’s ill-fated 14-episode 2002 TV series “Firefly” is the show that refuses to die. Since its demise, it’s continued in not only the 2005 feature film “Serenity” but also in infrequent comic book projects. “The Shepherd’s Tale,” a just-released hardcover graphic novel from Dark Horse, shines a light on one of Whedon’s most enigmatic “Firefly” characters, Shepherd Book. Played in the show and film by actor Ron Glass (of “Barney Miller” fame), Book was an anomaly: a holy man who hinted at a violent, militaristic past and who fell in with a roving band of outer space smugglers and cutthroats. “The Shepherd’s Tale” finally reveals his life story.
Told with a unique reverse-time narrative, the graphic novel winds its way backward through Book’s journey to find himself and his stumbles along the way. Whedon, with his brother Zack and artist Chris Samnee, paints a picture of a man who somehow maintains forward momentum but who’s desperately searching for his path. Too often, the revelation of a popular fictional character’s past is disappointing, never quite living up to a fan’s imagination or a writer’s promise, but this book succeeds with an almost quiet grace and a heartfelt portrait of Derrial Book.
Don’t be too afraid of gifting “The Shepherd’s Tale” to someone who may not be familiar with “Firefly” or “Serenity”; its story is one of universal truths that should draw a reader in. It’s worth it for the Whedons’ smooth dialogue and Samnee’s clear yet poignant art alone. It may also encourage a science fiction fan to seek out the DVDs of the original show and film — definitely not a bad thing.