November 5, 2010

Review: Serenity, The Shepherd's Tale

The mysterious Derrial Book. This Firefly and Serenity fan never thought we would get to learn about his unexplained past. The new book Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale, outlined by Joss Whedon, written by Zack Whedon, and drawn by Chris Samnee, finally writes in the lines on that missing page.

If you don’t know what Firefly is, find the DVDs and buy or borrow them as soon as you can. For the sake of continuing the review though, Firefly was a western set in space. The show was created by Joss Whedon, and it centers around one tough spaceship, Serenity, and her crew. The crew and passengers are from all manner of backgrounds and sometimes – most of the time – participate in less than legal activity. They were frequently on the run from the big bad government known as the Alliance. The show was cancelled after just one season, and though a two hour movie was made after, many questions were left unanswered. One of the biggest holes was the background of the priest Shepherd Book.

Throughout the series, writers dropped hints that revealed there was more to Shepherd Book than his priest’s collar and morals. He had knowledge about firearms, nefarious activities, and obviously held a high priority status with the Alliance. At some point though, he turned to religion and left that past behind. He never volunteers information and seems secretive about it. It led the audience to believe that it wasn’t a pleasant history, maybe even shameful.

I won’t give away specifics, but I will say that the book surprised and satisfied me. So many pieces of Book’s on screen character clicked into place after I turned the last page. The book starts with a scene from the movie Serenity and works backward through time. We start with small jumps, back on board Serenity and when Book first boarded the ship. Then we go farther, all the way back to his childhood. Each jump back reveals a different piece of the puzzle that has come together to form the Book we know from the series. You can clearly see where each part fits. Don’t go in expecting a full and complete backstory; there aren’t enough pages. You will, however, get an incredibly clear outline. Enough that your mind can fill the pieces in.

The story had a lot of expectations to live up to. For me and many other fans, this piece of the story was a big one. Zack Whedon mentions the pressure of writing this tale in afterword. I believe that he did the character justice. He also manages to do so in an unpredictable fashion. With just the turn of a page, you learn so much so fast that I recommend reading it again immediately after you finish it the first time.

You don’t have to be a fan of the series or know the Firefly ‘verse to enjoy the tale. It is a strong story about one man that could stand independently. It might even inspire you to watch the series. But. If you are already a fan, you will see more. You’ll especially enjoy finding small details in the illustrations, and some of the revelations will really knock you back.

Read a preview from Dark Horse here.


  1. As a recent convert to the Cult of Firefly I am glad there are comic books to augment the small number of episodes and film that we have to enjoy. I have been jealously rationing my episodes until I can't stand not to watch them anymore. 2 more, then the movie and then the comics. I won't get the itch for new Firefly material until January at the least. How does one deal with that?

  2. I really appreciate you sharing your spoiler-free review of this work! I'm very excited to see some of Whedon's own backstory -- and have ordered my own copy at my FLGS :-) I didn't even know this was coming out 'til I read your review!

    So far as having to ration your Firefly, Kal, I can relate. I think any fan can! The only helpful advice I can think of would be to pick up a copy of the Serenity RPG and get yourself a gaming group!

  3. Kal - Well done on the rationing. I am far too greedy and I think I devoured them in a couple of days.

    Every time I watch it, I am reminded how we were robbed of so much. The lost opportunities are painful. Enjoy finishing the series!

    The R.P. - I am so glad they decided to write Book's story. I really thought it would remain a mystery. Of all the Firefly/Serenity comics they have released, this one is by far my favorite. And not necessarily because Book was my favorite character (he wasn't). I hope you enjoy it!

    And great tip on starting a Serenity RPG group!

  4. One of the best characters from the series Firefly and we barely know anything about him. This comic has a unique way of telling his story that really opens your eyes to what made Shepherd Book the way he is.

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