Advance Review – Firefly Vol 1 TP (BOOM! Studios)

Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Writer: Greg Pak
Artwork: Dan McDaid, Anthony Fowler Jr, Tim Lattie
Colours: Marcelo Costa
Lettering: Jim Campbell
Release Date: 24th April 2019

Any time there’s a conversation about television shows that were tragically cut down before their time, you can bet that Firefly is going to be included.  And while we were only blessed with fourteen episodes (and a movie) of Joss Whedon’s sci-fi Western, it’s a real testament to the strength of the writing, the characters and the performances that it still manages to command such a loyal, passionate fan base over sixteen(!) years on.

Thankfully, as we’ve seen previously with the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Sons of Anarchy, the world of comic books is always ready to step in and fill the blanks, providing fresh stories and additional context to the small screen source material, and giving creative teams the opportunity to have fun with some of our (and their) favourite characters.  And that’s exactly what we have here in the first volume of BOOM! Studios’ new ongoing Firefly series, a series which promises to tell the definitive story of the Unification War – the intergalactic civil war which tore friends and families apart – once and for all.

What really shines through here from the very first page is the sheer authenticity of it all.  Writer Greg Pak nails the dialogue and distinctive dry humour of the series perfectly, with series artist Dan McDaid delivering instantly recognisable characters without having to resort to uncanny valley photo referencing.  It’s clear the affection that the creative team has for the source material, and fans of the series will find lots to like here as they are reintroduced to Captain Mal and his crew.

The story is straightforward Western fare for the most part, with the Firefly crew forced to ditch on a desert planet and do a little hustling in order to try and raise the credits needed to repair their ship.  They end up escorting a religious convoy on a pilgrimage to protect them from bandits, but it doesn’t take long before Mal’s past catches up on them and mayhem ensues.

As I mentioned, McDaid does an impressive job delivering an authentic Firefly experience, but does so without sacrificing any of his established style.  Everything’s more than little rough around the edges, with a heavy use of shadow and some striking colour work from Marcelo Costa, including – somewhat fittingly – a liberal use of browns and dark reds throughout.  The action scenes flow well enough, but it’s the character expressions and reaction shots that really help to sell the visual package, perfectly underscoring Pak’s chuckle-worthy dialogue.

The banter perhaps gets a little too silly at times for my tastes, but even that feels somewhat authentic for a series which took great pleasure in subverting some of the more traditionally dour and joyless Western and sci-fi tropes.  Even with armed soldiers bearing down on them and bodies dropping all around, Mal still has time for a witty quip or one-liner, and while these don’t detract from the stakes too much, they go a long way towards ensuring the book retains a sense of fun and energy throughout.

As graphic novels go this very much the beginning of a story rather than a self-contained tale, with a tantalising, ever-so-slightly frustrating cliffhanger on the final page of the fourth issue.  But as a faithful, action-packed reintroduction to these characters, Firefly delivers on all counts.  A lot of comic books based on established TV properties can end up feeling like self-indulgent fan fiction at times, but this feels very much like a perfect continuation of the story, and I absolutely can’t wait to see what Pak, McDaid and the rest of the creative team come up with in volume two.

Rating: 4/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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