Boom! Studios, November 2018
Writer: Greg Pak
“This isn’t what you’re expecting,” said the comic shop owner as he put a newly minted copy of Firefly 1 into a bag. But your reviewer had no expectations and no knowledge whatsoever of Firefly, other than the television series is a cult favourite. Which, as we discovered in our negative review of Doctor Who back in 2016, can lead to hate mail on our Facebook page. It seems ardent fans have no time for the uninitiated who are critical or, worse, totally baffled.
Happily, Firefly 1 is as accessible to a new reader as it will be as familiar to fans. The integration of the Old West into a science fiction context, the underpinning concept of this title, is relaxed and immediately immersive. Much of that success manifestly rests with writer Greg Pak, who launches this new title with apparent effortlessness. (We have reviewed Mr Pak’s work before, when he wrote John Wick for Dynamite Comics and The Totally Awesome Hulk for Marvel Comics.)
The crew of the starship Serenity (an name surely chosen in an exercise in sardonic wit) find themselves getting through space on what must be the future equivalent of the smell of an oily rag. Their ship is worse for wear from the very first page, which features an image of the Serenity’s engine in fire in the depths of space.
After a surprise attack by an obsolete armoured cruiser called a Dreadnaught 44, the crew find themselves crippled and seeking parts and fuel on an inhabited moon called Bethlehem.
The moon features the religious Pilgrims of Moriah, in wagons no less, who suffer raids from some stereotypical Mexican bandits called the Chang Benitez Gang. The crew need money and they take on the paid task of protecting the pilgrims. But something is odd: when the crew’s actions against the raiders are sublethal, the pilgrims are profoundly unhappy (“We hired you for your propensity for violence!”), and the raiders themselves seem to be something other than what they are. The crew might be on the wrong side.
There are some curious parallels to post-Civil War America. Two of the lead characters, the good-hearted but emotionally vaulted Mal, and his lieutenant, the ultra-capable Zoe, are the equivalent of senior Confederate officers, called Independents or “Brown-Coats”. They are wanted as war criminals by the Alliance Army, a futuristic version of the Union. The antebellum heroism of the defeated underdog sits a little uncomfortably with this new reader. “Brown-Coats” is not so far from “Grayback”. Mal is too likeable to be a racist Confederate. But the science fiction setting somehow dilutes it.
There is only so much a writer can do within the parameters of a well-established franchise, but this proves to be no barrier to entertainment in this instance. Firefly 1 is an easy, fun, and creative read, to Mr Pak’s credit.