The Memory's Telling of the Journey is the Worthier Part

"Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale" from Dark Horse Comics

If you are at all a fan of Joss Whedon's ongoing sci-fi story: TV's "Firefly" and its feature film sequel "Serenity", you have been waiting for this comic even if you didn't know it, because you've been waiting for this story for a long time. And it does not disappoint. If you're not familiar with Joss Whedon's 'verse this may very well be the place to start.

Chris Samnee's art is wonderful. Clean-lined and smooth, alive and full of delightful human imperfection. His work retains that feeling of being hand-made (what the art historians call gestural artwork) and the result is great cartooning. But somehow his stuff is also realistic enough that it holds some weight. His people look like their bodies are moving over real terrain and through real air. Samnee (@ChrisSamnee) is one of those fantastically rare visual artists who is perfect for comics: smartly cartoony and fluid with strong recognizable shapes that build volume and give a realitic feel to the entire product.

There really are just a handful of them alive and working in the American comics industy at any given time: Dean Haspiel and Erik Larsen are the only other two that come to my mind.

Samnee's art is never a weak link in making visual narrative art. He was unknown to me when I first saw his name attached to this project, but after I saw the preview images [like the one above] and his work on Marvel's "Thor: The Mighty Avenger" series I had no fear about his art doing justice to the brilliant work of Joss Whedon and the original cast of the TV show that started the franchise in 2oo2.

Just look at the sketches from his blog, taking the actor's face and extrapolating the character's younger self(ves). How cool is that?
Now that I sufficiently sound like I'm obsessed with Chris Samnee and you think he's paying The Long and the Shortbox Of It money for these positive reviews both Josh and I have given him now... let's move on to the story.

To clearly depict a character's emotional journey is a tough act in any narrative art medium. To do so with a character who was already well-established and defined in a completely different art medium by a writer, actor, costumers, and cinematographers? And to then do it IN REVERSE?

That's remarkable.

Just as Samnee had to reverse engineer Ron Glass' face in the character of Shepherd Derrial Book, so too did Zack Whedon (@ZDubDub) find himself challenged with crafting a single linear story (a backwards linear story) that presents us his brother's notes on the character's life-story at all different stages from childhood to the middle-aged man we met in the show's first episode when he said: not the destination, but "how you get there is the worthier part." All this material was probably intended to be revealed bit by bit over two seasons of television. Remarkably, the resulting story is smart, unnerving, and emotional. Especially on the re-read.

"The Shepherd's Tale" is an exceptionally well-written and well-drawn character biography in reverse. Buy it. Read it. Read it again.

If you've been wondering about whether these Serenity comics from Dark Horse are worth your time, this is one you should have no doubt about. If you were a fan of Joss Whedon's original TV series or the movie sequel you should not hesitate to buy and read this graphic novella. Even if you've never heard of the stuff, you can find something you will love here.

Go get one at your local comic shop! And try to enjoy your trip there because life is wonderful but will be over all too quickly and "how you get there is the worthier part"!

~ @JonGorga

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