Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Whedonversity, our column here on Multiversity here we look at the books following the extended stories from all of our favorite Joss Whedon shows (so, everything but SHIELD). Every month, Scotland’s own Colin Bell and I will sit down to discuss the books, what we like, what we don’t like, extended continuity and all that jazz, and today it’s a double-whammy of last week’s “Serenity” #3 and the debut of “Angel and Faith” Season 10 #1!
As a note, spoilers abound — both for this issue, the show and the previous comic seasons. Hopefully you’ve had enough time to go to the store and pick up your own copy of the book (and if you haven’t, get going!).
Written by Zack Whedon
Illustrated by Georges Jeanty
Serenity is found! The crew, including Jayne and a certain bounty hunter, get themselves ready to restock and retrieve when River wakes from her self-induced sleep and gives Mal a mandate . . . which will eventually—hopefully—maybe—lead to Zoe’s rescue!
* Buffy’s Season 8 and 9 artist conquers the galaxy!
* Zack Whedon returns to Serenity!
* Executive producer Joss Whedon!
Matthew: We’re back once again, already at the third issue of “Serenity!” Time flies when you’re enjoying soup.
So, Colin. This is the halfway point. Jubal is on the ship. We’re in River’s head. What are your thoughts?
Colin: I think we got the look inside River’s head we were hoping for last time round!
Matthew: Mmm… did we? I kinda remember saying I’d like a whole issue.
Colin: Well, when you put it that way… no we didn’t. I enjoyed what we got though! And you know how I was down on the whole “let’s see what more secrets River has” aspect of things? The revelation that we’re going to get an army of ass-kicking lobotomy patients totally changed my mind.
It’s important to note that I am fickle, and easily won over by cool ideas.
Matthew: Whereas I am easy to initially please, but then harder to keep appeased, I think. Because at this point in the series, I feel like perhaps more should’ve happened — or, at the very least, perhaps things are being rushed? I am willing to relent to the fact that I like things taking their time, but with the way we speed through Jubal’s interaction in the ship and any possible danger that could come from it, I’m kind of disappointed. I don’t think it should’ve gone on too long, but he got his ass handed to him pretty quickly so we could move onto the next thing.
If we go back to the soup analogy that we’ve used for two write-ups now (readers, see: previous write-ups), it’s like being given a delicious soup and then having it taken away and ushered into the main course before I’m ready.
I would also point out that, once again, we have material that seems a bit too much for a mini. If this comic were a discount warehouse, it’d be for spinning plates.
I don’t know, man. I like taking things slow. I’m an old fashioned kinda guy.
Colin: I’m with you on some of that. The dispatching of Jubal felt quite contrived, although it’s always nice to see Kaylee clock people with wrenches. But watching him cooly dispatch the whole crew – the scene with Bea was milked for maximum tension and fantastic – only to turn around and say “oh yeah, didn’t you have that other crew member KLANG” just felt like the character was reduced to a forgetful idiot for a moment, solely so Kaylee could get the jump on him and we could – as you say – move on to the next thing. It was bizarre to go from some of the best moment in the series to date to some of the clumsiest in a matter of pages.
Matthew: You did bring up some I wanted to talk about, though. Three issues in, how do you feel about Bea. If I’m being completely honest with you, I have to say that I’m not a fan. I think Bea was a really cool addition at first, especially as a plot device to get back into the life and times of the gang… but, like, at this point what is the point of her character? She’s not really done a whole lot other than ask Mal for help that he’s not willing to give, and now she can’t leave so we’re all sort of stuck with her — and I kind of hate that I feel like that, because with Whedon, who is known for having great female characters, it feels so odd to have a brand new female character that is otherwise a mainstay feeling… just, so out of place? I guess?Continued below
There’s more coming with her, I’m sure. But as of right now Bea feels very out of place for me.
Colin: Bea’s very much a casualty of what you’ve been saying all along and I’m only just starting to come round to. There’s too much going on. There’s a huge cast to pay lip-service to every issue, lest fans complain that their favourite character is getting short changed; there’s Zoe in prison, there’s Jubal, there’s the baby, there’s an army of Rivers to spring, now there’s the Operative in the mix… I can’t complain – I’m rooting so hard for this comic to be great, and we’re being given everything we could possibly want from a further cinematic instalment of Serenity. But there’s the rub – this would make a great movie, or TV series, but as a comic it’s just bursting apart at the seams, sadly to its detriment.
Matthew: I obviously agree very much with that. And the thing is, if this weren’t a mini, I wouldn’t complain at all! This is doing an amazing job at planting seeds that feel like, over a 30-issue season (like the other Whedon books), would make a great long-form story. And I know that going into a review and saying “WELL THIS IS HOW I WOULD DO IT” is the least professional thing a reviewer could ever do, and I’ll admit to that, but I feel like every issue I’m sort of on pins and needles hoping for the announcement that after a short break there will be more, you know?
The Operative joining the series is a big part of that as well. I had such a love/hate relationship with that scene: LOVE seeing that storyline coming back, HATE that everything is being thrown in seemingly in a frenzy. Like, in an effort to make this the most appealing Firefly comic book ever, we’re just getting everything ever. What’s next? The return of Saffron? Or the Hands of Blue?
So, at issue 1, it was all: “Wow! What fan service!” And now at issue 3, it’s “Oh. Such fan service.” It’s a strange turn around.
Colin: We are a contrary bunch. But I must point out that the Hands of Blue clearly died in Those Left Behind.
While we’re griping I might as well say I was a little bummed to see Mal’s face change appearance a couple of times on the same page…
Matthew: To keep our contrarian nature going, I’m actually going to go ahead and disagree with you and say that I still quite like Georges Jeanty on this series. In fact, he’s definitely my favorite part of the book now. I think where everything else about the book has begun to feel slightly uneven or maybe rushed, Jeanty keeps a very nice steady hand to the whole series. I think he still does a great job with the characters, and with a last page like this issue provides, I think he did a great job of making it cinematic, a bit tense and then ultimately quite satisfying.
And, I mean, I guess I can see what you mean. In terms of uneven art, it was definitely prevalent in “Buffy” after 60 issues. But stuff like that to me doesn’t feel artistically uneven so much as it does facial features contorting based on mood and reception of events, you know? The same way my face scrunches up at certain things, or yours. That’s what I assumed until you said something, anyway.
Colin: It’s a little more than face-scrunching. The page in question is with Mal and Inara in Serenity’s cockpit and I could swear Mal’s nose actually changes from panel to panel. This page was also notable because it really felt like an abrupt cut to it for some reason – a scene change like this would work in a TV show because we’d have time to see it and breathe it in, but here the transition from the previous scene to this one felt really harsh. Again, the limitation of trying to cram a lot into one comic.
Matthew: Sure, and I think of all the things we like and dislike about “Serenity” here, that the book is trying to do too much at once seems to be the only place where we readily agree.Continued below
So, as we head towards the end of this conversation, lets get to the big reveal of the issue in which everyone’s favorite 2013 BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actor in a Leading Role appears. Colin, what did you think of Mal going to the Operative for help?
Colin: I refer you to Exhibit A – the end of the movie Serenity:
Mal: “Like to kill you myself, I see you again.”
The Operative: “You won’t.”
THIS IS IN TOTAL CONTRADICTION OF ESTABLISHED CANON.
I jest of course. I’m always happy to have more Operative, even if I’m not sure why his knowledge of the Alliance outstrips Early’s, who they already have in tow. I always took Early to be a former Operative but now I’m not sure where I got that from? That said, it’s going to be interesting to see how the crew react to having him around given that he’s pretty much responsible for the death of Book and Wash.
Matthew: Well I for one was both excited and disappointed, I’ll say that. I am nothing if not consistent!
I was excited because I loved the Operative’s character. Who didn’t? How could you not? An eloquent, smart and sharp villain? The whole lack of morals thing isn’t great, I’ll give you, but he’s still a pretty great character.
I was disappointed, though, because it felt a little forced — sort of like, “Oh, hey, remember him? Yeah you do! Check out this LAST PAGE REVEAL!” As much as everything in this comic has felt like Serenity 2 or some variation of that, I guess I just doubt that if this were a film that the Operative would come back like this. You’d imagine he’d come back for the third film!
That’s very much in the vein of “Well that’s not how I would write the story,” which I think we’ve touched on in our reviews, and it’s a total BS argument. I guess I just felt that this was a weeeee bit forced, maybe? Like a reveal for the sake of needing a reveal.
Also, how did Mal even know where to go? He’s an Operative, surely he could hide better than that!
Colin: I’m sure this is all stuff that there won’t be room to address amongst the barrage of plot next month!
Matthew: So to wrap, what did you think, Colin? Was there anything we missed? And if you had to give this a number grade, what would that number grade be? The people need to know.
Colin: Numbers are slipping, which would be disappointing on it’s own but compounded with the fact that I have to concede you were right about the comic being too busy is just heartbreaking to me. I’m giving this a 7 – it’s full of great moments, characters I love being treated well, but some sloppy dispensing of Jubal Early and the over-crowding of plot has worked against it.
Matthew: I think a 7 is fair, and I will go with that as well.
I really, really like “Serenity.” I think, in terms of the talent that is assembled and the way that the book is clearly playing off of a plan that had been in place for a long time now, it’s a very smart move to do this book. Everything about the book is great on paper. But in execution, I just think that there’s too many plates spinning, all of which precariously balance bowls of delicious soup. And while I still love Jeanty on art (he’s a 4 out of 5), the writing is slipping to me — both in my read of it and my confidence in (a 3 out of 5).
But I STILL HAVE FAITH. Wait. Wrong book.
Final Verdict: 7.0 – Buy
Written by Victor Gischler
Illustrated by Will Conrad
Angel’s work is never done. During his most recent world saving, a part of London was transformed and flooded with magic. Who better to watch over this magical community than Angel? At least, that’s what he thinks. Meanwhile, Faith starts a new chapter in her life—slaying zompires alongside Buffy?!
* Will Conrad (Serenity, Nightwing) returns to the Whedonverse!
* Executive produced by Joss Whedon!
Matthew: Colin, you and I both quite liked “Angel and Faith” Season 9, so stakes are high with the creative team moving over to “Buffy.”
We begin as we always begin — Colin, what did you think of “Angel and Faith” Season 10 #1?
Colin: A mixed bag, if I’m honest Matthew. I was kind of predisposed to not liking the book since Gage and Isaacs were moved on to Buffy, and while I’m happy to admit that this was a bit rash, there were moments in the book that gave me cause for concern.
Matthew: Like what, Colin?
Colin: Like the fact that the parts that were rehashing what we’ve just seen over in Buffy were – for me – the most engaging.
Matthew: Oh, well, that’s not good.
But, that said, I can’t disagree at all. I loved “Serenity” #1, enjoyed “Buffy” Season 10 #1, but the new “Angel & Faith”? If I am to be as honest with you as you are with me, I’ll note that I am also a bit disappointed by it. I think of all the new Whedon books, this one was perhaps the least engaging. Maybe it’s because I’m wicked fresh off of a big Angel marathon and an “Angel & Faith” re-read (I’ve still not read “Season Six”), but this felt very disconnected both from the show and the last series.
Colin: Well, I think that there’s bound to be a disconnect between this book and the show given that the fairly huge status-quo upheavals from After the Fall, Twilight and even the last series of Angel and Faith. Did Angel even ever really have a status-quo as a show? Not really. The only thing you can expect in life is change, Matthew, and for that reason I guess we have to give the book some credit for not standing still in terms of where we find Angel in this issue.
Matthew: I think I can agree with that from you. However, I can agree less with that from the book. And before you just call me a stick in the mud or something, I’ll at least somewhat justify the thought.
See, while Angel was probably less defined than Buffy, the show certainly had a status quo, I’d say. Season to season, it always felt like it picked up naturally and kept a certain rhythm going, something you could probably even tap your toe to if you listened hard enough. That’s the trick to all of Whedon’s shows: they have a distinct, recognizable rhythm to it all, and like some form of jazz you can always see where it started and where it ended, even if the path to each point was something unpredictable.
So as “Angel & Faith” Season 10 #1 kicks off, I’m actually not quite sure how we got where we are.I feel like the comic that preceded this was, for lack of a better term, fun — whereas this issue seemed… morose? Certainly bleak, at the very least, no?
Colin: I think the absence of Gage and Isaacs was always going to cast a long shadow to be fair. Although, Will Conrad gives a very good shot.
Matthew: See, I disagree with that as well. But before I get all Negative Nancy further, let us hear your side.
Colin: Well, I think a lot of my positive feelings towards it involves the fact that I don’t think I’ve seen much of his work since Serenity: Those Left Behind, and in comparison this looks a lot better. His lines seem tighter, and I think his inking has come on tremendously. The whole thing’s suitably moody. He even manages to make Koh seem interesting as a character.
Matthew: Then maybe I need to get my eyes checked, because to me he was drawing Angel with literally the same face in every scene. And I’m not saying that to be harsh, either — I just could not see anything distinctive about the faces. It’s photorealism, but dull photorealism; we talked about this with Jeanty and how he goes for a very close look to the actors, but I think Conrad really overdoes it here.
A lot of people like to pile onto Greg Land for his photorealism, for example, and certainly there is something to be said about a heavy reliance on that type of art as your “style.” But to me, Conrad’s art is culpable of the same things people criticize Land for, the major difference being I don’t read anything Land draws. And it does nothing for me.Continued below
Colin: If every character had the same issue I’d agree with you, but I don’t feel that’s the case. And playing Devil’s Advocate here: Angel is not an overly expressive guy when he’s moody.
Matthew: It’s a comic book, Colin! If every book starred an expressionless morose anti-hero, we’d be stuck with only Batman comics.
Besides, he brought back Giles. He completed his mission. He is a hero. Why so serious?
Colin: You’d be serious too Matthew, if you had a soul.
Matthew: I do not know what you are implying, Mr. Colin.
At any rate, if this were the first time I’d read an Angel-based comic, maybe I’d feel differently. But it’s not. And as a follow-up to what has come before, I think it’s a poor representation. Following the stellar team of Isaacs and Gage, this feels like a completely different book, and not in a good way.
But enough about dour Angel and all his dourness. This is “Angel & Faith,” so tell me, what did you think of Faith’s portions of the book?
Colin: Like I said, the best parts of the issue come from being on the periphery of Buffy, and Faith’s reaction to Buffy and Giles reunion was great. She helps bring the guy back to life and Giles still runs off to hug the girl that led him to his death. For a scene that was basically there to hand Giles from one book to another, they certainly got all the dramatic tension they could out of it.
Matthew: Yeah, and that was an interesting way to do it, certainly. It didn’t feel particularly overdone, honestly.
I have problems with Angel, but I thought Faith’s portions were decent. Certainly the better of the two, anyway. It felt like Gischler and Gage had collaborated more, story-wise, to sort of get the character right in the transition. Having that shared scene was definitely a good way to do it. Faith actually read like Faith, though I imagine she’s an easier character to write than Angel anyway.
And even though Conrad was still leaning a bit heavy on the likeness stuff, those scenes were certainly done with a bit more expression, which was nice. Not enough, but certainly more.
But I think an interesting question perhaps ask is, did you read the “Spike” mini that was also written by Gischler? And what did you think of that?
Colin: I did not. Did you?
Matthew: I did. And the reason I bring it up is because it didn’t feel nearly as jarring as this one. It was a side story, one with little to no impact on Season 9, but it still felt like Gischler was working in the groove of the character based on all the things that had happened to him, both at Dark Horse and elsewhere.
So that’s why I’m so surprised that most of “A&F” felt off to me. It didn’t feel like I was reading the same book anymore. And I think that reinventing the book, doing their own thing or whatever is important, but this feels like too far of a departure.
Colin: I think a change of team was always going to reinvent the book to some degree. I just don’t think these guys have hit a stride yet.
Angel’s story in this issue was horribly generic, Faith’s story skirted round the edges of the superior debut Buffy issue, and I feel it’s hard to judge where this season is going with the two leads so separate. Perhaps we’ll have a clearer idea once they’re reteamed, but as a first issue this felt kind of squanderous.
And that’s why I’m giving it a 6 out of 10!
Matthew: I’m going to go lower, and give it a 4 out of 10. In my mind, both writing and art are about 2 out of 5. I’ve been harsh on the book, but I think potential is there; I liked Conrad’s “Serenity” mini and Gischler’s “Spike” mini, so I want to see this succeed. But all things considered, the book did very, very little for me, and while I’ll concede some things to you in your arguments, this is not a book I am excited to keep up with like “Buffy” or “Serenity” anymore.
Final Verdict: 4.0 – Pass