REVIEW: Serenity – No Power in the ‘Verse by Chris Roberson

9781506701820I’m so glad that Dark Horse comics is still continuing to tell Firefly stories. It will forever remain a shame that the show was canceled after one season and the movie, Serenity, didn’t do well enough to warrant any sequels, but at least we can continue to follow the adventures of the crew of the Serenity in comic form. In No Power in the ‘Verse, written by Chris Roberson and illustrated by Georges Jeanty, tough times haven’t ended for Mal Reynolds and his crew aboard the Serenity. When a call for help to find a missing friend takes them to an Alliance post on the Outer Rim, they encounter a new force building strength to fight the battle of the Browncoats–soon leading the crewmembers to question their individual values . . . Discovering that their friend is in Alliance custody and that an Alliance Operative is on the way, Mal concentrates his energy on the problem at hand and strikes an uneasy partnership for a daring rescue. But this is only the beginning of the story. Success will be when the Serenity’s crew makes it off this planet alive and all accounted for . . . 

The most important thing to get right when continuing the story of a beloved film or TV show is to make sure you get the characters correct. In some ways, No Power in the ‘Verse succeeds in this, and in others, it doesn’t. The majority of the characters in this graphic novel feel just like the characters from the show, although they’ve been through quite a lot since the show and the movie, and those events have definitely impacted the characters. What’s really superb is how easily Georges Jeanty is able to evoke the images and memories of the characters with his illustrations. His character design is spot on, as is the way he places the characters in the environments (and the environments themselves). But, still, for the most part, these are the same characters we know and love, and it’s so great seeing them come to life in the pages of this comic with Roberson’s wonderful writing and Georges Jeanty’s illustrations. But there are a couple of characters that just feel… off.

In terms of the actual content of the story, it’s just… fine. It’s not bad or anything, but it’s nowhere near as good as it could be. Honestly, it’s a bit boring at parts. The characters are correct, mostly, though Zoe feels sorta off. I get that she’s a mother and she’s overly protective of her child, but she seems so cold that it feels out of character for her, especially towards River. Something happens midway through the story that causes this, and it just seems uncharacteristic for Zoe to be so nonunderstanding of why River ended up doing what she did.

That’s a major problem with the whole thing in general. Motivations are all over the place. Characters feel like themselves, but they also don’t. Nothing is as developed as it needs to be, especially the plans of the two antagonists, Kalista and Mericourt. They do the things they do because the plot requires them to do those things, but their motivations are never really elaborated on enough to make the audience really care. Mericourt is basically a terrorist, but I found myself just kind of shrugging my shoulders at her. She’s barely even in the story.

There’s way too much going on for the amount of space the graphic novel has. This easily could’ve been divided into at least two graphic novels, if not more. But instead, the disparate plot elements were crammed together haphazardly into this mess. This graphic novel is essentially an entire season of the show but crammed into 120 pages. What should’ve unfolded over the time span of, maybe, a year’s worth of comics, unfolded over six issues, and ended up feeling rushed and underdeveloped. There was a lot of potential in the story, but no time spent really exploring that potential.

On the bright side, the artwork really is superb. Georges Jeanty is extremely talented and the perfect person to illustrated Firefly comic books. His character expressions are spot on, his environmental design feels perfect in the broader context of the Firefly universe. And, to top it off, he’s excellent in the action scenes. You never struggle to follow the story when it comes to Jeanty’s artwork, which is really appreciated. Where the plot lacks, Jeanty’s artwork excels. Honestly, the artwork is really the selling point for this graphic novel. It’s beautiful to look at.

Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse is really a lost opportunity. It took a great premise and crammed way too much story into too short of a format. This would’ve been a great story if it had the room to breathe. Imagine if it was spread out over 13 episodes of a TV series, each episode building up to the eventual climax and cliffhanger of the finale. But instead, it’s like 13 hours of television was crammed into a two-hour movie, except the comic version of that analogy. Some characters are well written and in character, but others feel off. None of them get enough time spent on them to feature any true character development. Things have changed massively in the Firefly universe in the comic, but the characters barely seem any different. Even Jayne’s arc feels shortchanged. It’s a mess of a graphic novel, and that’s a shame, really.

(2.5 out of 5 wands)

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