‘Firefly: The Unification War- Part One’ - Trade Paperback Review

There is something timelessly charming about the Firefly universe and its carefree, witty cast of unflappable characters.  If I were to try to define it, I would say that Joss Whedon successfully married three very different genres:  Westerns, science fiction, and romantic sitcoms.  The Western aspect of it comes alive in the backstory and legacy of the characters.  One could imagine the exact same cast making their way across the expanse of the unsettled great west shortly after the end of the Civil War.  The author, Greg Pak, does a great job of keeping this vibrant ethos alive in the 152 pages of this collective work.  He force lands our heroes on a sparsely settled moon where they pick up a job to escort pilgrims to the holy land – horses and wagons in tow.

Punctuating this foundational narrative are science fiction components that pick up the pace of the story and allow the writer to interject jeopardy on demand with the intrusion of a group of high-tech mercenaries. This well-armed bunch of thugs initially appear as throwaway characters; however, through the well-timed use of flashback and storytelling, our author uses them to discover the past of the Serenity crew.  The secrets revealed here pit both elements against one another and, in a beautiful twist of balanced storytelling, also bind them together.

No Serenity book would be complete without 20 or 30 very memorable, very witty one liners.  It is really a credit to Greg Pak to maintain this well thought out, believable, funny, rom-com banter that really gives Serenity its unique charm.  At about three of four pages in, you know who’s who and what part they play, and this is all painted with dialogue.  This is very high quality writing here, and you will probably find yourself borrowing some of Greg’s zingers in everyday conversations.  A lot of comics can take themselves way too seriously with ominous dialogue that one dimensionalizes a character.  Serenity is the exact opposite…you almost wish you were in the comic book as a character yourself, chatting away with these folks.

The artwork illustrated by Dan McDaid and colored by Marcelo Costa is top notch.  McDaid uses a variety of camera angles to create a dynamic flow to each page.  Each panel is complete – which is to say that he leaves nothing to the imagination and creates detailed backgrounds and unique looks for each character.  He captures tangible emotion in each of the faces that he draws, and none of them are cookie cutter characters.  Costa’s color work complements McDaid’s ink beautifully, providing us several consistent color palettes to reinforce the ethos of the flashbacks versus current state.

I like books put together by BOOM! Studios for several reasons.  The volume breaks are graphically punchy dialogue teasers that warm you up to the next chapter.  The books also end with “extras,” and in this case we get black-and-white preview images accompanied by the actual script.  It’s a nice collection of behind-the-scenes work that shows you the process that it took to create what you just enjoyed.

I recommend this trade paperback.  It is extremely well written and well crafted, and if you enjoy Firefly, it is likely to be a must have.  If you are not familiar with the series, this is probably as good a jumping-on point as any to introduce you to Mal Reynolds and the rest of the crew of the Serenity.


Creative Team: Greg Pak (writer), Dan McDaid (artist), Marcelo Costa (colorist)
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
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