After leaning into the Western side of sci-fi/Western in his first two “Firefly” novels, James Lovegrove uses sci-fi to good effect in “The Ghost Machine” (March). His first effort, “Big Damn Hero,” includes cargo that could blow up if handled improperly, but “Ghost Machine” features a more thematically interesting crate: the titular Blue Sun sonic weapon that makes people passive. The way it does so is by sending them into dreamland; first, their dreams are pleasant, but then they turn dark.
As comic companies are wont to do, Boom! Studios has accompanied its regular “Firefly” series with a handful of one-shots throughout the early part of the run, focusing on specific characters and their backstories. Here’s a look at three such books, from 2019-20:
When talking about the first arc of Boom! Studios’ “Firefly” comics, we have to address the elephant in the room: Despite being titled “The Unification War,” the arc comprising Issues 1-12 (2018-19) is not about the Unification War, the conflict six years before the events of the TV show that pitted the Alliance against the Independents on the Rim worlds. Thrown off by the title, some online guides place this story at the start of the timeline. But rather, it’s set amid the heart of the TV series’ events, with Unificators tracking down “war criminals” – a.k.a. Browncoat leaders.
Firefly: The Sting” (November 2019) is an ambitious hardcover graphic novel centered on Saffron, from writer Delilah S. Dawson and a team of artists. But it’s a step down in characterization from the double-length one-shot “Bad Company” from earlier in the year, and it arguably contradicts Saffron’s moral growth. The more generous interpretation is that “The Sting” shows her manipulative side, the one we know from “Our Mrs. Reynolds” (1.6) and “Trash” (1.11).
James Lovegrove’s first “Firefly” novel – 2018’s “Big Damn Hero,” co-plotted with Nancy Holder – spans several genres. But his second is a straight-up Western, all set on one dusty planet. “The Magnificent Nine” (March 2019), as the title suggests, has the same plot as the 1960 Western film classic “The Magnificent Seven.” But we get to see how our big gorramn heroes deal with the situation: The already bedraggled townsfolk of Coogan’s Bluff on Thetis are being harassed by murderous, rapist bandits who aim to control the water supply.
Aline of “Firefly” novels was advertised in the back of the “Serenity” novelization in 2005, but it wasn’t until 13 years later that we saw the first entry in the series. Written by James Lovegrove based on a story idea by “Buffy” tie-in veteran Nancy Holder, “Big Damn Hero” (November 2018) combines a couple of concepts — sometimes effectively, sometimes awkwardly. The Serenity crew (and Mal himself) must figure out who kidnapped Mal and why. Also, violent anti-Browncoat sentiment has sprung up on Persephone.
The Dark Horse Comics era of “Firefly” closes out in admirable fashion with the six-issue “Serenity: No Power in the ‘Verse” (October 2016-March 2017), which finds the Alliance and revolutionaries on the brink of a second war just as rifts among the Serenity crew crop up. Chris Roberson – who wrote the short comic story “The Warrior and the Wind” (see below) – makes his full-length “Firefly” debut. He’s not as crisp as Zack Whedon (“Leaves on the Wind”), sometimes getting heavy handed with Mal and Simon yelling at each other over political differences, but it’s only a minor step back.
Although there are plenty of excellent comics set during the time of the “Firefly” TV episodes and “Serenity” movie, the post-movie story doesn’t kick into gear until the six-issue series “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” (January-June 2014). Picking up after the revelation in “Float Oat” that Zoe is pregnant, “Leaves” finds writer Zack Whedon beautifully channeling the Serenity crew’s personalities and speaking styles as developed by his brother Joss.
“Firefly” (2002-03, Fox), episodes 1-11 – As Joss Whedon slumped a bit with “Buffy” and “Angel,” he launched a show that quickly became his best. He created a charming space Western with nine colorful — and expertly cast — characters aboard a smuggling ship. Aside from the immortal “Star Trek” franchise, small screen space dramas appear to be dead.