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December 13, 2011

Touring the Cosmos: Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

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Written by: mike
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What started out as a TV show, cancelled after only one season, and made into a movie, Serenity is the story of Captain Mal Reynolds and his eclectic crew. Teaming with publisher Dark Horse, creator Joss Whedon continues to tell great tales of the rebels aboard the ship called Serenity.

 

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

Writer: Joss and Zack Whedon
Pencils: Chris Samnee
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Publisher: Dark Horse

The Shepherd’s Tale is the third volume to be released by Dark Horse that continues the Serenity saga. Released after Those Left Behind and Better Days, the aptly named The Shepherd’s Tale tells the back story of, well, Shepherd. One of the most mysterious of the crew, many a fan longed for the reveal of the pastor Derrial Book. The saying “looks can be deceiving” can’t be more appropriate for Shepherd. While he preaches the good word and pushes for peace, when backed into a corner, Shepherd is a deadly combatant and very familiar with the use of weapons.

The Shepherd’s Tale gives readers a look at the intriguing history behind Derrial Book. Now, fans are a fickle lot and we don’t want to piss off too many Browncoats by spoiling the story. The Shepherd’s Tale shifts periods every six or so pages, and tells a quick story about Derrial Book, and what led him the man he is today. He began as a very troubled youth, with an abusive upbringing. Deciding to forge his own path in life, and to fight for peace and prosperity for all, he enlists in a movement for the people. This takes him down an interesting path with a few more twists and turns.

Chris Samnee was on duty with the pencils, paired with Dave Stewart who handled the colors. This team made for a great combo with both styles meshing very well with each other. Stewart used a lot of earthy tones for his colors, which fit right along with the theme of the show very well. Samnee was very conscious of when to make a panel extremely detailed, and when to make certain panels a little more muddled. Some of the environments blended together and weren’t very detailed. While for some stories this may not work, in The Shepherd’s Tale and especially within the Whedonverse, it’s the characters that make the story and Samnee showed he understands this.

Zack Whedon chose a very interesting way to tell this story. In the afterword, he describes a lot of his process for writing this story. Using an outline given to him by Joss, he was wrote The Shepherd’s Tale in between other commitments and deadlines which helped him jump from era to era in Derrial Book’s life. The interesting twist in The Shepherd’s Tale is that the story is told backwards. It starts out where Derrial Book is now in his life, and finishes with one of Book’s earliest memories of his own childhood. It’s an interesting way to tell a story, and might not work for most writers. Zack Whedon was able to craft a fabulous story, though, which worked from start to finish. In the afterword, Whedon explains how he “didn’t want to blow it,” by telling a crappy story in such a fan-favorite universe. Well, Zack, rest easy, because this came out pretty good.

The Shepherd’s Tale is a fantastic little story to add to the Firefly/Serenity universe. Spotlighting the most mysterious character from the show, it gives us a great look at what turned the preacher into such a formidable warrior. Samnee and Stewart do a great job of keeping the same tone displayed in the show, and their individual styles meshed really well together. Zack Whedon chose a really unique way to tell this story, jumping backwards in time to show a quick snippet of an important piece of Shepherd’s past. While it seems that there were a few risks taken to tell this tale, The Shepherd’s Tale comes off as a seamless entry into the cult classic Firefly saga.

Mike Parente
mike@comicattack.net

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