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Joss Whedon – Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

February 25, 2013

10. The Shepherd’s Tale by Joss Whedon, Zach Whedon, Chris Samnee (2010)
Serenity, Volume 3

Read my review of volume:
1. Those Left Behind
2. Better Days

Length: 56 pages
Genre: Sci-Fi, Graphic Novel

Started/Finished: 13 February 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I was in the mood for graphic novels. Also, yay Browncoats!

We finally get
answers about Firefly’s
preacher mystery.

Summary: The untimely cancellation of Firefly left fans with a lot of questions unanswered. Some of these were dealt with in Serenity, but Shepherd Book’s origin story remained mysterious. What did he do before becoming a Shepherd? How does he know so much about weaponry and tactics? Why does the Alliance defer to him once they scan his ident card in the episode “Safe”? This short graphic novel attempts to answer all of these questions and more, starting at that fateful day on Haven, and working backwards through time, looking at the key events that set Book on his life’s path.

Review: I wish I hadn’t read this. I am a huge Firefly fan, so I couldn’t help myself… but once I had, I wished I hadn’t. Not that it was bad. The story itself was solid, and showed believable character growth (or character reduction, since it’s moving backwards in time?) that explains how Book got to here from there.

But. There’s a but. While I was as curious as anyone about Book’s past, I actually liked the fact that it was left mysterious. Whether or not Joss would have revealed which pieces of it if the series had been allowed to continue is a matter of pure speculation at this point. But I thought that the exchange between Mal and Book in the movie Serenity kind of put paid to the issue.

Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: It’s of interest to me how much you seem to know about that world.
Shepherd Book: I wasn’t born a shepherd, Mal.
Capt. Malcolm Reynolds: You have to tell me about that sometime.
Shepherd Book: [pause] No, I don’t.

Some things remain mysterious, and we don’t always get our questions answered. And I was okay with that. And the problem I had with this book is that fans have had so long to speculate, that to be provided the answers flat out, in this very short book, felt anticlimactic and not entirely satisfying, relative to the possible answers that I’d imagined. (Plus, either I missed something, or the backstory as given here doesn’t really gel with the fact that the Alliance would instantly render help to the point of letting the Serenity go without inspection upon seeing Book’s ID, as established in the series.)

The art in this one was kind of a mixed bag. Book himself is really well done, and the backwards aging is nicely handled; even though the art is relatively simple, you can still see aspects of older Book in the younger versions. The other characters don’t fare as well; they’re only present briefly, but are typically recognizable only by their clothes. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: For Firefly fans only. And even there, I’d say only for Firefly fans who really want the official answers about Shepherd Book. While it wasn’t bad on its own merits, I personally preferred the ambiguity.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: The Little Red Reviewer, Once Upon a Bookshelf, Tales of the Marvelous, The Written World, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Shepherd, when’s the Captain and them comin’ round again?”

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2013 11:30 am

    I’m a huge Whedon fan, but so far mostly of the Buffyverse. I have the Firefly dvds but haven’t watched them yet…

    • March 10, 2013 4:18 pm

      Joanna — *Gasp!* OMG OMG I don’t know whether to be shocked that you haven’t seen them yet or jealous that you get to watch them for the first time. :)

  2. February 25, 2013 10:29 pm

    I don’t regret reading this, but I was left feeling like I still wanted to know so much more. I think you’re right that there was so much speculation built up, it’s very hard to tell a story that won’t wind up as an anticlimax.

    • March 10, 2013 4:19 pm

      Cheryl – I think if it had been allowed to go as a series, we could have had the same pieces of information doled out and had it be satisfying, but it just felt so quick after so many years of wondering…

  3. Ricardo de Draco permalink
    December 28, 2013 7:17 pm

    It was odd. I expected the shepherd would have a dark past, but I found this story unsatisfying. If he was a mole and a traitor (or just a bumbling idiot that caused the worst defeat in Alliance history), why would the Alliance treat him with so much respect when he was wounded? It doesn’t gel with the Safe episode. Also the browncoats’ reputation didn’t fair much better. They destroyed a ship with 4000 souls; apparently many of them doctors, nurses and teachers. Not exactly a praise worthy group of freedom fighters (of course, in real life many aren’t).

    I also thought the story was unnecessarily convoluted: abused child to street thug to nasty ninja freedom fighter to villainous Alliance lackey to activated sleeper mole that causes the deaths of thousands. Frankly, I would have found it more interesting if his connection with the browncoats didn’t exist. Villainous lackey realizes the error of his ways, seeks redemption through spiritual endeavors and ends up the conscious of a crew of misfits (some of whom fought for independence). A cliche perhaps but at least it makes some sense. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

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