Joss Whedon’s Firefly was a great show, with amazing characters, wonderful writing, great sets, and evocative lore. It’s no wonder that Fox is considering bringing it back. It’s also no wonder so many people have been clamoring for whatever piece of the ‘Verse they can get, whether that be in board games, video games, or comic books.
On January 1st, 2020, BOOM! Studios launched Firefly: The Outlaw Ma Reynolds – a series which promises to introduce readers to Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds’s sweet ol’ mama. Or… maybe not so sweet?
The creative team behind The Outlaw Ma Reynolds includes writer Greg Pak, illustrators Davide Gianfelice and George Kambadais, colorist Joana LaFuente, and letterer Jim Campbell.
Ma Reynolds: Not The Same Ol’ Firefly
Right off the bat, the visual style doesn’t work for the source material. Something about the illustration is too cartoony, and it doesn’t mesh with the feel of Firefly. The show was meant to be very down-to-earth, Western-inspired storytelling, so the approach to shading panels and using indistinct backgrounds makes some stylistic sense. However, most of the panels end up feeling unfinished, and they leave the reader feeling unsure of where the characters are in relation to each other.
When it comes to the action sequences, things get confusing really fast. There’s no sense of fluid pacing, no logical progression to altercations. Not that every fight scene has to be photo-realistic with every swing painstakingly illustrated, but the reader is forced to make a lot of assumptions about how one character gets the upper-hand over another, or gets from one side of a room to the other.
The story also has a few issues. Mal is tasked by some Alliance bureaucrat with bringing his mother into custody in exchange for his freedom, which… okay, fine, it’s a premise that’s easy to understand and it serves to get the action moving. But Mal has never gotten on too kindly with the Alliance after what happened on Shadow during the Unification War, so his lack of argument doesn’t fit his character. Add to that the fact that he gets partnered with some kind of high-tech Alliance agent for the mission, and it just seems off.
Pak does make a few references to the crew of Serenity, one overtly and one in passing. The overt reference is what can best be described as a cameo by Inara Serra, registered Companion and Mal’s long-time love interest. Unfortunately, the chemistry doesn’t seem to be there; the two banter a little, but it feels more like exposition than genuine witty repartee.
It’s quite likely that the book is referencing character growth and story arcs that were covered in previous comics. The problem is, without having read those comics, The Outlaw Ma Reynolds seems like an alternate universe fan fiction rather than an official continuation or addition to the series.
Also, did anyone else catch that Inara referenced Zoe and Wash? That hints that the comic either takes place before the events of the 2005 film Serenity or is ignoring that movie completely.
Maybe this title would be better after reading any of the preceding comics. Unfortunately for Firefly fans who are picking The Outlaw Ma Reynolds as their first foray into the comic adaptations of the series, things are going to be confusing and ultimately unsatisfying. It’s never good when the quality of a comic requires readers to do homework before being able to enjoy the story.
As sad as it is to say, this book’s a pass.
Are you a Firefly fan? Did you enjoy The Outlaw Ma Reynolds #1? Let us know in the comments below!