BLOG Serenity: A Shepherds Tale

Blogger Laura McConnell looks at the graphic novel in which Shepherd Book, Serenity’s mystery man, finally gets his day in the sun [SPOILERS]

How long we Browncoats have waited to hear his story! And finally, we have it ! Straight from the Whedons themselves, in the form of Joss and Zack, the long-awaited comic has arrived.

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale hit the shelves 3 November 2010, and I picked it up that day. I didn’t get a chance to read it until recently, however. Despite my anxiousness to find out Book’s past, I simply had no time to sit down and properly digest this book until now.

Here be spoilers (highlight to read)…

It turns out that Book started life as Henry Evans and after leaving an abusive home, he turned to crime. He fell in with a group of Independents, and eventually became a spy for them inside the Alliance ranks. This position required him to become someone else, so Henry assumed the identity of a random stranger, Derrial Book, after killing him. Eventually he slipped up and left the Alliance in disgrace. After years of drifting, Book decided to restart his life after having an interesting conversation with a bowl of chicken soup. He entered the Abbey on Persephone, before going out into the ‘Verse to help right wrongs there. We all know what happened from there: he joined up with Serenity, lived on her for a time, then left and eventually died at Haven.

Anyone who was surprised by this, please raise your hand.

No one? Yeah, me neither. I found Book’s past entirely predictable, except for perhaps the "Browncoat spy" angle. That said, it’s nice to finally know that the fan theories are true. We all suspected Book was once a high-ranking Alliance official, and now we know that’s fact. We also know how that came to be and more importantly how that came to fall apart. Likewise, we all knew that Book was capable of stone cold murder, and we suspected it was due to a rough past, but now we know that for sure.

It’s nice to finally have these things laid out for us, and the comic did a nice job of telling this story, even if it did so in a jerky, flashback way, à la Memento . At first, I was a bit annoyed at the way in which Zack chose to tell the tale, with every few pages jumping back farther in time, but when I finished the book, I had forgotten my irritation. The method did work here, even if it required a few backward page turns to figure out exactly what was going on in places.

Chris Samnee’s art was adequate, if not stellar, and with one notable exception (Zoë seeming to be irritated about sex talk), the characters seemed themselves. So, all in all, The Shepherd’s Tale was a fine book. It couldn’t quite live up its hype, but that’s to be expected. We’ve been waiting for this book for so long that our imaginations had tons of time to play with Book’s backstory, and reality quite couldn’t do our musings justice.

Therefore, I give Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale four out of five stars. It was certainly better than Float Out , and overall it was a satisfying read. I still have a nagging question about why the Alliance would have patched Book up in “Safe” if he left in disgrace, and I do wonder about Book's true allegiances during his time as a "spy"; but I guess that’s Joss for you. No way he’d give us everything, right? He’s got to have something in reserve, and that’s where I’ll keep my fifth star. I’m holding it back for the whole story, Joss. See you in the next comic!

This is a personal review by blogger Laura McConnell. Have you had a chance to check out this or any of the Serenity comics? Let us know your thoughts on them in the comment thread below. Remember, Whedon fans, that SFX has a special out right now dedicated to the man himself.