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Never Enough Time: ‘Serenity: Float Out One-Shot’

The following review contains SPOILERS for the television series “Firefly” and the film “Serenity,” so in case you’ve desperately been avoiding finding out about the events of those works but still decided to read a review of a comic book sequel, consider yourself duly warned.

NEVER ENOUGH TIME – Serenity: Float Out

Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” is remembered by diehard fans worldwide as a brief moment of brilliance all too tragically cut short. Hearing its name evokes equal parts fond remembrance and sorrow, and if I were to provide the location of a Fox executive who could be solely blamed for the series’ cancellation, odds are good that within a day this individual would be headless and/or on fire. Whedon’s follow up film, “Serenity,” was meant to give closure to the fanbase and help them move on with their lives, although not all of the characters of the series were similarly able to move on with their own lives when the credits rolled.Hoban “Wash” Washburne, Serenity’s pilot, was the most notable characters of the main ensemble to suffer an unfortunate fate in the feature film. When last we saw Wash’s face it was smiling from a holographic memorial screen, because when last we saw his body, it had been freshly impaled on a very big, very sharp stick. And since Wash was generally the happiest and least troubled member of the crew during the series, his passing hit the fans hard, again. Which they really should have been used to by that point.

And so along comes “Serenity: Float Out” from Dark Horse, another chance for the self-styled Browncoats to mourn their beloved series, in this case Wash specifically. Written by Patton Oswalt with art by Patric Reynolds and colors by Dave Stewart, “Float Out” is a one-shot in which three old acquaintances of Wash fondly remember the man as they christen a new ship in his honor. Oswalt, best known for his stand-up comedy and his acting, would seem to be well-suited to capture Wash’s sometimes jovial, sometimes cranky, always wisecracking personality. But if you go into this book expecting to be brought back to a better time and be laughing along with Wash on every page, you’re going to be in for a letdown. That’s not what this comic is.

Instead Oswalt uses his three characters to illustrate different sides of Wash: Wash the expert pilot, Wash the loyal friend, Wash the brave hero. Unfortunately it doesn’t all fit together well enough. Oswalt’s trio, a smuggler, an ex-deliveryman and an ex-Alliance official, succeed in breathing new life into the universe Whedon’s created. Seeing the worlds of “Firefly” through the eyes of new and unfamiliar characters makes it seem fuller and more real than when the only perspective was through one group. And in that respect it reinforces the tragedy that a fictional setting so rich in possibilities has had so few opportunities to explore them all.

On the other hand it isn’t so often that fans get to spend time in this universe, and so to have most of that time spent with three mostly undeveloped strangers for the bulk of the twenty-four page comic is a little disappointing. When Wash does show up in flashbacks there aren’t any new insights into his character that get presented. He makes a few witty, off the cuff remarks. And he pilots some spaceships around to carry out exciting escapes, which doesn’t translate as well into a static medium like comics as other aspects of the show do. And each of the three flashbacks seems so brief, as though this could have been easily expanded into a three issue series.

Ultimately “Serenity: Float Out” doesn’t work as well as it could because Oswalt tries to fit too much story and too many new characters into a one-shot. This feels like an hour long episode of television has been condensed into two dozen pages of story. If we had more of a chance to get to know who these three people are, we might care about their experiences with Wash more. Or if each of their stories was longer rather than a quick summary of events in order to leave enough space to for the other two tales, then each of Wash’s adventures might be enjoyable on their own. Instead nothing gets as much time as it needs — an all to common complaint for fans of “Firefly.”

When the familiar characters appear, those scenes end up being the highlights of the book, and fans of the show are absolutely going to want to see this for those moments alone. And while it’s a good argument on behalf of more expanded universe “Firefly” comics in the future, I don’t think many fans are going to be pleased with the amount of time given to new characters in comparison to the amount spent with old favorites.

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