Derrial Book was a holy man with a mysterious past. Unfortunately, as he was killed in the movie Serenity, Firefly fans never got a chance to learn what that past was. The graphic novel, The Shepard's Tale, finally brings those truths to light. Starting with Book's death in Serenity, the grpahic novel is told in a series of flashback, each one going deeper and deeper into Book's past. What kind of a man was Book before he became a Shepard? What was his true affiliation with the alliance? These questions and more are answered.
To be honest, I was kind of nervous about picking up The Shepard's Tale. I don't think I've ever seen a book divide people more sharply (want proof? Check the reviews on amazon: 13 five-star reviews, 11 four-star reviews, 12 three star reviews, 14 two-star reviews, 14 one-star reviews). Now that I have read it, I can say that I feel that The Shepard's Tale is an interesting, albeit flawed graphic novel told in an interesting, albeit flawed way.
Instead of a linear storyline which starts at the beginning of Book's life, the story is told backwards starting from Book's death during the movie Serenity, then flashing back to his time on the ship, then flashing back to his time on the abbey, and so on until you reach Book's childhood. I found that I liked this format quite a bit, and the transitions from flashback to flashback were very well done. The problem with this format, which allots only a few pages for each time period, is it only allows you snapshots of the past. We meet a flurry of friends, colleagues, and enemies of Book's, but we never really get to know them. Often, we don't even get names. Ultimately, this isn't a huge loss because we're reading this book to learn about Book specifically. The other characters aren't really as important. What's a little more troubling is what we learn about Book's past doesn't always mesh well with what's revealed on the show. I feel as if they could have fixed this if more time had been taken to tell the story. Also, charging $14.99 for what's basically an issue and a half of a comic book (54 pages), is a little ridiculous. It makes me glad I went the library route.
On a more positive note, there are plenty of things about this graphic novel that are well done. The dialogue on Firefly was always really unique, and Zack Whedon manages to capture it perfectly here. The artwork, with an exception of a few panels, is solidly done. They're obviously not going for photo realistic here, but the artist does a very good job of crafting different looks for Book throughout his lifetime. The story is captivating, and I like that they didn't go the expected route that I predicted while watching Serenity. I like to be surprised. I would recommend this graphic novel to Firefly fans, although you may want to borrow it instead of buy it as the price tag is pretty steep.
Rating: four stars
Length: 56 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Similar Books: other Firefly comics (especially Those Left Behind)
Other books I've read by this author: When it comes to Joss's comic work, I have read all of Buffy: Season 8, Fray, and the previous Firefly comics. I have also read the first two volumes of Angel: After the Fall. I have read one shots and short comics by Zack, but this is the first full length graphic novel of his that I have experienced.
Next up I will be reviewing The Guild by Felicia Day and River Marked by Patricia Briggs
xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads