Oct 26 2010 4:34pm

Joss Whedon’s Serenity Comics: Better Days, Issue Three

Serenity: Better Days #3Good things come in threes. Today, our good thing is brought to by a not-light equestrian, some fella named Joss, and Firefly on Tor.com. In particular, we have issue three of Better Days, in which we get some interesting backstory, some vague admissions that don’t mean much, some knowing looks, and a lot of ‘splodin’. Oh, and sudden, universe-resetting poverty.

Medium Length Summary Thinger:

Mal is tortured by the SpecOps Alliance guy, but isn’t talking. Meanwhile, crazy robo-salesman gets fired, but is all psycho-revenge and doesn’t care as he works on a super-ship. Back on the resort planet, Zoe goes looking for Mal at Inara’s shuttle and finds the signs of the struggle. She goes back Serenity and tells the crew how she plans on getting Mal back: by directly offering a trade and admitting that she was the Dust Devil, not Mal, who was all broken-like post war.

Kaylee hacks the cortex and Zoe makes her announcement for the entire planet to see, broadcasting coordinates in the middle of a barren area. Wash and Zoe go out there in the mule, and they have a touching moment before Jayne, once more playing the hill-sniper, interrupts. Shortly after, Book verifies back at the resort that the Alliance spotter is looking in the right direction then heads out their way. Kaylee sees their bird incoming from Serenity, and then the purple-bellies themselves arrive, hardly alone and all armed up. Just as Zoe is about to spring her trap, the Alliance ship goes all ‘splody as the disgruntled robo-salesman appears from nowhere and starts laying waste.

The ship starts dropping robot warrior drone things, and Book machetes them up and then the Alliance team up with Mal and crew to fight off this threat (which they funnily never do actually identify). Mal does a batshit crazy move where he hooks the underbelly of the super-ship to the mule’s wench, and it does a half-gainer into the rocks and explodes. The Alliance and Mal then have a very Pulp FictionWe cool?” moment. (Be warned, link is explicit and probably NSFW, but it relates, mainly from about 7:30 on.)

Back at the ship, the crew returns just in time to see someone making off with all their cash. Mal confronts Inara about Simon, and she says he is a friend and a doctor and won’t say anything else. She then muses over how the thieves found the best hiding place on the ship without any effort and implicates Mal for tipping them off, saying that he was already living his dream, but that the money was going to end it. He tries to deny it, but she barrels through, saying that the next time he does something so selfish, he should make it not so sweet.

What I thought:

I really liked that Zoe was the Dust Devil, not Mal. It works for both of them. Zoe is much more of the eternal warrior, where Mal would, I feel, become a broken down despondent mess after the war. As Zoe said, Mal was a volunteer, and when the Brass gave up the cause, it hurt him. She, though, was just a soldier, and she went on soldiering.

The Alliance was pretty faceless in all of this, even with snarky comments during the fight between the lead SpecOps and Mal, but I really love the true faceless enemy, the robo-salesman. It was like a Sci Fi Channel “It’s a Wonderful Life”, only with a very different ending. One that involves missile deployed attack-bots. It was especially nice that no one had a bloody clue who he was or what they had done to him. A nice contrast to the gloating monologue Dobson had to give Mal in Those Left Behind.

Switching gears: Simon and Kaylee. I left it out above, but just before she sees the Alliance incoming, she notices that Inara has been keeping to herself and suggests Simon go check on her. Simon flusters and blushes, and Kaylee calls him on the blush, but then it stops there as the action starts (including a side-mission gone wrong for the Alliance that ended with River’s boot in a guy’s face.)

Anyway, that Kaylee called Simon out makes me wonder. We know that Kaylee and Inara are close, so does she know what is going on? Does she know the completely innocuous and innocent truth? (That Simon is just being a doctor.), or is there more? I mean, Inara is enough of an internal emotional wreck for me to believe she would start boning her friend’s crush, if only to vent that she can’t bone hers.

About the only part left for my comments is the ending. The universe-reset, as it were, and that it was Mal who did it. On one part, Inara is kind of right about his wanting to keep the crew together sweet, but on the other, what the heck is he thinking? They had all that money, and he didn’t even bother to save enough to massively retrofit the ship into not being a flying piece of gos se? Also, where does he get off dictating their lives like that? Who is Mal to rob the crew of their dreams? They are people too, and they are the lead characters in their own lives. Sure they are secondary in ours to Mal, (at least as far as protagonists go), but in a moral evaluation of Mal’s decision, he is treating them exactly like that. His own personal army to do with as he pleases. I hate to crash the romance of the poor cowboys getting by and not needing money, but, well, money is kind of nice, ya know? It buys things. Shiny things. Like compression coils. And bribes past corrupt Alliance officials.

Anyway, that’s about all I have for this. Join me next week for Float Out, a tale about Wash, and then, if the postman and stars like me, the week after that we can read The Shepherd’s Tale. Let us hope.

Richard Fife is a writer, blogger, and could think of a few dozen more things to do with that money that wouldn’t ruin the space-cowboy dream. You can read more of his ramblings and some of his short fiction on his website, and you can follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

1. Bytemite
I think that Better Days is where the comics begin to get a sense of what they are. Those Left Behind had good character voice for the main characters, but like you noticed, they had to overdo Dobson and some of the other villains for exposition. Plus, characters in Those Left Behind artistically were a little off model. Big improvement here.

Better Days also has some truly excellent moments giving a sneak peak into what some of the characters want, their dreams and motivations. Well, except Shepherd Book. And Take the Sky in Still Flying has a different idea about what it is Mal might want, that's arguably more sympathetic than this almost nihilistic self-destructive take on staying the same.

The thing about this ending, though, is that Mal is a man who lost a bunch of his soldiers in the war, and everyone else he knew with the destruction of Shadow. Imagine someone like that faced with losing even MORE, and how they might react. Mal's move is desperate self-preservation here, both in the sense of it being what gets Sanda to let him go, and also in the sense of Mal IS his crew, and if they leave him, he shatters beyond repair. It's still not a great thing to do, but in this light, Mal's situation is very sad and even pitiable.

Another thing I want to comment on, is your comments about Inara. I'm pretty sure Simon is turning pink here because he's trying to keep Inara's secrets and really has trouble lying to Kaylee. He's lucky there was an interruption.

"Internal emotional wreck?" How so? Also, I think I must have a bit higher opinion of Inara than you do, considering not only that you believe she'd be capable of that kind of betrayal, but the language you use here. We won't know until we know, either view could be right, but Inara seems like a good person, character-wise, to me.

Although, something I do think is possible that Simon might have been a client of hers BEFORE Serenity, which may lead to some delicious misunderstandings later on. But I think both have too much moral fiber to deliberately hurt the people they care about by having an affair while aboard Serenity. I mean, even if you don't think Inara has any moral fiber, don't you think Simon does, and he'd have some say in what happens?
2. cherryontop
Since we’ve only seen Inara having sex with her clients, she is a highly trained Companion after all, I’m going to go with the assumption that Simon was in her shuttle for medical purposes. She says she doesn’t service crew and at no time during the series or movie did we ever witness her doing otherwise, making her words and actions honorable.

I think Simon may have been blushing because “checking Inara out” is exactly what was done when he went to her shuttle. He can’t share this with Kaylee because of patient confidentiality, it’s just sweetly ironic the way Kaylee used that particular phrasing, embarrassing him. No harm done.

Mal, Zoe, Inara and the money. I think Inara may be right about Mal giving away his hiding spot, but not completely for the reasons he did it and he really didn’t want to argue with her since she described what he did, as sweet. You have to read between the lines, here, and evaluate what is said and not said.

In the end, Mal bargains for his own release, Zoe’s freedom, and Inara’s reputation because Sanda, her client, recognizes during his time with her (as shown in the first chapter) that she is involved with Serenity’s Captain, on a romantic level, well, at least he thinks she is, and that’s not good for her professional standing, like he says. As much as Mal disrespects Inara’s chosen career he doesn’t want to see her ruined or ever be the cause of her disgrace. And, how could Mal ever let Zoe turn herself in? She’d be facing a long prison sentence or the death penalty. Wash and Zoe would never get to make their baby they’ve been fantasizing about. Mal tells Sanda and his men where to find the money, “they’re good” and then disappear, leaving the crew to wonder what happened to their fortune. All is well in the verse and Mal keeps his crew and family intact.
Carol Witt
3. carolwitt
Richard, will you be reviewing the new comic - Serenity: Downtime, written by Zack Whedon - being posted today and tomorrow on USA Today? http://www.usatoday.com/life/comics/2010-11-08-serenity08_ST_N.htm

By the way, I didn't see the Better Days posts listed in the Firefly index.

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