|Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale|
|Publication date||November 3, 2010|
|Published by||Dark Horse Comics|
|Written by||Joss and Zack Whedon|
|Cover artist(s)||Steve Morris|
Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale is a graphic novel published by comics publisher Dark Horse. It was released on November 3, 2010. Ron Glass announced it at the 2007 Browncoat Cruise. The series focuses on Shepherd Book's previously unrevealed secret past.
" . . . [I]f you look at your life as a chain of events, each responsible for the next and caused by the last, where does any story begin?"
The colony residents ask Book when the Firefly crew will be returning, and one wonders how he met Captain Mal. A rumble overhead signals the arrival of a ship, and Book recognizes from the sound that it's not a commercial freighter, but a gunship. In fact, he knows exactly the make and model (A.V.-Sparrow, an alliance short-range gunship with a thick skin), as well as its weaknesses. He mans a gun turret and shoots it down, but he is struck by a bullet.
"This is it. I can feel it. It's okay. We each get to be in the world a time, and I've had mine. It can be tough. It can be ugly. But I'm grateful for the journey and what I've stumbled across along the way. I found faith. I found family. And in the oddest of places…"
Part Two: Serenity, two years earlier. (2516) Book is doing bench presses with Jayne spotting. They discuss Jayne's sins and whether or not he'll get into heaven as River does handstands nearby. In the kitchen, Kaylee and Wash play cards and Book gets a drink of water. Kaylee wonders, "How come water always looks s'much better when [he's] drinking it," and Book waxes poetic about its fundamental beauty.
Book wanders into the hold, where Mal and Zoe are wrestling with an arms dealer who pulled a gun on them. Book moves on to his bunk and begins to pray.
Part Three: Southdown Abbey, two years earlier. (2514) Book is kneeling in prayer, just like on the ship. He asks for guidance to "follow the path of righteousness and never stumble from it." Book picks up his suitcase and rolling case.
He speaks with the Abbess about his decision to leave, saying that it was difficult but that the world shown on the Cortex is full of suffering; he sees in it a purpose prescribed by God. The Abbess comments that when he first arrived he was "quite lost" and that he has undergone incredible healing, and Book tells her it's time he returned to the world. He says he will leave the destination up to God, and he and the Abbess pray together one last time.
Later, he is wandering the shipyards of Persephone, when he runs into Kaylee (the events of the television episode Serenity). Kaylee smiles, saying, "You're gonna come with us."
Part Four: ten years earlier. (2504) A thuggish man says, "You're gonna come with us," as he hauls a drunken Book out of a bar, throwing him into the wet street. An Alliance officer walking down the street recognizes him, calling him "Derrial Book" and Book laughs, telling him to guess again.
The officer says his brother served on the I.A.V. Alexander, and Book says it's a shame what happened to the ship; the officer kicks Book in the face, leaving him bleeding on the street.
Book wakes in a room full of cots, and a man offers him food. Staring into the bowl of chicken soup, Book reflects on the sacrifice of the animal, the simplicity of its existence, the design of the bowl, the physics of the planet and the purity of the universe in which all these things exist.
"The universe. Existence. All of creation supports this bowl. Which supports the soup. Which supports me. It gives me life."
He drains the bowl and staggers into the street, wandering until he encounters the neon glow of a cross on a church.
Part Five: I.A.V. Cortez, six years earlier. (2498) Book is an officer on an Alliance ship, overseeing some kind of disaster; fire is visible on all the ship screens. Book gives the order to retreat, or to lay down arms and surrender to the rebel forces, as they can negotiate for the lives of the three hundred soldiers.
His commanding officer relieves him of duty, saying that the I.A.V. Alexander was destroyed along with its crew of four thousand soldiers, doctors, nurses and teachers, all because of an operation organized by Book. The operation was designed to end the war in one day by landing transports on six different planets.
He accuses him of doing it for personal glory, and says that there must be a mole since the ships had all been ambushed. The man calls it "the single greatest disaster in Alliance history." He rips off Book's insignia, discharging him and ordering him to be released into space in an escape vessel. The vessel lands on the surface of a planet and Book climbs out, wandering alone in a desert.
Part Six: four years earlier. (2494) Book is interrogating a suspect, beating her until she reveals her name: Staff Sergeant Hope Claypool. He says they picked her up "outside the perimeter of their station on Dyton," over Greenleaf.
Two officers watch, discussing his past. They say he came up through a law-enforcement outfit on Jiangyin, and a couple of years earlier had caught the eye of the officer corps. His rise since then had been "meteoric", and he was ambitious and driven. One of the officers wonders what, exactly, drives him, be it glory, material wealth or idealism. The other officer says he wants the war to end "like no one [he'd] ever met." He describes him as brilliant, resourceful, having a great strategic mind, and adds that he's "the cockiest damn cadet [he'd] ever encountered."
Part Seven: four years earlier. (2490) Book is fighting in the street against several "purple bellies", quickly disabling them with his martial arts moves. He makes his way to a secret meeting of rebels, who are discussing the possibility of an upcoming war. The leaders suggest infiltrating the ranks of the Alliance with a mole before any conflict officially begins. The group disagrees and the people leave, with only Book remaining. He asks what the mole would do, and asks how they would communicate with the rebels since all transmissions to and from Alliance assets are monitored. They show him a video transmitter, "the latest in biorobotics."
Surgeons remove Book's eye and replace it with the camera, which connects to his ocular nerve so he can still see, while still transmitting a feed to a rebel receiving unit. For a new identity, he must take someone else's, and we see Book strangle a man who has just arrived on the planet and steal his identity card.
Part Eight: six years earlier. (2484) We see Book, known as Henry Evans at this stage of his life, running from the police after he and a friend mug a couple in an alley. Henry/Book grabs onto the underside of a car that is flying past as his friend is caught by the police. Later in a bar, a cop sits down next to Henry/Book just as his photo appears as an alert. The cop reaches for his gun, but Henry already has his out.
Later, the cop follows him and tells him about the independence movement, saying they need volunteers who can fight if it comes to it. Henry/Book turns him down and makes his way home. Police are kicking in his apartment door. He looks at the flyer for the independence movement and turns away.
Part Nine: ten years earlier. (2474) Young Henry comes home to find his father passed out asleep on the couch, surrounded by beer cans and bottles. He is relieved, because "when he's sleeping…it's easier for [him] to disappear." He puts on headphones and drifts away with the music.
"I can climb behind my eyes…and let it all blow away. The world drops out from under me and I'm free. Drifting on the breeze, up…and away. Away."
His father suddenly attacks him, choking him and then punching him in the face. He picks himself up, packs a bag and leaves the apartment one last time.
"You see, this life is a fight and if you sit still, someone will get the drop on you. They'll pin you down. I won't let it happen. I'll protect myself, take what I need, and keep moving. Because it's every man for himself. Get out of my way. This life is mine."
Behind the scenes
This series was confirmed in Serenity: Better Days #1 and was in the early development stages, with plans to debut before the end of the year 2008. The release was delayed, and Dark Horse announced the release date of November, 2010 and The Shepherd's Tale will be a hardcover graphic novel. According to Scott Allie, the three-year delay was because no appropriate author could be found to write the story from Whedon's outlines, until Joss brought his brother Zack in on the project in late 2009.
On November 30, 2010, Chris Samnee and Jed Whedon participated in a screening of Out of Gas, a Q&A about the comic and a signing of the new book. At the event, Samnee said that he put Jayne in a flamingo shirt in honor of Shawna Trpcic.
Jed Whedon listed sources of inspiration, including ESPN's documentary No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson and the song Hast Thou Considered the Tetrapod? by The Mountain Goats.
He also described what he realized about the character of Book:
". . . I landed on a few lines that reminded me of one of Book's early encounters with Kaylee, when she asks him why he doesn't care what their destination is, and he replies, "Because the journey is the worthier part."
It struck me that Book is defined through and by movement. It's one of the reasons he fits in so well with the merry band of nomads aboard Serenity. It is a philosophy and a strategy. Keep moving.
As a young man Book mistakes movement for progress and runs away from things. He runs from abuse, imprisonment, and himself. He bounces around the 'Verse like a pinball. There isn't a tremendous amount of intent behind it beyond self-preservation. Hovering over a bowl of soup, there is a shift inside him, and his journey changes from one defined by what he is running from to one defined by what he is chasing: from self-preservation to self-discovery."
Notes and references
- Manning, Shaun (March 9, 2010). "Allie and Samnee on "Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale"". Comic Book Resources. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=25133. Retrieved on March 24, 2010.
- Manning, Shaun (March 11, 2010). "Whedon tells "The Shepherd's Tale"". Comic Book Resources. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=25183. Retrieved on March 24, 2010.