Tag Archives: Brett Matthews

Review: “Serenity–Better Days and Other Stories” by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Jim Krueger, Zack Whedon, Patton Oswalt, Will Conrad, Chris Samnee, & Patric Reynolds

Title: Better Days And Other Stories
Writers: Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, Jim Krueger, Zack Whedon, & Patton Oswalt
Artists: Will Conrad, Chris Samnee, & Patric Reynolds
Series: Firefly/Serenity (Serenity: Better Days #1-3, The Other Half from MySpace Dark Horse Presents #13, Downtime from USAToday.com & Serenity: Float Out one-shot)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2011

I mentioned my love of Firefly/Serenity last time, when I reviewed Those Left Behind, didn’t I? Anyway, if you’ve not checked it out yet you really should. Better Days is the second collection of Serenity comics, featuring a three-issue miniseries and (if you get the second-edition hardcover) three other hard-to-find tales to boot.

Most of this volume is set either during the television series or in the interim between the show and Those Left Behind, based on the characters present and their relationships. Better Days finds our favorite crew of ne’er-do-wells knee-deep in a heist, just like a thousand times before. Except this time…this time they strike it rich. Our crew can handle misfortune just fine, they do that all the time. But success? Success just might be the death of them…. As with the previous miniseries, this one felt like it was ripped from the screen, almost like it was supposed to be an episode of the show. The writing was spot on, and the art was awesome. The Other Half is a short little tale featuring our heroes attempting to transport a fugitive to meet his friends…while Reavers try and eat their faces. Again, the dialogue was stellar, and the central focus on River was a nice change. Downtime is another short episode, this time following our cast as they attempt to wait out a snowstorm keeping them from taking off. Difficult as it is to pull off in a story this short, every character gets at least a moment to shine. The art isn’t quite as pretty this time out, being a bit more impressionistic, but I enjoyed the tale nevertheless. Finally, and most heart-breakingly, Float Out is a one-shot tale set after the film and featuring the friends of a certain fallen character toasting their memories of him. I’ll refrain from further discussion in the interest of avoiding spoilers for those who’ve yet to see it, but that final page might just make you tear up all over again at the demise of [REDACTED]….

CONTENT: Mild profanity, unless you can read Mandarin Chinese. Then I imagine it would be R-rated. Strong violence. Occasional sexual content consistent with the show.

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Review: “Serenity–Those Left Behind” by Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews, & Will Conrad

Title: Those Left Behind
Writers: Joss Whedon (Story) & Brett Matthews (Story & Script)
Artist: Will Conrad
Series: Firefly/Serenity (Serenity: Those Left Behind #1-3)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2006

Yay Firefly comics! Okay, so they’re marketed under the title Serenity, after the theatrical follow-up to the television series, but they’ll always be Firefly to me. What’s that? You’ve never watched this most excellent, most canceled of sci-fi television series? What are you still doing here then? The series is available on perpetual rotation for free via Hulu, on Netflix, or on DVD from Wal*Mart for like ten bucks. You really have no excuse not to watch it. You won’t be sorry you did….

Okay, in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade, Firefly was a sci-fi television series developed by the inimitable Joss Whedon and Tim Minear for Fox Television in 2002. Following a series of debacles at the studio, including the decision to air the episodes all out of order, the series was canceled after only fourteen episodes. The show’s devoted fan base was devastated, and promptly started a massive grassroots campaign to save the series. Based on the sheer enthusiasm of this fan base, Universal Pictures took the then-unheard of step of contracting a theatrical follow-up to the television series. Ever since there have been persistent rumors that the series is coming back, but for now and maybe forever the Browncoat army (as we Firefly/Serenity fans are known around the interwebs) have to content ourselves with the stellar comics Dark Horse intermittently releases.

After the Earth was used up, Humanity found itself a new home in a massive star system with hundreds of planets and moons, terraforming each until it could sustain human life. The central planets formed the Alliance and successfully subjugated the entire system, crushing the Independents in a bloody civil war. Most of the surviving Independents have drifted out to the fringes of society, out where Alliance control is nominal at best, out where a ship under your feet and a gun on your hip will give you a chance to carve out a living for yourself and those that count on you….

Those Left Behind serves as the bridge between Firefly and Serenity, helping to wrap up a few of the discarded plot threads that didn’t make the cut for the film. Here we see Mal struggling with Inara’s decision to leave, as well as the catalyst for Shepherd Book’s own departure. On a more plot-related note, witness the reappearance of Agent Dobson and the identity of those sinister Alliance agents in the blue bodysuits…. The best compliment I can offer this book is that it legitimately blends into the rest of the franchise. The dialogue, timing, and characterization is all spot-on, easing the transition between the different media. The art is incredible too, so that helps. I could say more, but really it all boils down to this: Watch the show, read this comic, then watch the film. You won’t be sorry you did.

CONTENT: Minor profanity, including a good deal of cursing in Chinese. A fair amount of violence, gory and occasionally disturbing. Mild sexual innuendo, mostly as under-the-breath commentary and asides.

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Review: “Tales Of The Vampires” by Joss Whedon et al.

Title: Tales Of The Vampires
Writers: Joss Whedon, Drew Goddard, Jane Espenson, Brett Matthews, Ben Edlund, & Sam Loeb
Artists: Alex Sanchez, Paul Lee, Cameron Stewart, Scott Morse, Vatche Mavlian, Jason Alexander, Ben Stenbeck, Jeff Parker, Ben Edlund, Tim Sale, Cliff Richards & Sean Phillips
Series: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Miniseries)
Rating: *****
Publisher/Copyright: Dark Horse Comics, 2004

I’ve mentioned my fondness for anthologies before, right? Good, no need to retread that. I mentioned that I like how they free writers to explore background characters and the worlds created by popular franchises? Ok, no need to say that again either. Did I mention how I enjoy the wide variety of artistic styles in a comic anthology? I did? Oh. Well, looks like this introduction is almost entirely redundant then….In that case, without further ado, let me introduce Tales Of The Vampires. As with the previously-reviewed Tales Of The Slayers, the writers of the show Buffy The Vampire Slayer team up to tell a wide variety of tales from the Buffyverse. This time, instead of focusing on the Slayer end of things, we are treated to a slate of tales about particularly interesting vampires throughout history. Some are familiar, like Spike & Drusilla or Angel. Others we have never met before now, but are destined to leave their mark on the Buffyverse nevertheless.

Joss Whedon and Alex Sanchez start us out this time with the frame story for the anthology, Tales Of The Vampiresabout a group of young Watcher trainees being taught not to underestimate their foes by listening to a captive vampire tell tales of his fellows. This tale is told in starts and stops in between the other tales of the miniseries. We then travel to Prague in The Problem With Vampires by Drew Goddard and Paul Lee to discover just what happened to Drusilla prior to her arrival with Spike in Sunnydale at the beginning of Buffy Season 2. Whedon then teams up with Cameron Stewart to tell the story of Stacy, a young girl who is attacked by a vampire only to find everything she ever wanted in the darkness. Jane Espenson and Scott Morse bring us Spot The Vampire, a fun little rhyming puzzler in the classic seek-and-find genre. Brett Matthews and Vatche Mavlian take us to 1888 Whitechapel, as a detective with a secret attempts to track down the infamous Jack the Ripper. Jane Espenson then teams up with Jason Alexander to tell the tale of a young man raised by his vampire Father. Drew Goddard and Ben Stenbeck then take us to just before the start of the Buffy Season 8 comic series, as Buffy confronts the legendary Dracula in an attempt to reclaim Xander from his entranced servitude in Antique. Jane Espenson and Jeff Parker transport us to 1933 Kansas, at the start of the Dust Bowl, for the tale of a young farmboy trying to figure out the rules of his new condition. Ben Edlund handles both writing and artistic duties for Taking Care Of Business, chronicling the meeting of a vampiric ex-Inquisitor priest who believes he’s still doing God’s work with a pudgy young man claiming to be God himself! Sam Loeb and Tim Sale then give us Some Like It Hot, about a vampire who finds a way to walk once more in the sunlight. Brett Matthews and Cliff Richards then take us back to flesh out the Buffy Season 3 episode Amends as Angel battles his personal demons in Numb.  I’m also including here a story from the Dark Horse one-shot Drawing On Your Nightmares, because there’s really nowhere else it fits. Not sure where you can find it reprinted, honestly. Dames is written by Brett Matthews and drawn by Sean Phillips, and tells the noirish tale of a gambling vampire and his encounter with a damsel in distress.

From a writing perspective, I enjoyed Joss Whedon’s frame story Tales Of The Vampires even if it happened long before all but like two of the stories it was supposedly framing. I admit the ending too me somewhat by surprise, too. The Problem With Vampires deserves mention both for Drew Goddard’s writing, which was excellent enough that I could actually hear Spike and Drusilla saying their lines, and for the art. But I’ll get to that in a minute. He also actually made me feel sorry for Dracula in Antique, which was an unexpected bonus. I also very much liked Stacy (again by Whedon) and identified strongly with the character as a confirmed sci-fi/fantasy geek myself. At least, you know, until she turned vampire….The pseudo-children’s poem Spot The Vampire was very well done, so kudos to Jane Espenson. Speaking of Espenson, both her other tales here were stellar. Father was poignant, and Dust Bowl was a great story of a young vampire figuring out the rules of his new existence without any help from anyone else. Brett Matthews failed to surprise me with Jack, but I have a stubborn weakness for Jack The Ripper stories for some reason. Only, I thought Jack the Ripper was supposed to have been Lothos, the Big Bad from the movie/The Origin? Merrick definitely implied as much. His writing on the Angel-centric story Numb was spot-on though, and I enjoyed Dames as well. Ben Edlund’s Taking Care Of Business proved to be a delightfully quirky tale, one I greatly enjoyed. Artistically, Paul Lee’s work on The Problem With Vampires deserves mention for managing to capture Spike and Drusilla so perfectly. The style Vatche Mavlian adopts for Jack isn’t exactly my favorite, but I must say that it fit the tale perfectly. Cliff Richards perfectly captured Angel for Numb, which isn’t to be taken for granted.

CONTENT: Violence, as you would expect from this series. Vampires drink from victims, sometimes with graphically-depicted results. Others are turned. Some are staked, which isn’t as gory given their tendency to crumble to dust. Mild profanity. Some sexual innuendo, but nothing too explicit. You can decide for yourself whether Buffyverse vampires are occultic, but you shouldn’t be surprised that they show up here. They’re in the bloody title, after all….

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