This series continues to live up to its name as it deftly weaves together that which is known from the Firefly of the past with a bigger expanded universe with compelling new and old characters and situations. Engaging and beautiful artwork draws the reader right into the world giving more depth to this character development and interaction-heavy issue. The creative team proves time and time again that nostalgia can be a beneficial tool when it is wielded in such an expert and creative way.
One of the themes that were at the forefront of Firefly’s time on the air so many years ago was the idea of family and the struggles that come with protecting that family and from within that family. Whether that family is found or blood, things aren’t always shiny, to use the slang term of the universe.
Almost two decades later (both in-universe and out of universe), that hasn’t changed one bit.
Earlier reviews talked about how the series riffed on a lot of notes from the original television series, including the first issue feeling very similar in many ways to the pilot, the longer it goes on the more it has carved its own identity in this fan-favorite universe. Josh Lee Gordon, Fabiana Mascolo, Lucia Di Giammarino, and Jim Campbell continue to grow these characters and their world in exciting and interesting ways and present a series that truly takes Firefly beyond what it was and had been.
The last issue was full of action, but this issue is a step back of sorts to explore the characters and their situation more. Emma, the mechanic Bao, and their passenger Rasalia are on the run while Emma’s mother Zoe, Salo, Simon, Kaylee, and their kids are in the clutches of the Blue Son Corporation. The issue gives us a good look at both group’s situations and how they are dealing with them, as well as moving the plot forward through the help of another familiar face of the past.
One of the great strengths of this series besides its great character work and beautiful artwork is the fact that it wields nostalgia or past returns confidently and smartly. Often returns to beloved stories mean cameos dropped in for the hell of it. Sure, there are plot reasons given but it’s often clear that it’s for the sake of the fan reaction over most things.
With this series, there are the plot reasons but there is also that strong sense of family, as mentioned at the start, that makes it all connect. The original Firefly crew was a found family and their connections remain no matter how far apart they’ve gone in life now. Running to Simon & Kaylee with their passenger/patient previously made perfect sense, and Emma rushing to gain the aid of the still mysterious River Tam makes just as much sense.
There are also glimpses of the long-departed Wash, through the mental memory torture that Zoe is put through, and references to why some of the other previous cast might not be playing a part in this story. Yet, those references were left ambiguous enough that one can never say never.
Mascolo and Di Giammarino have proven through the past four issues that they are stellar at switching between more action-packed issues and quieter types of issues and they thread that needle here. There is a small bit of action but they nail all the mood and atmosphere around these characters as well as continue to bring stunning colorful life to this sci-fi western fantasy universe.
There are great close-up panels that perfectly capture emotions, with little touches that hit home how the characters are feeling and interacting. There is an intentional toning down of the colors from the last issue to match the fact that both groups spend the entirety of the issue within ships and bases with artificial lighting and more artificial environments.
Like a great many artists today, the panel formatting is played with in delightful ways within the pages drawing the eye the way they desire and, in many ways, making the material even more engaging. This is a theme across a great many books that I’m on record across my reviews being a huge fan of and love seeing more.
Wordier issues mean that letterers have to do a dance of making sure that the dialogue fits around the overall art and doesn’t overwhelm, and Campbell does that dance quite well. Especially when much of the dialogue switches between English and Chinese, fitting the merged language aesthetic of the source universe, and then have Spanish thrown in with the new character Rasalia. Then for good measure, he throws out big and bold SFX that just makes you feel what the character is probably feeling (here’s looking at you Rasalia taking that ball to the back and face, ouch) or immerse you in the environment.
Firefly: Brand New ‘Verse #5 is now on sale in print and digitally from Boom Studios.