Tag Archive: Serenity


Review by C.J. Bunce

Fifteen years after the last time we saw the crew of the Serenity, the next novel of Joss Whedon’s space Western universe is here to quench your thirst for more Firefly.  James Lovegrove’s third Firefly novel, The Ghost Machine, again takes place between the events of season one of the TV series and the Serenity film, but unlike his first two novels (Big Damn Hero, reviewed here, and The Magnificent Nine, reviewed here), which felt like movie prequels to the 2005 film, this new story feels like the next episode of the TV series.  It borrows a lot from the series, which will make Browncoats feel like they’re nestling back into familiar territory, while also tapping into tropes fans of science fiction will be familiar with.

The first act finds the crew on one of its trademark jobs to pick up for none other than Badger, the man in the bowler hat, certain strange cargo, that unknown quantity sealed in a can that we’ve seen the series pursue in episodes like The Train Job and The Message, and outside the stories of the ‘Verse in films like The Transporter (it’s not a person this time).  The second act reveals what is inside the crate with the Blue Sun label, which Captain Mal Reynolds ultimately decides is too risky to even take aboard his ship, and then wraps readers in a whirlwind of activity as the ramifications of the cargo are played out–sort of.  Recall that niggling feeling of the crew–and the viewers–from the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect,” and the trapped in a parallel world vibe of the Voyager two-parter “The Killing Game” and dreamscape of “Bliss”?  But The Ghost Machine really kicks in with the third act, as everything you’ve read is taken to a different extreme, and a ticking clock propels the reader headlong into a gripping climax.  What will it take, and who is the right choice from the crew, to break the spell and reveal the truth behind this unusual Pandora’s jar?

Lovegrove, whose novels we’re reviewed previously here at borg–both from the world of Firefly and his Sherlock Holmes mysteries–is really good at endings, and that’s what makes this story a winner.  Along the way the author investigates each crew member’s ideal worlds–and their worst nightmares.  This is one of the darker tales from the Firefly ‘verse, on par with the episode “Objects in Space.”  Peppered throughout the novel, as you’d expect from anything sourced from the mind of Joss Whedon, who serves as consulting editor on these books, are the Easter eggs, particularly from the Western genre.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

In his new novel Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, author James Lovegrove embarks on his next journey with the crew of Serenity following his highly successful launch point for the first ever novel series for the franchise, last year’s Firefly: Big Damn Hero (reviewed here at borg).  It’s been thirteen years since we last saw a Firefly story like these two novels, which each contain the contents of about an entire movie.  Along the way creator Joss Whedon has authorized some shorter tales via the comic books (discussed here).  Firefly: Big Damn Hero was the Firefly event of last year, and this year we’ll have two novels competing for that honor, with Tim Lebbon′s contribution to the series of novels coming this fall in Firefly: Generations So how did Lovegrove’s Firefly: The Magnificent Nine compare to his Firefly: Big Damn Hero?

As with Firefly: Big Damn Hero, Lovegrove writes the voices of the entire crew perfectly.  This is another space Western, the core of the original series, and both books feel like natural progressions following the original 14 episodes (Firefly: The Magnificent Nine fits between the last episode and the 2005 film Serenity, allowing the inclusion of two fan-favorite characters–and they’re all fan-favorite characters–Hoban “Wash” Washburne and Shepherd Book).  In a significant way the challenge of writing new Firefly stories is that writers only have 15 “canon” stories to build from, along with any notes from Whedon’s story development.  The potential pitfall is mining the original episodes too much for throwback references.  At 336 pages that’s not anything to worry about for Lovegrove.  Yes, fans will appreciate the Easter Eggs throughout the tale: Jayne Cobb’s famous hat (“a giant piece of candy corn gone wrong”) does not get ignored here, and neither does his weapon of choice, Vera.  But the framework of the story allows for plenty of opportunities for Lovegrove to do more with the characters.  It’s hard to beat his ability to get inside the head of River in Firefly: Big Damn Hero–a difficult character who didn’t get enough time to get fleshed out in the series.  But this time River takes a backseat and Jayne gets the spotlight.  As a completely original story Firefly: Big Damn Hero wins, but not by a lot.

As the title should indicate, Firefly: The Magnificent Nine is an homage to the classic, epic Western The Magnificent Seven, its source Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and countless adaptations since.  It’s notable and important that this isn’t another actual adaptation or full retelling of the story, as Lovegrove takes his own tangent from the story after setting up the novel’s first act.  But he peppers the story with familiar references, like using actors’ names and Kurosawa himself for new characters in his story.  He also has plenty of Louis L’Amour tropes and references.  One thing this novel makes clear is there are at least as many opportunities for new novels in the series as there are Kurosawa movies and L’Amour novels to pull good ideas from.  So this isn’t merely another take on The Magnificent Seven so much as establishing that the nine heroes of the Serenity are worthy of that title.

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For more than six years we at borg.com have been covering entertainment memorabilia auctions–sales of not merely replicas or mass-produced collectibles, but the real objects seen on film–rare or even one-of-a-kind costumes created by award-winning Hollywood costume designers, detailed props created by production crew, model vehicles created by special effects departments like Industrial Light and Magic, prosthetics created by famous makeup artists, set decoration, concept art, and much more.  Amassing a wide variety of artifacts from classic and more recent film and television history, London and Los Angeles-based Prop Store is hosting its annual auction later this month.  Known for its consignment of some of the most well-known and iconic screen-used props and costumes, Prop Store’s ultimate museum collectibles auction will be open for bidding from anyone, and items will be available at estimates for both beginning collectors and those with deeper pockets.

The Prop Store Live Auction: Treasures from Film and Television will be auctioning off approximately 600 items.  You’ll find the following movies and TV shows represented and more:  3:10 to Yuma (2007), 300, Aliens, Back to the Future films, Blade Runner, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Chronicles of Narnia films, Elysium, Enemy Mine, Excalibur, The Fifth Element, Gladiator, The Goonies, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Jason and the Argonauts, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, the Indiana Jones films, Iron Man, the James Bond films, Judge Dredd (1995), the Jurassic Park films, Kick-Ass 2, Kingsman: the Secret Service, Lifeforce, Looper, The Lost Boys, The Martian, The Matrix, Men in Black III, Mission: Impossible (1996), The Mummy (1999), Patton, Pirates of the Caribbean series, Predators, the Rocky films, Saving Private Ryan, Scarface, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead, Shawshank Redemption, Sherlock Holmes (2009), Star Trek franchise, Star Wars franchise, Starship Troopers, Superman films, Terminator films, The Three Musketeers (1993), Tropic Thunder, Troy, True Grit, Underworld: Evolution, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Willow, The Wolfman (2010), World War Z, and the X-Men films.

You can flip through the auction house’s hefty 360-page catalog, or start with a look at what we selected as the best 50 of the lots–what we predict as the most sought-after by collectors and those that represent some of fandom’s favorite sci-fi and fantasy classics and modern favorites.

  • Industrial Light and Magic 17 3/4-inch Rebel Y-Wing filming model from Return of the Jedi
  • Sark (David Warner) Grid costume from the original Tron (1982)
  • Julie Newmar’s Catwoman costume and Burgess Meredith Penguin hat from the classic Batman TV series
  • Buttercup (Robin Wright) Fire Swamp red dress from The Princess Bride
  • Chekov (Walter Koenig) “nuclear wessels” costume, Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) costume, and Sulu (George Takei) double shirt from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Full crew set of costumes (Malcolm, Zoe, Wash, Jayne, Inara, Kaylee, River, Book, and Simon) from Serenity (sold as individual costume lots)
  • Jack Nicholson purple Joker costume, plus separate coat and hat, from Batman (1989)
  • Enterprise-D 48-inch “pyro” model from Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Will Munny (Clint Eastwood) stunt shotgun from Unforgiven
  • Star-lord helmet from Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Mjolnir hammer from Thor

  • Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II jumpsuits made for Bill Murray as Dr. Peter Venkman
  • Witch-king of Angmar crown from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
  • Val Kilmer Batman suit and cowl from Batman Forever
  • Maverick (Tom Cruise) flight suit from Top Gun
  • Geoffrey Rush Captain Barbossa costume from the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, Curse of the Black Pearl

And there are so many more.  Like…

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While we’re sitting around waiting for the latest Firefly Cargo Crate, we noticed a new set of high-end but reasonably priced playing cards was sporting some of the best artwork we’ve seen on a classic card deck.  It turns out the official Firefly licensed collectible company Quantum Mechanix (QmX) has teamed up with graphic artist Ben Mund to create an exceptional new release.

Mund is known for his work on Serenity blueprints and the Serenity Atlas of the ‘Verse.  With his new deck of playing cards he has created imagery inspired from the series and film, including Jayne’s rifle Vera on the Jack of Clubs, the Serenity on the Ace of Spades, and Inara adorning the Queen of Diamonds.

Note that this isn’t the game of Tall Card, the card game with round cards played in the episode “Shindig.”  But if that’s what you’re after you can pick that up here at Amazon.  This is a traditional 54-card poker deck, good for “Earth-That-Was” card games.  These are Bicycle’s quality playing cards, the real deal from the United States Playing Card Company.  And you’ll want to keep an eye out for Easter eggs from the series throughout the deck courtesy of Ben Mund.

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Get thee to the comic book store tomorrow!

It’s that time of year again.  It’s time for the annual pilgrimage to your local comic book store for Free Comic Book Day, this Saturday, May 7, 2016.  Dozens of new books are available this year, for kids of all ages.  Like these:

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Alan Tudyk has a new comic book out called Spectrum.  He talks about it here:

And despite what you hear below from that familiar guy from Reading Rainbow, most comic book stores will let you select more than a few issues, not just one:

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Firefly Dictionary

One of the most popular subjects for readers here at borg.com, Firefly is a franchise we always watch out for.  We try to jump on anything new that springs from Joss Whedon’s unique world.  One of the ironies of the short-lived series is that the producers, studios, and creators really don’t license many books or collectables compared to the volume released from the big science fiction franchises.  Star Wars and Star Trek continue to flood the market with new content and products.  What that usually means is as a consumer you must pick through a lot to find something truly new and interesting.  Not so with Firefly.  Each of the books we’ve reviewed have all been something any Firefly fan should go for.

Same goes for the newest book published this month for Firefly fans: Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse.  Without a doubt the earlier published deluxe hardcover Firefly: A Celebration, Anniversary Edition is a Firefly fan’s best friend.  A Celebration had it all, from scripts to interviews and photos of every detail of the show including blueprints of ships, concept art, props, and costumes.  Check out our review here published previously at borg.com.  But Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Language Guide and Dictionary in the ‘Verse makes a worthy companion to that book, honing in on the use of language in the ‘Verse and not in a merely trifling way.

Browncoat S dictionary

This book is intelligently written for both a cosplayer wanting to emulate characters and language from the show, to those interested in understanding how the series writers, including Whedon himself, used word choices to build backstories for characters, to show their wealth, their roots, and how the characters reveal their own needs, both subtlely and overtly, to others.  How do you create a language for a society 500 years in our future that is true to the past and appropriately modern?

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Guardians poster

Review by C.J. Bunce

After so many dark and dreary superhero movies, did Hollywood forget what drew everyone to comic books in the first place?  Somewhere along the way drama began to bog down the genre resulting in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, and it looks like it’s not going to let up with the first images for the 2016 release Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.  “Why so serious?”  And it hasn’t just been movies based on DC Comics.  Marvel’s X-Men franchise gave us all those Academy Award winning actors all so grim and in such dire circumstances.  Sure, they’re good films, but Guardians of the Galaxy proves superhero movies don’t have to be so grim to be good.

If you don’t find yourself laughing out loud with this flick then the superhero genre is not for you.

The same kind of excitement you remember from your first viewing of Star Wars and Superman is waiting for you.  For certain Guardians of the Galaxy is neither movie, but it isn’t trying to be.  Good escapist fun underscores every scene, and its greatest achievement is not taking itself too seriously.  Its characters have a familiar and likeable chemistry like our favorite crews of Serenity or the Millennium Falcon.  Writer/director James Gunn and co-writer Nicole Perlman pull together familiar elements from The Fifth Element, Flash Gordon and even “The Tholian Web” to make a fully-realized new sci-fi/superhero universe.  And it’s as good an adaptation of a comic book series as you’ll ever find.  Even better, its second tier cast of characters–unfamiliar to most movie watchers–means expectations and preconceptions filmmakers may be more concerned with in a Batman, Superman, or Spider-man story are just not an issue here.

The Guardians

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Mal and Inara Leaves on the Wind

In the Firefly universe tie-ins are few and far between.  Where other franchises may have had several novels by now, fans wanting more Firefly must turn to Dark Horse Comics, the publisher of the Firefly “expanded universe.”  With the very unlikely hope of more live-action shows, the new stories may very well be considered “canon” one day.  We previously reviewed here at borg.com each of the graphic novels featuring the crew of the Firefly class vessel Serenity,Those Left Behind (2006), Better Days (2008), and The Shepherd’s Tale (2010) featuring scripts by Joss Whedon himself, as well as writers Brett Mathews and Zack Whedon and artists Will Conrad and Chris Samnee.  All are good stories that should satisfy any fan’s need for more Firefly.

Writer Zack Whedon returned to Serenity this year after four years without a new Firefly tale, with his six-issue mini-series Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.  More so than the earlier comic book series, Whedon has captured the relationships of the characters in his story, which takes place after the events in the movie Serenity.

Zoe Leaves on the Wind

We meet up with the crew in hiding, with Zoe pregnant, Mal and Inara are finally a couple, as are Simon and Kaylee.  Jayne Cobb, still wearing his mom’s hat, is off doing his own thing, and River keeps company with Zoe.

Mal & Company are heroes to some, fugitives to others.  When a group wanting Mal to lead them solicits the help of Jayne with a bribe of gold, what can he do but help them?  From the opposite faction a bounty hunter is recruited, and we’re reintroduced to the vilest of original series villains, Jubal Early.  Nathan Fillion’s dialect and inflections for Mal are immediately realized by the reader due to Zack Whedon’s writing, as is the odd sentence construction of Jubal Early.  These characters form just the right bookends to convince you you’re back in a world with Firefly still playing weekly episodes.

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Serenity - Leaves On The Wind #1 by Joe Quinones  Serenity-Leaves-on-The-Wind-1

The next iteration of Mal Reynolds and the crew of his Firefly class vessel is on newsstands now, with Dark Horse Comics’ Serenity: Leaves on the Wind.  Everyone is back, except of course for Wash, killed during the events chronicled in the movie Serenity.  River has taken his place as pilot, Simon and Kaylee are finally a pair, as are Mal and Inara, while Jayne Cobb, hat and all, is gone, currently back home with his Ma.

Writer Zack Whedon knows his world and has easily deposited readers back in familiar territory.  Mal arguing with Inara, saying the wrong things.  River still plagued by her mind.  Jayne still free-wheeling and ready to do anything for the right price.  Simon the responsible doctor.  Zoe is justifiably different, nightmares still remind her of her husband’s violent death.  But replacing Wash is now their baby. What will it be like to have a ship’s second-in-command as a mother?  How do you raise a baby without food on a derelict ship like the Serenity?

Serenity Leaves variant

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Firefly returns

Dark Horse Comics finally pulled back the curtain on its new Serenity comic book series this weekend at New York Comic Con after months of teasing a new series was forthcoming that would continue the adventures of Mal and his crew where the movie left off.  We previewed the first hints at the series here at borg.com back in August.

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind will be a six-issue mini-series with the possibility of an ongoing series, written by Joss Whedon’s brother Zack Whedon, with Joss Whedon serving as executive producer.  The story picks up nine months after the death of Wash, shown at the end of the movie Serenity.

Serenity cover

“We’ve been dying to get more Serenity out ever since the book Joss and Zack wrote,” said Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie in the promotional release.  “We all loved Zack’s work on Shepherd’s Tale, and couldn’t wait to get him back into the mix. This story is the first giant step past the film…”

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