Zack Whedon keeps ‘Serenity’ flying in ‘Leaves on the Wind’

(CBR) On January 29, Serenity will fly again. Writer Zack Whedon and artist Georges Jeanty shepherd the return of Captain Malcolm Reynolds and the rest of the crew — well, most of them anyway — in the pages of “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind,” a new six-issue miniseries from Dark Horse Comics.

Mal and the gang were first introduced in creator Joss Whedon’s space-western character study “Firefly” on Fox television. The series, which debuted in 2002, aired for a half a season before being cancelled by the network leaving fans hanging with a largely unfinished story, though the 2005 film, “Serenity,” tied up a few loose ends. Since its cancellation, the series and subsequent film have only grown in popularity, with Dark Horse bringing the crew of the Serenity to the comics page for several miniseries, but “Leaves on the Wind” marks the first story to take place following the events of the film.

We spoke with Zack Whedon about “Leaves on the Wind” and the challenges of breathing new life into the “Firefly” ‘verse. This comic is shaping up to be, in many ways, a departure from the sometimes light-hearted series. There are likely to be few train-heists and gunrunning escapades, the crew is still reeling from the loss, at the conclusion of “Serenity,” of their friend and pilot, Wash, and The Alliance hasn’t relaxed their pursuit of Mal and the crew. In confronting their grief, however, Whedon aims to steer the characters back towards some sort of equilibrium, paving the way for adventures yet to come.

CBR News: “Leaves on the Wind” picks up after “Serenity.” How much time has elapsed? What can you tell us about where this next chapter might take Mal and Serenity?

Zack Whedon: It has been around nine months since the conclusion of “Serenity.” A lot has changed and a lot has stayed the same. The discovery that Mal and his crew shared with the ‘verse — that the inhabitants of the planet Miranda were killed or driven mad by an Alliance experiment — has opened some eyes and created some new allies, but it hasn’t deterred any of their pursuers. If anything, it has made them more relentless. Serenity is hiding out in lesser-known corners of the ‘verse, trying to keep a low profile. As you will see early on, that’s easier said than done. Mal and his crew will be forced to face their enemies head on — some familiar, some new.

The title is a reference to Wash’s last words, and no doubt his presence (or lack thereof) is lingering very heavily. This maybe allows for some new character attributes to be seen, as we so far haven’t really seen how Mal or the rest cope with loss. How is Zoe coping, now, with the loss of Wash? How has her character changed since his death?

Zoe is grieving; she is definitely feeling his absence. Nothing about life on board Serenity is easy at the moment and it is made even harder for Zoe by the fact that she doesn’t have Wash by her side. Also, she has gotten fatter — in the belly area — big, big belly with a baby inside. The prospect of being a parent is not something she was prepared for, especially the idea of doing it without Wash.

Artist Georges Jeanty Talks “Serenity,” “Buffy” In Vegas How is the rest of the crew, aside from Zoe, coping?

The grief they are all feeling isn’t fresh, it has been several months, so they aren’t consumed by it as I imagine they were directly following his death. There is a sense that something has been lost though, the dynamic of the crew — the unique blend of people that somehow worked well together. The cohesion isn’t there. I think Mal is a bit more worn down than we’ve seen him. The loss of Wash has taken a serious toll, but it has also hammered home for him what is really important: This group of disparate personalities aboard Serenity.

River seemed to come into her own in the film. How is she relating to the crew, and how is the crew relating to her?

River is doing well. The truth about Miranda was eating away at her mind, and now that she’s gotten it out in the open, she is much more together, psychologically speaking. She’s still an odd duck, but she has been stable and no one on board wants to compromise that stability in any way.

River may be feeling a bit more comfortable with herself and her past, but is the rest of the crew comfortable with her? Is there still that sense of delicacy and tension?

There is always the sense with River that she could become unstable, and that sense is well-founded. Her brain is delicate; there are a lot of traumatic memories stored away that, if she accesses them, could tip her off-balance. At the start of the series, she is in a good place, psychologically, having uncovered the truth about Miranda, but she can very easily drift into an unhealthy mental space and no one wants to see that happen, especially given that she is now the pilot of the ship.

With the revelations Mal exposes at the end of Serenity, one might expect (I did, anyway) some sort of popular uprising against the Alliance. What is the general political state of the ‘verse? Is there revolution fomenting? How do the populace view Mal’s actions?

The revelation about Miranda is spun in every way and to every political end. There are those who have been inspired by it and have formed the New Resistance, a grassroots movement filled with young, idealistic, political activists. The Alliance is spinning it their own way to deflect and limit their exposure, and, as with any massive political entity, they are very good at that. In some ways, I think it will be surprising to readers how deftly The Alliance has navigated the controversy.

What are the challenges of bringing the “Serenity” crew back to the page? How are you hoping to push the story into new territory?

The biggest challenge is that this is a new day on Serenity. There’s no Wash, no Book and at the outset of our story, there’s no Jayne either. The dynamic is different, the ship is less bustling. Things took a dark turn, and now they are living in the wake of all of that, trying to put things back together. That challenge is also what makes it exciting to write. We are taking these characters into the future, seeing a new chapter of their lives — something that every fan, myself included, has wanted to see for years. As we charge ahead in the stories, I hope that I can get the crew back to the kind of adventures you would expect to see if the show had never ended.

This sounds like something of an atypical “Serenity” story. I’m not sure exactly what my question is, but — is “Leaves on the Wind” a period of transition? Of re-evaluation and growth for the characters?

It is a period of transition in many ways. The life they were leading in the series — taking odd jobs, doing some smuggling here and there — is not one they are able to lead now in the wake of their big throw down with the Alliance. So everything is a bit off balance. I think part of my goal with this series is to get them back to some kind of equilibrium, where you could imagine their lives getting back on track, even if that track is an illegal, itinerant one.

You’re working with artist Georges Jeanty, who is no stranger to the Whedon-verse. What are you seeing Jeanty bring to the page? What did the two of you discuss in terms of tone and visual atmosphere?

Georges is a great storyteller and I’m seeing that with every piece he sends me. He takes the script to another level. He’s really done a nice job of recreating the tone of the show on the page and, though his work is stunning, it doesn’t draw attention to itself with any obtrusive stylistic elements, so you really can get lost in the flow of the story and hear the voices of the actors as you’re reading. I couldn’t be happier with it. We didn’t really discuss tone because we both wanted essentially the tone of the show to end up on the page and it has. We both went back and did the full “Firefly”/”Serenity” immersion before we started. It helps me with getting the characters’ voices down, and I know Georges was very intent on getting all of the visual details right. He’s done an amazing job.

Zack Whedon and Georges Jeanty team for “Serenity: Leaves on the Wind” #1 in January.