SERENITY: THE SHEPHERD’S TALE was the book every Firefly and Serenity fan has been waiting for, breathlessly, for years. Shepherd Book was the most mysterious of Joss Whedon’s characters and speculation about his actual identity has been the subject of many a late-night discussion group and drinking session at many a Con throughout the ‘Verse. So, to say this was the most anticipated book in this series really isn’t an understatement at all.

I wish I could say that it was that anticipation that led to the amazing sense of disappointment and almost betrayal The Shepherd’s Tale offered, but I can’t. It was just a sadly disappointing little book. And it really is little, only fifty-six pages. That in itself is disappointing.

Joss Whedon’s brother Zack took on the daunting task of writing the Tale. He chose to tell it as a series of vignettes as Book is dying in the moments after the attack on Haven (events from the movie Serenity). The idea of “his life flashing before his eyes” is kind of interesting, but it makes for choppy reading and once or twice the transitions between memories left me looking back trying to figure out how I ended up in a particular place in the story.

I know style can vary on graphic novels and an artist might choose a particular “look” for the artwork because they feel it fits the story. For me, The Shepherd’s Tale fell flat there as well. The artwork left a lot to be desired. It looked more like the storyboards for the book than the actual final product.

The worst part was that the story was a huge let down. After waiting for years to find out the truth about Shepherd Book, this is what we are given? It felt almost like Zack took all of the possible character reveals for several years of the series that we never got and shoved them into a single work. The one huge question that fans have asked for year-why did the Alliance give Book medical aid and then let him go?-was never answered. In fact, within the bound of this story, that event makes no sense at all.

I know fans are going to want to add this to their collection, and I know it will be almost impossible to not purchase it, but if you must-do it to support Serenity/Firefly. Don’t read it. Stick with those wonderful late-night sessions where Shepherd Book could still be all those wonderful and scary people we’ve all imagined him to be.

For me? Well, I am just going to live in a happy ‘Verse where this book doesn’t exist.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Dark Horse | Pages: 56 | Source: Purchased | Buy on Amazon

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