I used to watch “Farscape” every week; in a science-fiction television wasteland, it was one of the few shining stars still left. Inventive, funny, clever, and always ready with a knowing wink to the audience, it was more or less just what I was looking for in a television show. Then the last season seemed to lose sight of what made the show good, and wrapped the program into a darker, more convoluted mess that seemed to miss out on a lot of those early high spirits. On the plus side, the first issue of Boom! Studios’s “Farscape” mini-series has definitely gone for the feeling of those first few seasons. On the minus side, it seems to have dumbed itself down in the process.
It’s hard to believe that there’s only been one previous attempt at a “Farscape” comic, a two-issue mini-series from Wildstorm in 2002 that sank without a trace, the license quickly abandoned. In many ways, those first three seasons of “Farscape” are almost like a comic book come to life; episodic stories with long-term plotting, crazy ideas, and even the most tried-and-true plots getting their own twist. In many ways, the episode where everyone switches bodies is the best example of the latter; so many shows have tackled that old chestnut, but in “Farscape” it was surprisingly funny, veering down paths that most others wouldn’t have dared go. It was exactly what you wouldn’t have expected for a television series, and all the better because it got away with it.
This is a long-winded way of saying that where I think the new “Farscape” comic has gone slightly wrong, at least for the moment, is that it’s taken another old chestnut and played it exactly as you would expect. The basic idea (which show creator Rockne O’Bannon contributed, and specifically noted as something that the budget of the show would have never allowed) isn’t a bad one, with the crew travelling to the Hynerian Empire so that Rygel can finally reclaim his throne. It’s from there that everything goes a little sour, though. The story is riddled with cliches, from the most transparent betrayal you can imagine, to scenes with Aeryn trying to learn how to be a mother. It’s predictable and it’s more than slightly boring. And if there’s one thing that “Farscape” should never be, it’s boring. Maybe the story will pick up in future issues, but right now it just feels leaden. The one plus for the writing is that Keith R.A. DeCandido does have a good ear for character voices, and most of the scenes definitely ring true to the show, even some four years later.
Tommy Patterson’s art unfortunately reminds me of so many other tie-in comics, and by that I mean stiff and unnaturally posed. I know it’s difficult to maintain your own style when drawing a licensed comic, because with the studio (and sometimes the actors) having veto power over what the characters look like, it can result in being forced to use reference photo after reference photo to get as close as possible to something all the higher-ups feel is perfect. So in the end, I don’t blame Patterson at all; looking at the scenes with all the Hynerians is a great example of what happens when he doesn’t have to worry so much about official licensed likenesses. Those panels are fresh and lively, and easily the best example of what he’s capable of drawing. It’s a dramatic contrast between the unmoving, lifeless stone faces and poses that the main cast looks in more often than not.
Licensed comics don’t have to be the kiss of death; Joss Whedon and Dark Horse are certainly proving that over on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight.” This comic, though, is like too many other failed attempts. It just doesn’t seem to hit the level of fun that “Farscape,” itself, ever did. Maybe the remaining issues will liven up a little more, in both writing and art. At the moment, though, all I can think is that in six years time, someone else might be writing about this “Farscape” comic and how it was quickly forgotten. I hope that’s not the case.