Feminist perspectives on the works of Joss Whedon have shifted over the years. It's generally accepted that 20 years ago, he was ahead of the curve when it came to writing strong female characters on television. The times have changed, however, and Whedon's writing hasn't necessarily evolved with them, his weaknesses more glaring than ever. Even so, Whedon's female characters have left a long-lasting impression on fans.
Firefly: The Sting, a new graphic novel available from BOOM! Studios, centers around the women of Whedon's cult sci-fi Western series Firefly as they go on a heist together. Those fans who've grown skeptical of Whedon's handling of his female characters over the years will be pleased to hear that this book wasn't written by Whedon, but rather Delilah S. Dawson, a sci-fi/fantasy author perhaps best known for bringing depth to the most underwritten Star Wars character with her Phasma novel.
The Sting is a stand-alone graphic novel that doesn't require knowledge of the previous Firefly universe comics from BOOM! Studios and Dark Horse in order to enjoy. Continuity-wise it takes place between the events of the TV series and its 2005 movie continuation Serenity after Book left the crew.
Zoe, Kaylee, Inara and River are enjoying a ladies-only spa day when the femme fatale Saffron, one of the TV show's few recurring antagonists, recruits them for a job. If Saffron's promise of a huge pay-out doesn't to get everyone over their natural distrust, then a little bit of blackmail in the form of a direct threat to the Serenity is enough to force their hands. The job entails robbing the owner of a diamond mine at a religious cult's big annual party. And as the story's genre dictates, it also entails some major twists and double-crosses.
The book is divided up into five chapters, though they're not labeled as such on the page. After the team gets recruited in the first chapter, the remaining four chapters each focus on the perspective of one of the Serenity's four women. The characterizations are strong, both in terms of presenting each individual's personality as well as demonstrating the emotional bonds between them.
The different chapters also have different artists. The five art styles aren't so radically dissimilar from one another to make a clear artistic statement in their differences (it's not as if one style or another particularly "feels" more Kaylee or more River). However, it is nice to see all these artists' takes on the story, and the art is generally strong throughout. The one caveat to this praise is that while the characters are identifiable, the likenesses to the original actors aren't always especially strong.
This is a fun read for Firefly fans who just want to spend more time with the series' female characters. This isn't some big groundbreaking narrative in the 'verse, but it is an entertaining adventure. The graphic novel also contains a brief preview for Greg Pak and Dan McDaid's Firefly: The Unification War: Part One.
Firefly: The Sting is in stores now.