Since I seldom buy comics, this sequel to Those Left Behind may have been out early in 2008 and I didn’t even realize. When I saw it in the bookstore, I didn’t even glance through it—I just knew I had to get it. My conviction wasn’t misplaced, though this effort (by the same team responsible for the first one) isn’t quite as good.
Though it lacks the fabulous pin ups of the previous volume, Better Days boasts an absolutely gorgeous spread of all nine main characters. The amusing introduction is given by Adam (“not a girl’s name”) Baldwin, and the art by Will Conrad is generally as good as what he did in Those Left Behind (though I’m less a fan of this colorist).
The script simply isn’t as good. Somehow it’s lacking the punch-per-page wit of its predecessor. Of course, it’s Joss Whedon, so it’s far above most comic scripts. I’m rather a connoisseur of Mal/Inara material (I am in the Livejournal group and have contributed one story to the pairing) and there are some short, but sweet, moments for them (including a spread so steamy I was a little embarrassed to be reading it on an airplane).
The general story, though, while swerving dangerously into the first season’s later and darker material, is a howl and proves, as usual, that it’s the journey, not the destination, that we love about Firefly. It involves the crew finding the jackpot and each fantasizing what he or she would do with the wealth. For Jayne, it’s captaincy (and a “Jayne-sized” crushed on Kaylee!); Wash and Zoe’s is to raise a family on a luxury cruiser; Kaylee’s of course involves Simon. Shepherd Book’s is a scream, as River’s, which looks like it came from Big Fish. There’s also a very amusing section where Jayne asks Simon’s advice on approaching a companion.
Twice I turned the page and wondered whether I was missing a page or two in the narrative, and there’s an odd suggestion at the end that Simon is Inara’s client—I’m sure that was resolved at some point that he just went to her for conversation. There are too many witty moments to share, but I will give you this one from Mal and Zoe: “Why do I open my mouth?” “Sir, we’re none of us sure.”