Firefly: Outlaw Ma Reynolds

by Nick Devonald on January 08, 2020

Writer: Greg Pak
Illustrators: Davide Gianfelice & George Kambadais
Colors: Joana LaFuente
Letters: Jim Campbell

Before I get into the review I need to get a few things about this issue off my chest. First off, by not making this a numbered issue, instead calling it The Outlaw Ma Reynolds, my first assumption would have been this is a side story focusing on Mal’s mother. And optional. With the higher price point I might have debated buying it. But that would be a mistake since essentially this is #12 ½. Not only does it bridge the end of the last story arc it also sets up the next one.

The other thing that bugs me is the set up for this story. Essentially following straight on from the conclusion of the last issue, I couldn’t get into the specifics for spoilers but I can now. Mal is given a choice at the end of the last issue, go to jail for his crimes, or capture his mother the infamous Ma Reynolds. As storylines go it makes for some great conflict. But I’m really struggling to wrap my head around the idea that a court would suggest that first. If Mal had suggested it and argued for it then maybe I could come around to it. But the court suggesting it? It just doesn’t ring true.

Perhaps arguing for realism in a sci-fi western comic seems a bit much, but when events don’t ring true and don’t follow logic it takes away from the story. Anyway, onto the issue now.

It’s a double length story, following Mal tracking his Ma down, as well as getting flashbacks to his childhood and upbringing. Unlike the previous Bad Company which delved into Saffrons backstory (which was both optional, and unnecessary. One of the things that worked about Saffron is how mysterious she is, I didn’t want to have an origin story for her) fleshing out Mal’s character was quite interesting and I enjoyed it a lot.

Art duties have passed onto Davide Gianfelice & George Kambadais for this one-shot. I like regular series artist Dan Mcdaid but it’s nice to see someone else’s take on the characters here. Gianfelice & Kambadais are pretty good at capturing Nathan Fillions facial expressions which is a nice touch. It’s a good thing too since this issue focuses almost exclusively on Mal we don’t get a chance to see most of the regular Firefly cast.

I enjoyed this issue but it’s difficult to decide where it fits in the Firefly universe. The only character from the TV series is Mal, with a brief appearance from Inara, which makes it feel less like a typical Firefly story because we haven’t got the crew or the usual banter from them. But it’s nice to look at the bigger universe and focus a little on his backstory.

And in case you thought Boss Moon’s story had been wrapped up in the previous story arc think again, it looks like she’s going to be hanging around. I’m a little undecided about her. I think she makes for an interesting character, and it’s been good fun watching her dynamics and relationship with Mal change and grow as the story progresses, but I feel like her stories done now. I’m not opposed to new characters, but there is so much focus on her these days and less on the rest of the crew. I would like her to fade into the background a little and spend a bit more time having banter with the crew. She’s Greg Pak’s creation and he obviously enjoys having her around, but the more new characters we have it takes away from the original crew and at the end of the day that’s why we’re here.

So this issue manages to do a number of things. We’ve got the pursuit of Ma Reynolds. We’ve got a look back at Mal’s history with her growing up. Then we end it with setting up the next story arc. Phew that’s a lot to fit in, but by making this a double length issue we manage it all without anything feeling rushed.

Despite appearing to only be a one-shot this is essential reading for the main Firefly storyline. Good fun and nice to focus on Mal for a change but I missed the rest of the crew and I’m looking forward to them getting back together in the main series. My only real gripe is how this issue was set up in Firefly #12, it just didn't feel realistic to me. The change in artists is a welcome change.

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