"Firefly" was cancelled halfway through its first and only season. The final few episodes did not get aired, which seemed a fitting ending, because when the series began they skipped the pilot movie to air some other episodes first. When we finally got to see the episodes that did not air, we discovered that River Tam was something more than some sort of insane person with psychic tendencies. One of the things we know about Joss Whedon television shows from watching "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" is that there is a story arc for the first half of a season, which combines with a second half story arc to up the ante. Consequently, just as "Firefly" was getting interesting, FOX pulled the plug. Having already killed off "Dark Angel" to make room for "Firefly," it was adding insult to injury (or visa versa).
But "Firefly" fans were legion, they were vocal, and they bought enough copies of the DVD set of the abbreviated series and that gave Whedon the backing to do "Serenity," a theatrical movie that would bring some closer to the "Firefly" saga. However, the opening of the movie established that Inara and Shepherd Book were no longer aboard the good ship "Serenity." We would find out where they were in the course of the movie, but that still begged the question as to how it came to be that they left Captain Mal Reynolds and the rest of the crew behind. This would be the sort of things that fans would be able to speculate about for years, as did "Star Trek" fans filling in the gap between the original series and the first movie. However, Whedon has saved us from such fun.
"Serenity: Those Left Behind" is more a prequel to the "Serenity" movie than it is a an attempt to cover everything in between. More specifically, it is the story that explains why Inara and Shepherd Book parted company with Mal. Whedon came up with the story with Brett Matthews, who does the script, with art by Will Conrad. We bbegin with Mal, Zoe and Jayne in the middle of another sticky situation, which they manage to get out of with their lives, but not the money they were supposed to be paid. We then learn that the pair of blue gloved government agents who are after Simon and River Tam, hire an assassin with an artificial eye named Agent Dobson to find the pair. His incentive is that he will get to kill Mal Reynolds (who is, of course, responsible for the eye), so the confrontation between these two is inevitable and the meeting place is the wrecked spaceships of the Battle of Sturges.
Because of Whedon's involvement this story gets to be part of the "Firefly" canon and for that reason I round up on "Serenity: Those Left Behind." But I had to admit the story really seems like a standard "Firefly" episode, with a couple of specific things tacked on at the end to set up the situation for the film, and nothing like the film before the film. The main plot line really does not provide the impetus to justify Inara and Shepherd Book leaving "Serenity," and I would think a better job of doing that could have come from a pair of single issue stories. Still, fans will be inspired to check this out and hopefully their disappointments will be tempered accordingly. Yes, in case you were wondering, all of the variant covers of the "Serenity" crew for the three issues, half of which are really nice, are to be found within the pages of this trade paperback collection. Nathan Fillion provides an Introduction on the joys of finally becoming a comic book superhero that is a nice additon to the proceedings as well.