Title: The Shepherd’s Tale (Serenity #3)
Author(s): Joss & Zack Whedon
Genre: Sci-fi Graphic Novel
Number of Pages: 56
I read this graphic novel in the car while my dad was grocery shopping, with a squirming puppy in the seat beside me vying for attention. It was not a difficult read, needless to say, and I wouldn’t say I regret reading a book that took me five minutes to complete. But frankly, as someone who loves the short-lived TV series Firefly, I’m surprised the show’s creator Joss Whedon was in on this stinker. I imagine just about everybody who watched the show wanted to know more about Shepherd Book (played by the late, great Ron Glass) and his mysterious past but in one fell swoop this graphic novel ruins his character. Let me explain, trying to abstain from spoilers as much as possible…
In the TV series, Shepherd Book is a man of great integrity and moral conviction. He’s willing to use violence in situations where he feels it’s necessary to protect the people he cares about, but he also has a strong moral compass throughout and he truly seeks to do good through his Christian faith and tremendous sense of empathy. Now, it’s hinted that Shepherd Book has a past, so it’s safe to assume he was involved with some criminal activities before his conversion. Possibly he’s even hurt some innocent people, which leaves him with a lot to atone for when he turns himself around. In this book, Shepherd Book is (was) a sociopath.
He kills people (including one character who looks basically like a kid,) he tortures people, he beats the shit out of women. The explanation for all this was that he was abused as a child and grew up with few options, and his road to Damascus is credited with him realizing ‘he’s part of something bigger’ while eating a bowl of soup. Apparently seeing the bigger picture turns him into an honorable person.
Unlike some people, I don’t think religion in of itself turns somebody good. A pedophile doesn’t ‘find God,’ he uses God to molest more children. Just because somebody on death row is reading the bible or an ‘born-again’ ex-con is sharing the word doesn’t mean they’re truly penitent or that they won’t repeat past offenses. Looking at the character in this book, I don’t buy the character arc of Shepherd Book in the show. It’s an insult.