Now THIS was a good issue.
Seriously, as much as I disliked the first issue, I absolutely LOVED this one. Instead of coming off like the clumsy fanfic that the first issue felt like, this felt more like an actual episode of the TV show (notice I didn't say it felt like the movie... more on that in a minute.)
PLOT: The crew have to rush Zoe to the nearest hospital they can get to, as in giving birth she ruptured something and Simon couldn't stitch her up on the ship. This leads to Mal having to make the decision to leave her behind on the medical station, as the Alliance is quickly closing in, having been alerted to his presence the moment they landed there. Zoe takes it in stride, up until the point a particularly nasty Alliance officer tells her that he knows about her daughter and he'll drop her on some backwater prison asteroid somewhere and simply forget her there forever unless she gives up the crew.
Meanwhile, Mal and Co. run into a slightly larger and newer Firefly, full of the Browncoats who want to tear the Alliance apart over what happened on Miranda. The rebels were led there by Jayne, who had left Serenity at some point in the last nine months (this hasn't been explained fully yet, though we do get some particularly nice moments where his dialogue makes me practically hear Adam Baldwin's voice in my head).
The rebel leader begs Mal to come lead them, but Mal is having none of it and orders them off of his boat and back onto theirs... which quickly becomes impossible, thanks to a nasty case of exploding ship, courtesy of Jubal Early, who had snuck on board it much the same way he snuck onto Serenity back in Objects in Space.
River, meanwhile, has put herself into a medically induced coma in order to access some more secrets that the Alliance had squirreled away in there to use as a bargaining chip to get Zoe back, and we end with the particularly ominous shot of her asleep, strapped to the medbay table, as Jubal looms over her in the dark, intoning his famous line, "Does that seem right to you?"
Overall, the plot was great, moved at a breakneck speed, and left me wondering why in Hell the book only comes out once a month.
PROS: Lots of little things in this issue. The fanfiction-like writing wasn't nearly as in-your-face as the first issue's was; we see that Mal and Inara definitely still have a physical relationship going on, but at least this time it doesn't seem quite so out of character.
Inara continues to be more of a central player, possibly because now that she's in Mal's bed, she knows he'll listen to her more; she quickly steps up to take Zoe's place in this issue, even dropping her froofera dresses for something a bit more tactically sensible.
River is a great character in this comic; now that she got the nasty secret of Miranda out of her head, she's more or less lucid, though not much less unsettling. Bonus points for whomever thought of the artistic choice to have her raid Wash's wardrobe at some point. I kid you not, she's wearing his clothes and, morbid and creepifying aside, it is GREAT.
Jayne feels like Jayne. He rips out lunkheaded quips left and right, hits on the rebel leader lady (while simultaneously hitting on the weapon she has pointed at his face), and, at the end of the issue, shows a small moment of humanity that Adam Baldwin was so great at letting slip here and there throughout the show.
As I said before, this felt more like an episode and less like the movie, even though it follows on from the movie. This is great because the tone is so much better than the movie; it feels genuinely like I'm watching an episode from the season 2 that never was; the characters don't feel rusty or awkward like they did in both the movie and the first issue (I'm looking at you, Kaylee, with your left-field comment 'bout vibrators and your nethers.)
CONS: Small bits here and there still feel like fanfiction; the writers seem to be going out of their way each issue to throw a panel of either Mal and Inara or Kaylee and Simon in bed. We KNOW they're couples now. Sex was always something that the show skirted the edges of, as it was largely told through the eyes of Mal, and he was a mite nervous on the subject himself. It was a stylistic choice that worked for the show, but here the reversal just feels somewhat grating.
Jubal Early, while a great character, needs some heftier thinking. In the show, he was more about stealth and intimidation. Here, in the space of two issues, he's slaughtered about twenty people. It feels out of character for him, like he went from a scary guy who might rape you and then shove you out an airlock to a sociopathic serial killer who will as soon slit your throat as look at you.
FINAL NOTES: If the series continues on in the vein that this issue established, it's definitely got a continuing fan in me (not like I wouldn't stop buying it even if it didn't... I choked my way through worse on sheer pride and masochism); I can definitely live with the eye-rolling moments, because it's a comic. Certain elements have to be over the top for the sake of the medium. I get that. ...But could we at least work on some visual consistency on the characters while we're nitpicking? I mean, it's not as if there aren't visual references for what the actors look like floating around out there in the black.