Serenity: Those Left Behind is a three-issue limited series, created in 2005 as a tie-in to the film Serenity. The series was written by Joss Whedon? and Brett Matthews?, illustrated by Will Conrad?, lettered by Michael Heisler?, and colored by Laura Martin?.
The story is set between the Firefly series and the film, and was intended to bridge the two and lead into the movie. It is used to set up the beginning of the film by depicting Inara's departure and Book's intention to leave the ship, introduces several characters important to Serenity’s storyline, including The Operative and Mingo and Fanty, and resolves the Hands of Blue plotline. The comic also re-introduces Lawrence Dobson, an Alliance agent who was (apparently) killed by Mal in the Firefly pilot episode. Whedon had always planned to bring back Dobson, but did not have the opportunity before the series was cancelled.
Two collections have been released, both with new cover art. The first, published in January 2006, featured Mal and Inara on the cover, with Serenity taking off in the background. The second, a hardcover collection released in October 2007 featured Mal, Zoe, and Jayne on the cover. The original nine covers appear in both releases as chapter dividers. The first issue was reprinted in 2010 and released as part of Dark Horse's "#1 for $1" promotion.
The first issue begins with Shepherd Book giving a sermon on a border-planet town, which Mal, Zoe, and Jayne use as cover for a bank heist. The heist is interrupted by a rival crew, working for Mingo and Fanty, who in the ensuing firefight escape with the money, while a grenade explosion draws the townsfolk. Book steals a vehicle to collect the others, while Wash and Kaylee use Serenity to knock over a water tower to stun the pursuing townsfolk. Back aboard the ship, Inara reminds Mal that she is leaving Serenity. Meanwhile, on Whitefall?, the Hands of Blue appear and kill the bodyguard of the man they want to see.
Issue #2 continues with the Hands of Blue, and reveals that the man they seek is Lawrence Dobson, who fires a warning shot at the Hands. The Hands reveal that they and Dobson are seeking the same thing: Serenity. Dobson clarifies that he only wants Mal, and that he has a plan to do it, but could use the Hands' assistance. On Persephone, Serenity 's crew encounter Badger, who talks of a major space battle during the war, which he claims was over a shipload of cash. The crew dump Badger and discuss the job, during which Inara demands that she be taken to her destination first, and after Mal refuses, he and Book have an argument which results in the shepherd punching Mal. Serenity arrives at the debris field from the battle, and while Mal, Zoe, and Jayne investigate one of the ships, the Hands of Blue find Serenity.
Issue #3 begins by depicting Mal, Zoe, and Jayne as they search the ship for the money, while the small craft used by the Hands of Blue sneaks up and docks with Serenity 's underside. River Tam, sensing the presence of the Hands, tries to overdose on anesthetic, before revealing to Simon and Inara that something is wrong with Serenity 's 'belly'. Mal and company reach the coordinates supplied by Badger to find the waiting Dobson and his group. Mal kills Dobson in the ensuing firefight, then shoots him again to ensure he is dead. At the same time, Kaylee and Simon investigate the underside cargo hatch, and find the Hands of Blue trying to break in. Simon, Kaylee, and Book hold off the Hands, while Wash flies through the debris field to try to scrape the Hands' ship off. Mal, Zoe, and Jayne are collected at speed, before Wash destroys the pursuing ship by going to 'full burn'. Inara is delivered to her destination, although Mal is unable to say goodbye. Later, when in space, Book announces to Mal that he intends to leave Serenity. The comic ends with The Operative retrieving the remains of the Hands, and accepting the assignment to locate River.