Serenity #3: Basket Case

Serenity #3: Basket Case (2006)
by Realbuzz Studios | Barbour Books
96 Pages - Full Color [ Youth / Youth Interest / Teen Fiction ]

Story and Creation - Buzz Dixon
Art - Min Kwon
Original Character Designs - Drigz Abrot

Publisher summary: In Serenity, Volume 3: Basket Case, the prayer club's pet project is at her irresponsible best, belittling a health class assignment that makes teens care for chicken eggs 24/7 to simulate the work a baby requires. But when an overwhelming responsibility falls into Serenity's lap, who can she turn to for help-the prayer club members she's made fun of, or the God she doesn't quite believe exists? Tween and teen girls will love the continuing spiritual soap opera of Serenity.

Ann's Review - UC's Review

Reviewer: Psycho Ann | Contact | 26 September 2006

Having already said all I could about the visuals in #1 and #2, there really isn't much left to say in this volume as nearly all comments from past reviews still apply. With that, I will ramble randomly and leave the serious reviewing part to UC.

General Volume Thoughts

My greatest peeve is back: the slang. I do understand what the slang means, but it's really the, "My goodness, do kids these days actually use those words? In daily life?" aspect of it that annoys me. And it's not because it makes me feel like I'm well into my forties (I am, of this reviewing moment, in my early twenties). Admittedly I don't have much direct exposure to ways of American high-schoolers, but even online, amidst 13-year-olds, in the middle of trying to head-shoot each other with AK-47s (boy, could they head-shoot), have I seen better slang.

Then having to see Jesus spout a pseudo-hip retort did the impossible: it made me wish there was a huge lens-flare right in the speech bubble. Paraphrasing is great, SD Jesus and satan (in an tacky suit of horrific plaid proportions) is no problem, but I personally never want to read Jesus mix Spanish, English, and then a Spanish derivative together ever again. Heck, have Him say it completely in Ebonics, l33tsp34k, Singlish, ASCII, an obscure African language consisting wholly of clicks and grunts... just not anything like "Has-Ha-Hast--" sorry, not strong enough to repeat it. For me, at least, a simple "get lost" would be much easier to swallow and serves the same purpose.

Now, regarding the purity test plot of the first half... The questions that were visible in the comic were purely for comedic purposes because there simply was no way to show the standard purity test up front without upping the rating for Serenity to +18. How do I know this? Well, I have taken short purity tests before and even those "lite" versions would definitely not make it past Sally's internet filter. For the sake of this review, and curiosity, I decided to go and take a 500-question purity test (scored 96.8% pure if you desperately need to know) adapted from the standard purity test. Let me warn you now, a majority, if not all, purity tests are hardly child friendly. The furthest I will direct you to, if you're curious as well, is Wikipedia's entry on purity tests.

This makes for an interesting scenario. What if the younger readers of Serenity become curious enough to search the web for purity tests? Internet filters or not, I really can't imagine it ending well when parents find out. Unlike the innocent and silly tone of the version in the comic, actual purity tests are practically all obscene past the first 20 questions. Now, it would be neat if Serenity's super wacky version was actually made available just for the heck of it because I'm sure those scoring under 20, even among the most "holy" Christians, would be rare.

One random thing that stuck me as odd is Officer Topp's answer to Serenity's question on who could throw a baby away. "A frightened teenager--," makes sense, it happens, "--maybe a doper." Huh? While it is a possibility, I wonder how the officer got that idea. Theoretically, if the mother was a doper, wouldn't there be a high chance of the baby being stillborn (if the substance was cocaine) or afflicted with a bunch of complications that would make it very hard to believe she survived whatever-the-duration in the trash bin? Now, maybe she does have a bunch of complications unseen on the surface but I would think a person doesn't normally think "maybe the mother was a drug addict" unless the baby visibly shows signs of that possibility. Thinking about it, I guess Serenity is incredibly blessed to be born normally if her mother never stopped her hippy lifestyle even during pregnancy. Although, smoking pot during pregnancy does cause behavioral problems for the baby *snickersnicker*. (To clarify, I detest the usage of biological/medical problems as excuses for bad or criminal behavior. "The hormonal imbalance made me do it," or "I killed all those people and cut them into little pieces because my mother did drugs when she had me". Yeah, whatever.)

Oh and seeing an aged Archie and Betty was decidedly odd. I hope no copyright laws were broken since I heard the Archie Comics people were quite strict with their property.

General Art Thoughts

The thing that delighted me: margins! The panel margins from the page edges are in! Now that looks much better. This alone kicked the quality up a few notches.

What happened to the backgrounds? I actually liked what they did in #2 much, much better. It's now back to gradients and is it just me or are the backgrounds generally more lacking in this volume?

One thing that totally bugged me is the cringe inducing break of the 180-degree rule where Serenity falls back first to protect the baby. Those that worked graphically with me before know my huge distaste for the breaking of this rule. (I did it frequently myself in the past and I shun myself whenever I remember. Gah, I'm remembering. *shuuuuun*) There were breaks of this rule throughout the series (even professionals tend to do it time to time) but they weren't as glaring and therefore negligible. Here we got three panels out of four panels reinforcing the direction of Serenity's fall--and wha?? In the fourth she somehow managed to upright herself to fall in the other direction. At least that's what the panels imply. Breaking the rule is only okay if it doesn't disturb the audience or is intentional. I really do hope they pay more attention to this in the future.


Well, as expected there are improvements. And I don't know what else to say other than: margins!

Reviewer: UC Pseudonym | Contact | 26 September 2006

As a whole, I was much less negatively inclined toward this volume. I am uncertain why this is; perhaps I am merely getting used to the general flow and beginning to overlook the things that once annoyed me. Or, thinking more positively, perhaps the series is improving.

Art as a Storytelling Device

I have very little to say this time around. The opening of Chapter 2 intersperses Serenity and Eddie; in all honesty, I am uncertain why they jump back and forth between these two threads. Though it isn’t that distracting, it is decidedly odd. Also unusual are some panels which seem broken for no apparent reason. That is, one image is divided into two separate panels but nothing changes and there is no indication as to why.

Some of the generally sloppy things haven’t improved either. The one that really stuck out to me was that the pattern on the Devil’s plaid suit remains constant regardless of the actual cloth involved. It looks like they pretty much just stuck the pattern in the location of the suit, giving no consideration to angles or different layers. But I guess since he’s the Devil, he can have literally impossible fashion sense.


There are only a few new things to say. One is that the slang is back, much to my chagrin. My life will not in any way be made worse if I never have to read the pseudo-word “dawg” again. The phrase “gluten up” struck me as odd, but perhaps this is merely a regional idiom and is more familiar to others. In any case, it communicates well enough to any semi-intelligent reader.

To this volume’s credit, some of the things meant to be funny were actually funny. For example, Sally’s issue with counting kissing her father. I’m not sure why this would abruptly improve now, but I’m not complaining.

One thing that stands aside on this subject are the occasional references to previous volumes. I feel these are wholly unnecessary and distract from the flow. They are necessary for American comics, in which multiple story-lines intertwine or a reader might have missed a few arcs. But for a stand-alone series there is absolutely no need to reference previous events. Readers will either remember them or presume them from the circumstances.


Unfortunately, this volume is definitely episodic and seems a harbinger of things to come. The first half of the chapters are about the purity test, the second half about the baby. All that seems to be still on the table is the conflict between Serenity and Kimberly, but this is mostly in the background.

The transitions between chapters were better than before. Part of this was due to larger panels for new chapters, partly to how the individual arcs were set up. It works for me, in any case, though there is still room for improvement. As I’ve said before, a page in between chapters with filler art or anything similar would do no one any harm.


Overall, this was one of the stronger aspects of this volume. The characters participated in the assorted events in a natural way, not as if the author was straining to include development. By contrast, Serenity doesn’t really change a great deal in either of the two arcs in this volume, though it is arguable that the baby issue has an effect on her (I say it brought out her natural temperament). More on that later, however.

The one piece of characterization I really liked was related to Eddie. Previously he has pretty much been a random character who we know is important only because the website has some details about him (details that strike me as possibly prescriptive of his character, not descriptive). In any case, the conversation between Eddie and one of the basketball players works: it alludes to things about him fairly clearly without beating the reader over the head or forcing the issue. I look forward to more of this.

Also developing is Serenity’s relationship with her mother, most of it contained in their argument over the purity test. I’m not sure what I think of this, overall. On one hand, Serenity’s glib responses to every objection seem a bit forced, but on the other I’ve seen conversations about this bad. As a whole, we now know that Serenity’s mother is likely the source of a great deal of her bad behavior, but this has fairly little impact on anything.

Previously I have liked the small lines for some characters, but I felt that “I am a terrible mother” came a bit too quickly and was thus awkward. But despite how direct this was, I think that it still works acceptably well. Perhaps that level of directness is necessary for their target audience.


The introduction to the egg assignment (those are ridiculous but true to high school life) was alright. However, I think the sequence in which Serenity kept breaking the eggs went on too long. After a short while it didn’t really serve any purpose anymore. On the other hand, it was interesting to see Serenity give some decent (if primarily just attitude) responses to Kimberly’s objections.

As for the second arc… finding a child in a waste basket? I’m not an expert in this, so I suppose I’m not qualified to say this is odd. Still, it strained my suspension of disbelief. Beyond that, however, the arc had an authentic feel to it that was refreshing. Babies are definitely trouble, especially if one is a teenager with no practical skills regarding them.

At the end of the volume, Serenity has a prayer that might seem a bit abrupt, considering how little she felt she got out of prayer in the last volume. However, I think it is realistic. The common phrase, “There are no atheists in foxholes” applies here, as untrue as it may be. In her shoes, I think a lot of people would offer such words of prayer from their deep concern.


I’m going to address the purity test here, though (as I’ll explain) a significant part of my thoughts on it are about execution, not theology. The handling of this subject wasn’t done well, in my opinion. The volume fails to communicate what a purity test really is. One gets the impression of a Puritanical test made by Christians, whereas in reality most of such tests are very sexually explicit and made for almost the exact opposite purpose. True, the characters seem to frequently regard the unseen questions as obscene, but they tend to spaz over most things.

The ramifications of this are obvious. Could young readers look up purity tests online to see what they are? I can’t imagine parents who are uncomfortable with the subject of sexuality would be very happy answering some of the questions that would be bound to come up.

Overall, the creators were walking a difficult line. Part of me wants to be sympathetic, because I can imagine that their publishers wouldn’t allow them to put any real questions into the volume. On the other hand, couldn’t those questions have at least been addressed, rather than appearing as if they weren’t even there? In any case, I don’t like the ridiculously-tame questions that have been put in. [Read the pages of the test that are visible sometime. They’re funny, though not necessarily in a good way.]

With that out of the way, I’m going to move on to other issues. One of them is how big a deal (not much, but it seemed inordinate) is made about the filter on Sally’s computer. Perhaps this is just trying to instill this value in readers (for some reason, I don’t imagine that working very well). But I won’t belabor this point, because it’s very minor.

I found the discussion of sin and temptation amusing, to say the least. While I’m glad that this one was at least more in depth that some of the one-liner answers in the past, I worry that it might be so just to set up for Serenity’s complaint abut how complicated they all are. Complicated? Not really, but I suppose someone with Serenity’s attention span and maturity would find it so, so at least that’s realistic.

But as for the discussion itself, I know that if I had been there I would have jumped in constantly. Jesus said that thinking something is the same as doing it? No, he didn’t. That’s an over-generalization of a very important passage. Due to this, I found Tim’s clarification somewhat irrelevant.

The most curious part of this conversation is that after Lori makes the point that temptation is not sin, someone says, “You’re treading a might fine line, Lori.” Unless I misunderstand this, the speaker there is objecting to her referencing the possibility of Christ being a sinner. Of course, she said quite the opposite – the entire point of her argument was saying that he wasn’t, thus redefining the terms of the discussion. If this Prayer Club jumps onto people for things like that, I’d consider that a bad thing.

Now that I’ve addressed the serious part of that, I have a moral obligation to talk about the Jesus and Satan caricature midway through. In addition to the shudder-worthy slang, which I refuse to repeat, the inclusion of this so casually seems extremely out of place to me. Considering that this series capitalizes any pronoun that refers to God (a convention not done even in the KJV and not even possible in Hebrew) it is odd that they would treat our Lord and Savior so lightly. But I’m willing to let this pass, so long as it wasn’t an attempt to make Jesus “cool.”

Fortunately, I can end on a positive note. I learned via an interview that the Bible verses at the end of each volume were required by the publisher, not envisioned by the creators. This makes perfect sense to me; I can definitely understand how that would happen. Therefore, I retract any negative remarks I made about these, though they still apply in principle. It’s probably good I learned this now, because some of the verses in this volume were unrelated to any real moral purpose.

Back to Top - Back to Index