Joss’s comic book career, up until this point, had been filled with him writing other peoples characters (the X-men and the Runaways). However, Joss Whedon is at his best when he is working with his own characters. This way, he’s not limited to the personalities and continuities of previously established and well known people. It also means he can kill off whoever the hell he wants to and no one can do a damn thing about it. So around the time “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was coming to an end Joss decided to create a comic book set in the same world as Buffy, but with more of a punk rock/sci-fi edge to it. He called it Fray.
Fray is a freaking brilliant concept. It’s essentially what would happen if you took the Slayer mythos and put it in a blender with Blade Runner. The story is set in the distant future. It’s been centuries since there has been a Slayer (surprising considering how many there were in season seven). The Watchers Council is no more and the what’s left of them have gone mad due to the fact that there are no more Slayers. Magic has left this world and demons have been banned from walking the earth. Only vampiric creatures known as “Lurks” remain. One day a group of demons, who neither fight for good nor evil, realize that a new Slayer has been activated and send the demon Urkonn to find her and train her.
Soon we are introduced to the main character, Melaka Fray, who is different from Buffy in every way possible. Melaka is a thief, rather Gothic looking, and has never had dreams of previous Slayers. After a brief fight between Urkonn and Fray, he reveals that her destiny is to become the Slayer and fight vampires. Like most Slayers, she is reluctant to accept her fate and continues to go on with her life, which includes stealing for a mutant-like fish creature, who is also some sort of mob boss, and dealing with her sister, who is a police officer. Melaka also has constant flashbacks of her brother’s death.
Rather than creating a character “just to be different” from Buffy, Joss makes her different enough while keeping her as badass as Buffy without becoming a carbon copy. Melaka once had a twin brother who she thought was killed by the vampires, only to find out that he had become one. Joss also explains that Melaka did not have any dreams of other Slayers because all of those went to her brother. This almost drives him mad; he is in love with the girl in his dreams. He has a deep obsession with her, but he knows she is meant to destroy him. So it was an interesting way of telling the Slayer story, having her brother be the Big Bad and also knowing more about the Slayer mythos than Melaka ever would. That, I think, is what makes this both on par with with the Buffy TV series, and probably the better than any other comic book work Joss has ever done.
And in typical Joss Whedon fashion, he kills off a character that over the course of the book you get attached to. While it isn’t his most heart-wrenching attempt (I leave that to Astonishing X-Men) it shows a bit of a pattern of Joss killing characters to motivate the hero into shaping up to defeat the baddies.
I think the only problem the book has is the fact that it is too short! Yes, it is eight issues long, but Astonishing X-Men was 4 volumes long! I just wanted to know more about the adventures of this future Slayer. It felt like it could have been a two hour pilot for a TV show set in the Whedonverse. By the way, if Joss’ next TV project after S.H.I.E.L.D is Fray, I don’t think I would be able to contain my freakin’ excitement!
This graphic novel is definitely worth checking out and is by far Joss’ best attempt at a comic book yet.