I recently finished up Season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and while I’m already a few episodes into Season 5, I wanted to get a little extra Whedon on the side. As such, I picked up the trade paperback “Fray,” Joss Whedon’s story of a slayer set hundreds of years in the future. It’s pretty much an entirely new world, but the familiar rules and concepts of the Slayer, vampires, Watchers, and demons help to make Fray easily identifiable as a part of the Buffy universe while at the same time introducing new, fresh characters and previously unseen circumstances. One of my favorite parts of Season 4 of Buffy was the idea of the first Slayer, so I warmed up pretty quickly to the idea of a Slayer fighting demons hundreds of years in the future – it’s the opposite end of the Slayer spectrum.
Although they’re both tough as nails, Melaka Fray is unlike Buffy Summers. She’s a “grabber” (which is really just a nicer way of saying “thief”) in the Blade Runner-esque future city called Haddyn (which I assumed was what Manhattan is called in this future). As a grabber, she’s a great fighter and more importantly a survivor, but Fray has no idea what a Slayer is and, of course, that she is a Slayer and has a higher calling than simply stealing objects for money. She’s a bad ass, no doubt, and her life of crime puts her and what’s left of her loved ones in seemingly constant danger.
Whereas most (I think) Slayers have a Watcher to, well, watch over them and teach that the ways of slaying, in this future, Watchers are regarded as a group of lunatics. In fact, the only Watcher Fray encounters sets himself on fire just moments after meeting her. Instead of a Watcher, a demon called Urkonn instructs Fray on the ways of the Slayer and her role in the world, but finds that he has a hard time convincing her to abandon her life of thievery and to take her destiny seriously.
This may sound simply like a “bad ass Buffy in the future” type of story, but there are enough interesting twists and new concepts that help “Fray” stand out. I definitely don’t want to give too much away for those of you who haven’t read this, but “Fray” addresses the scenario where the girl chosen to be a Slayer is actually a twin. Is the power of the Slayer distributed evenly, or do certain powers manifest differently in each twin? Further, most people in the future don’t know much about vampires (or “lurks,” as they’re called), but at the same time, there are thousands of mutated freaks roaming around. It’s not quite like The Savage Dragon, but it’s still noticeable.
Overall, “Fray” is certainly worth picking up for an enjoyable read. The dialogue (written by Whedon) probably isn’t as sharp as what you’d expect, but it’s still very good, and Whedon shows a lot of strength in transitioning from scene to scene; he manages to do so seamlessly, which is something I noticed on Buffy in the past. Fray herself is certainly likable (more so than Faith, that’s for sure), and the cast of characters around her – her brother, sister, Urkonn, and the vampire Icarus – each bring something different to the table. The artwork isn’t spectacular, but it’s damn good, and I found myself looking at some of artist Karl Moline’s splash pages for longer than just a few seconds.
If there ever is another series featuring Fray (and maybe there is and I’m simply unaware – I know she appears in Buffy comics at some point), I’d definitely pick that up, too.