Fray by Joss Whedon
Published by Dark Horse Books on 9 December 2003
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Hundreds of years in the future, Manhattan has become a deadly slum, run by mutant crime-lords and disinterested cops. Stuck in the middle is a young girl who thought she had no future, but learns she has a great destiny. In a world so poisoned that it doesn’t notice the monsters on its streets, how can a street kid like Fray unite a fallen city against a demonic plot to consume mankind? Joss Whedon, the celebrated creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, brings his vision to the future in this unique tale. As inventive in the comics medium as in that of television of film, Whedon spins a complex tale of a skilled thief coming of age without the help of friends or family, guided only by a demonic Watcher.
I’m a huge Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, and Fray has long been on a list of books I want to read. I’m not hugely familiar with graphic novels, but Fray has definitely made me curious for more. It’s got everything you come to expect from Joss: sharp, witty dialogue; interesting characters; a well-developed mythology. Fray was written during the final seasons of Buffy, so it slots in nicely with the show’s lore. That said, you don’t need to watch Buffy to understand Fray. Joss does a nice job of writing in the Slayer backstory so that readers unfamiliar with the show can pick up the general conceit. As usual, you can’t read this book without getting your heart broken (I still haven’t forgiven Joss for Wash), so readers beware. If I had to compare Melaka to a Slayer Buffy fans would recognise, it would definitely be Faith, but she truly is her own Slayer. It’s very interesting watching Mel struggle with becoming the Slayer – her journey is very different to Buffy’s.
There are a whole cast of new characters to love! Aside from Mel, there’s her demon ‘Watcher,’ Urkonn (you do meet Mel’s actual Watcher, erm, briefly). He has his own agenda, and is very much a character with shades of grey. There’s also Loo, who appears to fill a Dawn-like role. She’s a young girl who lives in Mel’s neighbourhood, missing an arm and blind in one eye, but who loves and admires Mel and has a very sister-like relationship with her. She appears to be the only person Mel cares for, and watching that relationship play out is beautiful. Mel has a twin brother, Harth, who died four years ago (and you get to watch that backstory happen in all it’s cool-toned glory), and a sister, Erin, who’s a police officer (they’re not really on speaking terms). If Mel’s boss, Gunther, is any indication, demons now freely move around humans and nobody seems too bothered by it. Vampires (now called lurks) are just viewed as blood-drinking weirdos. Haddyn is no Sunnydale, but there’s still a ring of familiarity to it.
The pencil work, the colouring, the inking – all have been done fantastically and as much as I praise Joss’ writing, it would be nothing without the work of Karl Moline, Andy Owens, Dave Stewart and Michelle Madsen. The detail that Moline puts into the drawings is insane! As another reviewer pointed out, you can see Melaka mature between issues. The storyline is essentially the same one used time and again in Buffy, but what Joss does with it is mind-blowing.
It’s interesting watching the Slayer story move to book-form, and I’ll be definitely checking out the Buffyverse comic books in the future.