Fray – Joss Whedon (review)

**Spoilers**

The story is about a Slayer of the future named Melaka Fray and her discovery of what being a Slayer means.

Although training hard and feeling confident, Mel finds herself out of her depth when she fights the vampire Icarus. Years before, Icarus severely injured Mel and killed her twin brother, Harth. Mel discovers that Harth was not actually killed: after being bitten by Icarus, he bit back and fed off the vampire, becoming a vampire himself. Since he was the Slayer’s twin, he has the visions and instinctive knowledge that should have been hers: he knew what Mel is long before she did, and also knew how to become a vampire.


Disheartened, Mel refuses to fight, until she discovers the body of her young friend, a mutant girl named Loo, with her neck snapped. Determined to avenge her, Mel rallies the inhabitants of the slums to fight against the vampires. Police officer Erin Fray (Mel’s older sister) convinces some of the local law enforcement to also join in the crusade.

Centuries have passed since the last Slayer was called. Demons were banished from the Earth at some point in the 21st century by an unnamed Slayer and her friends, and the Watcher’s Council has decayed into a group of crazed fanatics. The vampires (dubbed lurks) have now returned and haunt the city. To combat this threat, a new Slayer is called: a professional thief named Melaka Fray. With the Watchers’ Council ineffective, a group of “neutral” demons send the demon Urkonn to prepare Melaka for the war that is sure to come.

 
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This review first appeared over at my friend Darren’s website, BookZone for Boys, as part of his Graphic Novels Month he was celebrating.  I’ve nabbed it back for GeekSyndicate and have added some additional thoughts.

I took the above synopsis from the Wikipedia page but cut most of the info because it tells you everything that happens in the graphic novel. I think the above snippet is just enough to keep everyone interested and maybe get more peeps to buy it!

I loved Buffy and Angel and I love Joss Whedon. I adored Firefly and Serenity and have yet to fall for Dollhouse, but then I am an Eliza Dushku fan, so I no doubt will.

What draws me to Joss Whedon’s world is that he writes characters so well. Within a few minutes you know everything you need to know about them. And more importantly, the characters are invariably engaging and likeable, even if they are unlikeable, they make a strong enough impression to stay with you. You’re caught, hook, line, sinker before you even know it.

The same counts for his graphic novel, Fray. Chapter One opens with Fray in full action, gun in one hand, blasting away at someone seen just off-page, jewelled necklace clasped in the other hand, big ass boots waving in the air. She’s falling off the top of a building, hover cars can be seen in the background. Full of action – BAM! – you’re right there, in the midst of it all. You know she’s a thief, that much is obvious, she knows how to take care of herself (the big ass gun in case you’ve missed it) and it takes place in the future – buildings and hover cars tell you that.

Next we see Fray bounce off a couple of hover cars, off a pipe sticking out a building, another car, a couple of buildings, to eventually come to a rapid stop, face-first onto the road. The baddies haul her up, unconcerned about how much she’s hurt and instead of acting unconscious Fray starts fighting like a streetfighter. There are no rules here – survival of the fittest.

Everything you need to know happens in the first few pages. It’s storytelling at it’s best. Words and pictures work together immaculately to give you the perfect idea of what’s going on and how things will be panning out as the story progresses.

When Fray (sorry, Melaka Fray) meets with Urkonn it is naturally explosive. She’s not used to demons lurking in her room. Once they get over their punch-up and Urkonn explains to Mel why he’s there and who she is, she of course doubts him. She’s not had the dreams, the visions, the weirdness. But she is ridiculously strong and fast.

I felt a bit cheated though – using the death of her small friend to provoke her to fight the Lurkers felt like a cheap shot. But retrospectively it works because it shakes her out of her apathy and it brings home the realisation that she would not be able to fight her destiny and that people would go to ridiculous lengths to make her fight, even if it means betraying her friendship and trust.

I am also a big fan of the artwork which is big and dynamic.  Bearing in mind that Whedon doesn’t have to worry about limiting his shooting budget we get a far larger scope to the story than a TV series could give us. 

All in all, Fray is an excellent graphic novel – pure indulgence. Also, any girl who can kick butt and use an axe, is definitely okay in my book! On a more serious note, I love that it expands on the original and existing world created in Buffy but at the same time, it is completely standalone with its own world and mythologies and character histories. If I wrote fan fiction, I’d write fan fiction for Fray. She’s strong, impossibly human and vulnerable – she’s also not a goody-goody and I appreciate that in an character, as no one is ever 100% nice or perfect.

If you’ve been put off about reading a “tie-in” graphic novel set in the Buffy-verse, and if Buffy / Angel was never your thing, I reckon you will still get tremendous enjoyment out of Fray.  The futuristic setting is a bit Fifth Element/ BladeRunner/MegaCity and the police remind me of the Judges from 2000AD.  The story is twisty and quite dark and of course, there are the Whedonesque one-liners.  Which I love.  Definitely a keeper.

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