Comics

Joss Whedon 101: Fray

Patrick Shand

Although Buffy and Faith may be the most famous Slayers created in the Buffy verse, the Slayer from the future Fray is just as compelling.

Joss Whedon. A slayer. A scythe. A watcher. Witty dialogue. Some vampires. A prophecy.

Sounds familiar, huh?

How about we throw flying cars, mutants, and a whole bunch of the future into the mix? Suddenly, things seem a bit different. This is the world that Melaka Fray, our eponymous slayer, lives in. As similar as the basics of her life are to Buffy’s, the fact that her story is set hundreds of years in the future isn’t what makes Fray original; Mel is very much her own person, and this is very much her own story.

And damn it’s good.

Fray begins somewhat similarly to the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie—mysterious guy tells girl she’s the Slayer, girl doesn’t believe it, girl has experiences to make her believe it, girl and mysterious guy train as the major conflict brews—but in execution it’s startlingly different. Melaka Fray is at once more of a hardass and more of a softie than Buffy Summers. She is an unrepentant thief. She’s been “grabbing” since she was a young girl, and now she works for a mutant named Gunther who has more in common with aquatic life than humans. He lives in a tank, it’s a thing. He is connected to everyone in the city, and he doesn’t judge anyone harshly, which means he’ll work with pretty much anyone. Unfortunately, this leads to Mel—unbeknownst to her—grabbing magical artifacts for a gang of vampires that doesn’t have the best interest of the world at heart.

The world of Fray, like that of any Joss Whedon work, is populated by fascinating supporting characters. There’s Gunther, the aforementioned mutant crime boss. There’s Loo, a five-year-old “rocketmouth” girl who is missing one arm and has one dead eye; of course, she is endlessly adorable and functions as the heart of the story. Then, there is Erin; Mel’s older sister is working with the “laws” and she has just been promoted to sergeant, which in Mel’s eyes has elevated her to an “upper,” a term that refers to the upper class. This causes tension between the sisters, though most of their issues stem from the death of their brother, Harth. Erin believes it was Mel’s fault, but we’ll get to that later.

Urkonn is Mel’s “Watcher” of sorts, though he would protest to the label. The Watchers Council, in Mel’s time, is full of lunatics. Urkonn, a horned demon who trains Mel, explains that the world was once full of magic and demons, but a slayer—heavy implications that it’s a certain girl who wears stylish yet affordable boots—fought a battle that banished all magic from this Earthly dimension. The Watchers went crazy, obsessively waiting for the demons to come back, which they did, in the form of vampires. Urkonn, however, is surprised to discover that the mass public doesn’t see vampires as the monsters they truly are. They believe them to be mutants hopped up on steroids; they refer to them as “lurks.” Urkonn explains to Mel that she’s the Slayer and that it is her destiny to fight and kill lurks, but Mel doesn’t believe him. When he asks her how she explains her strength, she shrugs it off, saying, “What. I’m good at stuff” (Fray #2). He counters, asking her about her inherited slayer dreams. Urkonn says, “In your dreams, you’re someone else. A slave. A princess. A girl in a sunlit school. In every dream you have great power. In every dream you fight them. The ones you call lurks,” ( Fray #2) to which Mel replies, “That’s amazing. I have no idea what you’re talking about” (Fray #2). She is the first slayer who hasn’t received the dreams, and that’s because they’re going to someone else.

Harth

“But wait,” you say. Trust me, I heard you. “But wait. Harth is Mel’s dead brother, right?” Right. And death in the Buffyverse is totally the end, yeah? No. Harth was killed by a vampire when Mel took him out on a “grab,” despite Erin’s protests. The vampire, Icarus, was a leader, one of the most badass vamps in all of Haddyn. However, when he sank his fangs into Harth’s neck, he set events into motion that would change the lives of all of the characters in Fray.

As Harth felt himself dying, he knew with sudden clarity that he needed to bite Icarus. And he did so, ingesting a chunk of undead flesh, becoming a vampire. A very special vampire, though...

Dear reader:

Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey and analysis of his career as a whole -- until now. Published to coincide with Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters (May 2012) covers every aspect of his work, through insightful essays and in-depth interviews with key figures in the ‘Whedonverse’. This article, along with previously unpublished material, can be read in its entirety in this book.

Place your order for Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters, published with Titan Books, here.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image