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Joss Whedon – Fray

June 24, 2009

76. Fray by Joss Whedon, Karl Moline, Andy Owens, Dave Stewart, and Michelle Madsen (2003)

Length: 216 pages

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy

Started: 21 June 2009
Finished: 21 June 2009

Where did it come from? Library
Why do I have it? I recently finished my rewatch of Buffy, and am planning to read the Buffy: Season 8 graphic novels… and I then I saw that the most recent installment of Buffy S8 gets into some of the Fray mythology, so I figured since it was a stand-alone, I may as well read it now.

Sassy girl kicks some
vampire ass. One difference:
This one’s not a blond.

Summary: Melaka Fray is just a girl. Born and raised in the slums of a future Manhattan, she works as a minor thief in a city where mutants and monsters raise no more comment than the flying cars. Burdened by the secrets of her past, and with no thought of her future, Melaka is unaware that she is part of a long line of Slayers, and that it is her job – and her destiny – to fight against vampires (now so common that they’re called “lurks”, and mostly ignored by the authorities) and to protect humanity from a terrible demonic apocalypse.

Review: Who misses Sunnydale? Fray pulls off a seemingly impossible feat – it walks the fine tightrope of managing to be both familiar and novel, to give us something new without disrupting established continuity, and to be recognizable to fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while still being accessible to newcomers to the the Whedon-verse. If you haven’t watched BtVS, a) get on that, but b) Fray is still understandable – she’s a petit, sassy, edgy girl with a dark past who kicks some serious monster butt. If you have watched BtVS, well, Fray’s a petit, sassy, edgy girl with a dark past and a long history who kicks some serious monster butt. (Personally, I think she’s more like Faith than like Buffy – that’d be the tough-girl/bad-past side coming out – but regardless, she’s still a Slayer, with all of the attendant issues of separateness and loneliness and loss that we watched our girls struggle with for seven seasons.)

As a story, Fray reads like the story arc of a season of Buffy, condensed down and minus the more one-off episodes. It’s recognizeably a Joss Whedon story, complete with plenty of snarky humor, witty dialogue, a unique (and catchy) argot in the speech patterns of the characters, and plenty of action. Joss, as usual, also doesn’t pull any punches in the drama department – even apart from all of the demons and monsters, life for his characters is not particularly pleasant. By the end, things aren’t exactly resolved – like in Buffy, averting one apocalypse is no guarantee that another one isn’t right around the corner – so it was a little unsatisfying… but unsatisfying in the way that means that we’re left wanting more of Fray’s world, and its tiny, butt-kicking heroine. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: For Buffy fans, it’s practically required reading, and it would serve as a good introduction to graphic novels for those who haven’t encountered them before. For other folks, it’s a fun story featuring a very different kind of superhero, and because it’s a one-off, it can be picked up and enjoyed without having extensive background knowledge, and without committing to a series.

As a side note, can I tell you how glad that the slayer’s ax (pictured on the cover) is referred to in this comic as an ax, and not as a “scythe”? That bugged the crap out of me every time they used the word in Buffy S7, especially since Joss Whedon is normally so careful with words and language… but that thing is NOT a scythe. It is a fancy-pants ax, and it was nice to see it referred to as such.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Stella Matutina, A Chain of Letters, Ticket to Anywhere, Book Dweeb, Reading Rants! Out of the Ordinary Teen Booklists!, Henwen Online Comics Review
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “She is discovered.”

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 10:43 am

    I recently read this one, too. I was surprised by how good it turned out to be and how much I liked it. And you’re right about it being a little unsatisfying–I’d love to read more! Great review, by the way. As per usual. :-)

  2. June 24, 2009 11:44 am

    Reading this one ahead of BS8 was a really good idea. The latest installment, (TIME OF YOUR LIFE), builds off of this story in a few ways that wouldn’t be nearly as awesome if you hadn’t read Mel’s story.

  3. June 24, 2009 2:35 pm

    I really liked Season 8, but Fray took a little too long for me to get into the future setting.

  4. June 24, 2009 9:03 pm

    Phoenix – I hated to use the word unsatisfying, because it wasn’t unsatisfying in the way I usually mean that word… but it’s sad there’s not more!

    Memory – It may have been your blog where I saw that… I probably didn’t comment, because I haven’t been reading reviews of Buffy S8 in any detail for fear of spoilers, but if it was you, thanks! :)

    Texas Red – There were some things – the new slang – that I didn’t get right away, but despite the setting, it still felt recognizeable as a Slayer story.

  5. June 26, 2009 12:59 am

    I read Fray before there was a Season 8 and I was glad I did.

  6. June 26, 2009 10:45 am

    Amber – Oh, good, I love when I get things in the proper order. :)

  7. July 2, 2009 8:17 pm

    I’m reading Season 8 but haven’t read Fray – must really get started! Also, I’m not sure if I’m remembering it correctly but I think in Season 8 they referred to the “scythe” as an axe.

  8. September 3, 2009 12:05 am

    I haven’t read this one yet…I know, Buffy fan sacrilege! Thanks for the reminder. :-)

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