“My visions of the future are always pretty much the standard issue: The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and there are flying cars. Slayer. Family. Strength. A simple story about a really cool girl. A girl who might share some personal issues with Buffy and Faith, but who was very much her own person.” – Joss Whedon, talking about Fray
Before I delve into Season Eight’s next story arc. I think it’s best that I give a prompt introduction to Fray. Dark Horse Comics began publishing this miniseries back in 2001. After eight issues, the series reached its conclusion in 2003. It was written by Joss Whedon himself and features incredible artwork by Karl Moline. In 2002, the character also briefly appeared in Tales, a short story featured in Tales of the Slayer. The character finally returned in 2008’s epic Season Eight crossover, Time of Your Life.
The Slayer of Tomorrow
The premise of Fray is simple. It took the existing Buffy mythos and jumped a couple hundred years into the future. The story is set in Haddyn (A futuristic Manhattan.) It centres on Melaka Fray, a street savvy thief. She works for an aquatic mutant and crime lord named Gunther. When we first meet Mel, she has no idea of the great destiny that awaits her. Unlike her predecessors, Mel doesn’t have prophetic dreams linking her to past Slayers. She knows nothing about her lineage. She is the first Slayer to be called in centuries.
The Watchers Council has been reduced to a few fanatics, driven mad by centuries without purpose. They are clearly unfit to prepare Mel for her calling. A bunch of neutral demons take it upon themselves to balance the scales. They send a demon named Urkonn to train Mel for the impending war. Urkonn takes on a Watcher-like role and the pair become friends.
Urkonn: What we know is this – there was a battle. A Slayer, possibly with some mystical allies, faced an apocalyptic army of Demons. And when it was done… they were gone. All Demons, all magicks, banished from this earthly dimension.
Fray: And the Slayer? Did she…
Urkonn: I do not know if she lived. But, the demons being gone, she was the last to be called. The line continued – there were girls with the power, but they were never called, never trained. Which may be why you have no memories of your heritage.
Vampires (known as Lurks in this time) are on the rise. At first, Mel is reluctant to take on the role of the Slayer, but personal issues help her to embrace her calling. Four years prior, Mel’s twin brother, Harth, was killed by a Lurk named Icarus. Or so she thought.
Mel also has an older sister named Erin. The pair have a turbulent relationship. Erin is a cop and she’s sick of Mel’s thieving. She also harbours some resentment towards her for their brother’s death. He was killed during a heist with Mel.
Another important character in Mel’s life is Loo, a mutated young girl. Loo idolises Mel and the newly called Slayer is very protective of her.
Loo: Mel can stomp anyone and she told me if I ever got problems that she would take care of them by stomping. Plus one time my folks couldn’t ‘ford my meds that I really need and Mel went away and found enough for six months and didn’t charge Mom nothing, just free drinks at the Tav ‘fore she got kicked out for fighting.
When Icarus kidnaps Mel and takes her to his boss, she is devastated. She finally learns the truth about her brother. He has become the leader of a vampire army. Interestingly, it was her twin, Harth, that inherited her prophetic dreams. In his dying moments he used the knowledge he gained from these dreams to turn himself into a vampire. He fed on Icarus’s blood, therefore siring himself. Unlike other Lurks, Harth has a direct psychic link to the Slayers.
Harth: You don’t dream much, do you, Mel? I dreamed. Always. Before my earliest memories of the world, there were the dreams. There was the girl. She was different every time. But the same. A peasant, a priestess… hundreds of girls, from times we’ve forgotten, worlds we couldn’t picture. She was me. She wasn’t me. I loved her. I killed her. I never said anything about them… the dreams. Youd’ve thought I was spun. I pretty much thought that myself. In my head. I always said we were two halves of the same person.
Mel escapes, but when she returns home, the devastation continues. Loo has been murdered. Determined to get justice and avenge her death, Mel inspires the people of Haddyn to rise up and fight against the Lurks. She even persuades her sister Erin to get the cops involved. Along the way she discovers her Slayer essence. She learns to truly own her power. Meanwhile, Harth is preparing his army to raise hell on earth. He plans to open a gateway to bleed the human and demon worlds together again.
Wielding a nifty new scythe (Yes, the one and only Slayer Scythe) Mel and the residents of Haddyn enter the battle of their lives. The gateway to the demon world appears in the form of a giant dragon. It’s going to give birth to thousands of demons. Its womb is their portal to the mortal world. When the dragon demon swallows Mel whole, she kills it from the inside by plunging the Scythe into its brain. As the people battle the Lurks, Harth attempts to kill Erin. But Mel bursts out of the dragon’s eye, just in time to save her. Realising his plan has been foiled, Harth kisses Mel and flees for his life.
Harth: Melaka… You think this is over. You closed the gateway. Saved the Warren. Maybe even all of Haddyn. Maybe the world. You’ll never guess what’s coming next.
With the battle over, Mel returns to Gunther. There’s just one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit. Who killed Loo? She wasn’t drained and a vampire would have needed an invite to enter her home. When Gunther convinces her that he knows nothing of the little girl’s death, she surmises that Urkonn was behind it.
Melaka: I work it you were twitchy, I wasn’t looking a winner. Your creepity masters sent you to battle and thought I wasn’t gonna fight. Thought I needed a push. So you snapped a five-year-old’s neck ‘cause, hey, you’re a demon, right? What’s one small human life, we got a war coming! Am I right?
Urkonn admits that he killed Loo in order to push Fray to win the war. Melaka kills Urkonn and returns to her old life, with a few changes. She still works for Gunther, but her relationship with her sister has been mended and she now has purpose. She is the Slayer.
Melaka: I’m just one girl. No big hero, no protector of justice, not even a bona fide one-hundred-percent Slayer. So what are you waiting for? Take me on. Hurt my world. I dare you.
The Watchers Files
In my humble opinion, Fray is one of the best Buffyverse comics ever written. The future world and complex characters that Joss crafted in this book blew me away. It’s original and exciting and expands upon the Buffyverse mythology.
I thought it was interesting that Melaka had a twin. Dividing the powers of the Slayer between them was an intriguing concept. Mel had all the strength of a Slayer, but no connection to her lineage. Giving a vampire this connection and the Slayer’s prophetic dreams was a stroke of genius and made for a unique villain. Harth’s backstory was perfect and the family dynamics between the three siblings provided a lot of emotion and conflict to the story.
Speaking of emotions… Joss strikes again! He made us fall in love with the adorable Loo and then he violently snapped her neck and broke our hearts. Why? Why must he do this every time? And why must I fall for it, again and again. But it’s part of why we love him. He keeps us on our toes. With a Whedon franchise, the stakes are real, so buckle up kids.
There were so many wonderful twists and turns in this story… Loo’s death, Harth’s survival and abilities, Urkonns betrayal. I felt like I’d known Melaka Fray for much longer than eight issues. She’s tough, witty, kind and she kicked major ass. I fell in love with her and her world.
Karl Moline and Andy Owens also deserve a lot of credit for bringing this world to life. The artwork is bursting with action and colour.
I read Fray when it was originally released, and I loved that it tied directly into the series. When the Scythe appeared in Buffy, I got major goose bumps.
I’m surprised that there’s never been much talk about a live action spin-off series or movie. It would be absolutely perfect for either medium.
Until Buffy Season 8, I feared I’d seen the last of Fray. Luckily, she goes on to play a significant role in the comic Seasons. She also appears in Season 12.
“Every Slayer subconsciously inherits the memories of all the previous Slayers. ‘Cept me. Special me. I didn’t even know they were called ‘vampires’ ‘til I got told. I know I’m supposed to fight ‘em; I’m the only one in the world who can. The only one.” – Melaka Fray, Tales
Tales of the Slayer is a fantastic graphic novel featuring short stories about various Slayers throughout history. It features writing from Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson, Doug Petrie, David Fury, Rebecca Sinclair and Amber Bensen.
I simply had to give it a shout out. Not only does it feature an appearance from Melaka Fray, it takes us right back to the very beginning. From the First Slayer, right up to Mel, it explores the loneliness and obligation that these woman have endured.
In Tales, Fray discovers that while she may carry the weight of the world on her shoulders, she is not the only one. While out on a routine grab for Gunther, Mel comes across a four-armed spider-monkey. It steals her Scythe and she follows the creature through the busy streets of Haddyn. It leads her to a very swanky rooftop apartment. There is a huge symbol on the floor. It looks just like her Scythe. Here, Mel discovers a library of old Watchers diaries. She may not have a psychic link to past Slayers, but at least now she can learn about her heritage.
“It’s all here… the battles, the tricks… the fears and the victories… all the girls, so different, who lived as I do… all of their stories are laid before me and I… my hands are shaking. I am the only one in the world… but I am not alone.” – Melaka Fray, Tales
Slayer Rating: 5X5