The Comics of Joss Whedon: Fray
Joss Whedon must think about the future a lot. Firefly is famously a futuristic western. Then there was Dollhouse, a show with futuristic technology at its core and that flashed forward in time to round out its story and deliver what were arguably its best episodes. But before Dollhouse and before Firefly, there was Fray, vampire slayer of the future.
Obviously, fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer stand to derive the greatest kick out of this eight-issue comic book series, but it’s as accessible as the pilot of any one of Whedon’s TV series, and just as devastating upon reaching the end.
It’s been two hundred years since magic left the world and the last slayer was called. But vampires are on the rise again. Enter, Melaka Fray; a loner and a career thief who lives in the lowers in the district of Haddyn. Despite her physical prowess, Melaka is missing the prophetic dreams that are the birthright of the Slayer. But her destiny needs embracing all the same.
‘Buffy of the Future’ this is not. The setting, the characters, their backgrounds, motivations and interactions are completely different. The similarities of a shared universe and a shared role in it are there for those who look for them though. Most notably, the Scythe that Buffy uses in that show’s conclusion actually appeared in issue #6 of Fray first. Understandably, when it appeared on screen, the squee was heard ‘round the world of the handful of people who read Fray at the time.
There are tropes of Whedon’s imagined futures that first appeared in Fray. They are characteristic of a single, definitive historical event or trend and they all have their own future slang. The future of the Buffyverse as seen in Fray has a literal tiered society based on wealth. Increased sun radiation has led to a sub-population of mutants. The vernacular includes new words for things like vampires, i.e. lurks and place names, e.g. Manhattan has become Haddyn.
The trademark wit and wonderfully realised character writing of Joss Whedon is present of course. There are story beats and character moments that will make your jaw drop. Supporting characters really grow as well as Fray, and the fates of some are taken in unexpected directions. The series was drawn by Karl Moline who fully realises what a physical creature Fray is and takes full advantage of the sci-fi setting. The opening scene of the comic is an aerial action sequence that pulls you right into Fray’s world and drags you along. The fight scenes are appropriately kinetic and his character designs are fantastic. Its unclear how much of Fray’s appearance and fashion sense was dictated by Whedon, but Moline makes her look totally unique, even a little shocking.
Fray is available in a very affordable collected edition from any good comics shop and it’s a must for any Whedon fan, especially fans of Buffy. If you’ve never been a Buffy fan but enjoy Whedon’s other works, you should still give Fray a try. She’s much more of a badass than her blonde predecessor. Plus y’know, there’s flying cars.