Shiny Shelf

Fray #7

By Mags L Halliday on 11 May 2003

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

I may have squealed when I found this in my bag of comics last week, it’s several months since I gave up asking when ‘Fray’ #7 would appear and over a year since #6 of Joss Whedon’s ‘Buffy’ spin-off hits the shelves.

To recap, for those of you who haven’t followed this comic over its two year life, ‘Fray’ is set sometime in the 23rd century. In this future of hover cars, upper and lower cities, crime lords, blasters and radies (mutants who were harmfully exposed to the sun’s radiation) are the lurks. Creatures who live in the darkness and feed on humans. And a girl. Melaka Fray. She’s the first Slayer to be called for two hundred years, the last having wiped out all demons and closed the portal between earth and the demon dimensions with the help of a few mystical allies. Hmmm. Wonder which Slayer that was/ will be?

Unsurprisingly, Mel isn’t too keen on being called, nor on the hulking great D’Avvrus demon (Urkonn) who has come to train her (the Watchers Council having decayed into a bunch of self-immolating fanatics). She’s got problems of her own, being a thief for a crime lord who has just turned her into the cops. The cops are commanded by her estranged older sister Erin, who hasn’t forgiven Mel for allowing a lurk (Icarus) to kill their brother Harth four years previously. That’s Mel’s twin brother, by the way, the one who got all the Slayer dreams whilst Mel just got the strength. Icarus isn’t the leader of the lurks though and his master is planning to reopen the portal and bring demons back into this reality.

Issue 6, way back in March 2002, left Mel facing her third showdown with Icarus, having been beaten by him when he killed Harth and again in #4. She has her symbolic Slayer axe/stake weapon, her guts, her instincts and a desire for revenge. So naturally Erin drops a police car on Icarus. This is typical of the plot subversions woven into ‘Fray’, and familiar to any watcher of ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’. When a huge demon lurks in Mel’s apartment, it turns out to be her new watcher (sort of). Her brother turns out to have been her twin, sharing the Slayer heritage between them. Whedon’s sense of plot works in comics, as might be expected from him, with regulation cliff-hangers and revelations, with the stakes rising higher each time. It’s hard not to read #1 as the pre-credit teaser.

#7 brings us to the climatic pitch battle, with hordes of lurks against the radies and the cops. Death and chaos on a massive scale, as is traditional in Buffy season finales. And then an even bigger demon, raised by Icarus’s master from a huge pile of corpses, attacks and Urkonn realises its womb is the gateway: the creature is going to give birth to the new demons. At which point Mel is swallowed whole by it.

One of the great joys of ‘Fray’ is that it is Whedon doing a futuristic setting without the networks saying “you want to spend how much?”. Karl Moline, Andy Owens and Dave Stewart have done a superb job of creating an aesthetic different enough from the other ‘Buffy’ titles to give it its own identity. The lines are strong, clear, often angular and the colours are from a limited palette. The muted tones reinforce the idea of a polluted, deadened world.

Issue #7 is out now, with the final part, #8, due within two months so that the whole mini-series will have taken over two years to be published. Amazingly, for something which vanished for over a year, the team involved in creating it are still all on-board. For anyone who is considering reading ‘Fray’, hang on a while longer and buy the trade paperback.

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