Sunday 7 March 2010

** Guest post - Fray by Joss Whedon

Graphic Novel month on The Book Zone continues into its second week with a guest review by Liz De Jager, writing about one of her favourite books in this 'genre'. Liz and husband Mark (who is also going to be writing about his favourite GN later this month) run the brilliant My Favourite Books blog.

Fray by Joss Whedon, pencilled by Karl Moline, inked by Andy Owens 

The story is about a Slayer of the future named Melaka Fray and her discovery of what being a Slayer means.

Centuries have passed since the last Slayer was called. Demons were banished from the Earth at some point in the 21st century by an unnamed Slayer and her friends, and the Watcher’s Council has decayed into a group of crazed fanatics. The vampires (dubbed lurks) have now returned and haunt the city. To combat this threat, a new Slayer is called: a professional thief named Melaka Fray. With the Watchers' Council ineffective, a group of "neutral" demons send the demon Urkonn to prepare Melaka for the war that is sure to come.

Although training hard and feeling confident, Mel finds herself out of her depth when she fights the vampire Icarus. Years before, Icarus severely injured Mel and killed her twin brother, Harth. Mel discovers that Harth was not actually killed: after being bitten by Icarus, he bit back and fed off the vampire, becoming a vampire himself. Since he was the Slayer's twin, he has the visions and instinctive knowledge that should have been hers: he knew what Mel is long before she did, and also knew how to become a vampire.

Disheartened, Mel refuses to fight, until she discovers the body of her young friend, a mutant girl named Loo, with her neck snapped. Determined to avenge her, Mel rallies the inhabitants of the slums to fight against the vampires. Police officer Erin Fray (Mel's older sister) convinces some of the local law enforcement to also join in the crusade.


I took the above synopsis from the Wikipedia page but cut most of the info because it tells you everything that happens in the graphic novel. I think the above snippet is just enough to keep everyone interested and maybe get more peeps to buy it!

I loved Buffy and Angel and I love Joss Whedon. I adored Firefly and Serenity and have yet to fall for Dollhouse, but then I am an Eliza Dushku fan, so I no doubt will.

What draws me to Joss Whedon’s world is that he writes characters so well. Within a few minutes you know everything you need to know about them. And more importantly, the characters are invariably engaging and likeable, even if they are unlikeable, they make a strong enough impression to stay with you. You’re caught, hook, line, sinker before you even know it.

The same counts for his graphic novel, Fray. Chapter One opens with Fray in full action, gun in one hand, blasting away at someone seen just off-page, jewelled necklace clasped in the other hand, big ass boots waving in the air. She’s falling off the top of a building, hover cars can be seen in the background. Full of action - BAM! - you’re right there, in the midst of it all. You know she’s a thief, that much is obvious, she knows how to take care of herself (the big ass gun in case you’ve missed it) and it takes place in the future - buildings and hover cars tell you that.

Next we see Fray bounce off a couple of hover cars, off a pipe sticking out a building, another car, a couple of buildings, to eventually come to a rapid stop, face-first onto the road. The baddies haul her up, unconcerned about how much she’s hurt and instead of acting unconscious Fray starts fighting like a streetfighter. There are no rules here - survival of the fittest.

Everything you need to know happens in the first few pages. It’s storytelling at it’s best. Words and pictures work together immaculately to give you the perfect idea of what’s going on and how things will be panning out as the story progresses.

When Fray (sorry, Melaka Fray) meets with Urkonn it is naturally explosive. She’s not used to demons lurking in her room. Once they get over their punch-up and Urkonn explains to Mel why he’s there and who she is, she of course doubts him. She’s not had the dreams, the visions, the weirdness. But she is ridiculously strong and fast.

I felt a bit cheated though - using the death of her small friend to provoke her to fight the Lurkers felt like a cheap shot. But retrospectively it works because it shakes her out of her apathy and it brings home the realisation that she would not be able to fight her destiny and that people would go to ridiculous lengths to make her fight, even if it means betraying her friendship and trust.

All in all, Fray is an excellent graphic novel - pure indulgence. Also, any girl who can kick butt and use an axe, is definitely okay in my book! On a more serious note, I love that it expands on the original and existing world created in Buffy but at the same time, it is completely standalone with its own world and mythologies and character histories. If I wrote fan fiction, I’d write fan fiction for Fray. She’s strong, impossibly human and vulnerable - she’s also not a goody-goody and I appreciate that in an character, as no one is ever 100% nice or perfect.

I’d like to end by saying once upon a time, I did think comics and graphic novels were a waste of time. I remember my brother reading them secretly, hiding them inside school books and almost flunking a year in high school, and I’d shake my head knowingly (I was ten years younger than him) and be all prudish at the thought of reading rubbish like that. I mean “picture books” - was he so stupid he couldn’t read a whole novel without the help of pictures? Thankfully I grew out of this...but only much later in my adult life. I genuinely regret not falling under the sway of comics and graphic novels earlier. I’ve only been a reader of these the past sixteen years or so and although I enjoy it, and feel that I have a pretty good grasp when it comes to reading these, I do feel that I’ve missed out quite a lot. But I won’t allow this to get the better of me. With excellent resources online and various events at cons and local comic shops, there is no reason at all not to give graphic novels a try. They can be as serious or as light hearted as you like - nothing is set in stone and reading them makes me feel like I’m sharing in something a little bit cooler than reading normal novels.


My big thanks to Liz for yet another really interesting guest post. I have never read any of the Fray books but will have to remedy this now. Watch out Amazon... here I come!

1 comment:

  1. Oh my goodness, I just got slightly too excited when I saw this! I love Fray, I love Joss, and I love this review.