Comic books that spawn out of TV shows or movies usually have a number of aspects working against them – firstly, they struggle to capture the grandeur of their source and, barring very few occasions, don’t feature the input of their original creators. In essence, they feel unauthentic.
Joss Whedon changed that with his approach towards the Buffy comics published by Dark Horse. Later, after the series wrapped on television, he would accumulate the best talent in both TV and comic books to create the Buffy Season Eight series that’s still ongoing today. Prior to that, however, he created another story within the same universe, taking place in the far future. Fray, debuting in 2001 before belatedly finishing its eight-issue run in 2003, was written by Whedon with art by the fantastic Karl Moline.
Set in a Fifth Element-esque future where the rich live at the top of huge cities and the poor reside at the bottom, the story charts an orphan named Melaka Fray who discovers she’s the latest in a long-thought-lost line of vampire slayers. Vampires (in this universe, called lurks) are on the rise again, and Fray, trained by her demonic tank of a watcher known as Urkonn (a far cry from Rupert Giles), must stop them.
It’s never quite as simple as that, however – Fray is a twist-heavy tale that veers from being an atypical Whedon-written dramedy to something rather darker than even the complete moral bankruptcy seen in Dollhouse. Actually, I consider Fray to be an important pillar of the Buffyverse; it’s canonical, and it strongly hints at events within the timeline that are important to Buffy’s story in the show (the end of magic, for example).
More than that, though, in eight issues Whedon builds a character with a richer background than many of those that have inhabited the four-colour world for decades. He’s a natural fit for the medium, but, just as importantly, so is the Buffyverse.
The complete collected edition of Fray is available in trade paperback in from Dark Horse Comics in the US and Titan Comics in the UK.