(lots more behind the cut)
Also, I've noticed a few people wondering what 'Fray' was about, or how it connects to the plot of 'Buffy'. The best answer to that, of course, is "read the comic" - I definitely enjoyed it - but for the benefit of those who lack the time, money or motivation, I thought I'd write up a quick summary. So here is my Handy Illustrated Guide to the Characters and Background of 'Fray', with special reference to how it ties in with 'Buffy'. There will be spoilers here, but I'll use white-out to cover up the really plot-twist-revealing ones such as **what happened to Melaka's brother .**
(Apologies to any blind or partially sighted people using screen-readers to read this post, since I don't think this spoiler thing will work with them.)
A Guide to 'Fray'
'Fray' is set in the 23rd century, on a polluted and ravaged Earth that is now home to 10 billion people. The specific location is a city called Haddyn, which is possibly future Manhattan - one cityscape scene shows what looks like the Chrysler Building dwarfed by even taller skyscrapers. This is a world where the rich live in the 'Uppers' and have flying cars and other luxuries, and the poor scrape out a meagre living in the 'Warrens'.
(L - R) Haddyn cityscape; a flying police car; taking a shower under a broken water pipe because many houses in the Warrens don't have running water; an electrical stun gun - a full cartridge will knock you out for an hour.
Thanks to the destruction of the ozone layer and industrial pollution, mutations and birth defects are common, especially among the poor. Other people deliberately modify their own bodies with cybernetics, bioengineering or drugs. In such a world, the fact that one teenage girl has developed super-strength, incredible agility and miraculous resistance to injury goes barely noticed.
This actually says something interesting about the nature of heroism. Buffy is a pretty good leader and planner when she has to be, but a lot of the time she doesn't bother. She's stronger and faster and tougher than the things she fights, and that's all she needs. She's special, and she knows it - which isolates her - and when she comes up against someone stronger than her (Adam, Glory) she often despairs until she finally gets her act together.
The heroine of 'Fray', by contrast - the eponymous Melaka Fray - isn't in the same position. She's a Slayer, but in her world that's not enough to make her stand out. Instead, she has to win her battles through morale qualities; her courage, refusal to give up even in the worst situations, and the leadership skills she slowly develops over the course of her story.
When 'Fray' starts, there has been no Slayer, no vampires or demons on Earth, and no magic for two centuries: they were all banished sometime in the 21st century (I'll go into this in more detail later). However, in recent years the effect has been wearing off...nobody knows why. The demons are returning - and a Potential has once again been Chosen to become the Slayer.
"The [Slayer] 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. The Council of Watchers fell to ruin, held together only by fanatics and fools, those who believed the demons would return. [...] They're insane, I grant. But they were also right. The monsters did come back."
"This world belongs to the demons. They were banished, exiled by one of your ambitious predecessors. I stil don't know how we came back, but we're here, a scattered few of us, and we will reclaim our world."
Melaka Fray ('Mel' to her friends) is the first Slayer to be Called in two hundred years. She's an orphan, 19 years old, living alone in a run-down tenement in the Warrens behind a tavern. She's also a skilled thief, working for a crimelord named Gunther (who's a mutated water-dwelling fish-thing). Trivia: she has a tattoo of the Biohazard warning symbol on her upper arm, just above the place where Faith has a barbed wire tattoo.
"Bad day. Started bad. Stayed that way."
"What's a vampire?"
"So come on, guys. 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."
Harth Fray was Melaka's twin brother. When they were 15 she took him with her to steal some meat for their dinner; they were attacked and Harth was killed. Mel still feels really guilty about this: flashbacks of the scene appear all through the story. **In fact, Harth was turned into a vampire by his attacker, and is the Big Bad of the story. His plan is to open a Hellmouth and let the demons back into Earth..** The fact that the Slayer had a twin brother is extremely unusual... in fact, we discover that while Melaka got the physical abilities, it was her brother who got the prophetic dreams and mystical insight part of the Slayer heritage.
"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."
Erin Fray is Melaka's older sister and only living relative. She's now a sergeant in the police force, which puts her at odds with her sister the cat burglar... anyway, their relationship has never been the same since Harth was killed.
"I'm trying to keep you out of jail."
"We can't kill 'em. They jumped us, we lost two guys and they all made it out. Why doesn't the brass care that we can't kill them?"
Loo is a five-year old girl, the daughter of the couple (Amma and Jove) who run the tavern where Melaka hangs out. She's crippled - blind in one eye, deformed arm, and needs constant medication which her parents can only barely afford. She hero-worships Melaka. **She also gets killed halfway through the story. It's a whole thing.**
"Kettie Rawls called me a freak and he said he was gonna tear off my whole arm and I'd look like a dolphin which I don't know what that is but I got scareded and you said I could stay here any time I got scareded."
Urkonn is a demon from a Hell-dimension. He's sent to Earth by two Hell-Gods called Boluz and Vrill, with orders to find Melaka and train her to be a Slayer - in effect, to be her Watcher. **They don't want an apocalypse yet, because they're not ready, and so want to use the Slayer as a weapon against their own enemy. They also plan to kill her once that's been achieved - you can probably guess that things don't go quite according to their plan.** He's quite surprised when Melaka doesn't think his appearance is anything unusual - but in her words, "Please. I work for a fish."
"You are a fool, girl. I am Urkonn of the d'Avvrus. Bullets cannot harm me. " *FZZKOW* "What's a bullet?"
"So what's first?" "Dexterity. I throw things at you. You avoid them."
"The Old Ones believe he plans to open the gateway, to bring the demon world back to the human world. It will be the destruction of everything."
Icarus is the person who killed Melaka's brother Harth. He's a 'lurk', which is the name people have given to the mysterious beings who've recently started roaming the streets and alleys at night. Some people think they're victims of a disease; others that they're cursed. Many think they're just a myth; the authorities certainly aren't doing anything about them. In the 23rd century the word "vampire" has been all but forgotten.
"Your little finger. Bite it off. Bite it off or take me on."
"Fight? You? Well that's just cute."
"Don't be frightened, little ones. It'll only hurt for a moment."
The Watchers' Council still exists, but after two hundred years of uselessness has degenerated into a group of deluded fanatics and madmen. ('Fray' was written before the plot of Season 7 was finalised, so I don't know exactly how this ties into the destruction of the Council by Caleb. Presumably this is the new Council Giles runs which degenerated? Or maybe the one which uses cyborgs.)
"Melaka Fray? You... are the Chosen... I am not worthy to come before you... you will save us... you will protect us. End the scourge. You will cleanse us all... you will cleanse us with fire!"
The Scythe is Melaka's weapon, appearing first here in 'Fray' before it also showed up in 'Buffy' Season 7. Urkonn gives it to her; it's not explained where he found it or what happened to it over the intervening years since Buffy used it. This is what we're told about it:
"I have a gift for you. It is a weapon, forged eons ago, for the Slayer alone. Lost for centuries. Carry it, for it is your sword and your scepter. Let it proclaim you the hero - and the monster - that you will need to be. Make your war."
Connections to the plot of Season 8
As explained above, for two hundred years there was no magic or demonic activity on Earth. Both Urkonn and the story's Big Bad explain that back in the 21st century, a Slayer managed to banish all the demons. This lasted two centuries, but for unknown reasons the banishment effect is starting to fade or crack, and the demons are beginning to return.
However, it's important to remember that neither Urkonn nor the Big Bad is an entirely trustworthy source, and the exact details of what happened back then are lost to history. It's easy to explain any discrepancy between 'Fray' and Season 8 simply by saying that the old legends got the details wrong.
This is what happened, as explained to Melaka by 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 form this earthly dimension."
"And the Slayer? Did she..."
"I do not know if she lived. But, the demons being gone, she was the last to be Called."
Does that silhouette in the first picture look like Buffy? I think it does, but it's not absolutely definite. There's also no mention of the multiple-Slayer situation back in the 21st century (probably because Joss hadn't thought of it when he wrote 'Fray') but it's easy to assume that ending all magic and demonic influences would stop new Slayers being called however many there were to start with.
That picture of the hand disappearing into the portal implies that the Slayer was also banished, since she was magical and/or demonic herself. On the other hand, those don't look like Buffy's fingernails :-) (Nor Willow's either).
Finally, some trivia
According to the artist, Melaka's appearance was loosely modelled on Natalie Portman as appearing in the film Léon/The Professional. Joss's own instructions to the artist were "I wanted a real girl, with real posture, a slight figure (that's my classy way of saying 'little boobs'), and most of all a distinctive face. A person."
And the rest of the icons that didn't fit above. Feel free to use any of these or adapt them - if you want one personalised with text just ask.