Despite the novelty value of seeing Brian K. Vaughan or Drew Goddard’s take on Buffy: Season 8, there’s nothing quite the same as seeing Joss Whedon in full command of his creations. This latest arc actually brings in an extra creation too – the future slayer, Fray, once seen in her own mini-series, and the first time Buffy comics went “canon.”
It wouldn’t be unfair to expect a throwaway, fanboy-pleasing crossover, but then Joss Whedon knows far better than that. While it’s not stated in the issue, Fray’s awakening as the Slayer followed a period where all magic and magical beings had been exiled from the planet – a goal Buffy’s current nemesis, Twilight, appears to be pursuing. The likelihood of Fray’s past and Buffy’s future tying themselves together definitively is not inconsiderable.
While most of the issue is given over the character interplay, it’s never anything less than entertaining. Whedon’s dialogue has always been strong, and watching his characters bounce off one another would be worth reading even if nothing actually happened to them. Luckily, things do happen though – the Scoobies travel to New York looking for some answers, Dawn’s size problems finally get dealt with (…sort of) and meanwhile, the villains of the series make a fairly definitive win against the Slayers. The one down side is that despite the events of the previous arc, Xander’s reactions are somewhat glossed over – admittedly, it’s hard to everything into an issue, but personally, I hoped for more.
Karl Moline returns on art to draw Fray, the character he co-created. His pencils offer a slightly more exaggerated and dynamic version of the main cast than Jeanty’s rather tight approach while largely retaining the visual style of the series. There’s no massive shift in tone, and Moline’s action scenes work particularly well, even if his looser approach means that certain expressions look a little too twisted.
The issue is a good opener, leaving a lot of questions to be answered by the next few issues, and catering well to those that aren’t already familiar with Fray’s world. Those of us who are will just find that much more to enjoy.