The showdown between the slayer Melaka and her vampiric brother Harth continues, as Melaka tries to prevent her brother from opening the Gateway and bring the demon world back to the human world, thereby destroying everything. But there are forces at work which may prevent her from doing her job and which she knows nothing about - or does she?
The good news is that we didn't have to wait half a year for the series finale of FRAY. The bad news is that we did have to wait four months. As Whedon himself says in the letters column this issue, those delays are one of the only reasons that turning FRAY into a regular series would be a problem, and he's right: waiting for such a long time builds our expectations to ridiculous levels, so that we end up expecting the final issue to be nothing less than the Word of God. It doesn't quite hit those levels - Whedon can be pretty God-like from time to time, of course - but it does bring the series to a fairly satisfying conclusion, and it even leaves some enticing loose ends for (gasp!) a possible sequel.
The only real problem with the denouement is that it comes so damn quickly, which is much the same problem I had with the BUFFY series finale - there's a huge buildup, and then it's over in 15 minutes. Here the whole shebang is for all intents and purposes over halfway through the book. Unlike the BUFFY finale, however, Whedon does take time for a much more satisfying coda, and he even manages to startle us with yet one more surprise that will leave readers of this series going back through the previous seven issues and asking, "Wow, how could I have missed that?" I can take a swift ending, so long as there's a pleasing punch that follows it, and enough plot points left hanging to promise more such series in the future.
I continue to be astonished by Moline and Owens' artwork, especially when Whedon brings up something in his letters column that I never noticed before, but which subsequent rereads of the last seven issues prove to be true: that Mel has slowly matured in front of our eyes, panel by panel. Take a look at the triumphant final image here, for instance, and then look back at the first glimpse we get of Mel in that first issue published...um, a very long time ago, and you'll see a very different person has emerged. Not very often does the artwork mirror the theme of a book so closely, but Moline and Owens make it happen here. It's beautifully done.
Well, that's over. Now, any chance of getting the sequel before 2005?