“We were played. We’re all pasties.” – Willow
“You are talking crazy-person talk. Put your words in word places, please.” – Buffy
“Vampires are lurks. A spin is a lie. Toy is bad, but spled is good.” And thus begins Fray 101. Joss does a bit of catch-up in this issue, for those who are silly enough not to have read the Fray TPB already. Other critical bits of info include the fact that Melaka Fray has a twin brother named Harth. Mel has the physical powers of a Slayer, but Harth holds the prophetic memories of past Slayers in his mind. Unfortunately, he’s a vamp — er, that is, he’s a lurk. Mel also has an older sister, Erin Fray, who’s a cop. And a pet spider monkey demon named Gates, which she acquired in a story from “Tales of the Slayers” … which is also when she found the Watcher Library that she currently lives in. And she has a merman associate named Gunther, who sometimes sends her out on thieving jobs.
And that’s the Fray universe that Buffy is introduced to in this second installment of the Whedon/Moline “Time of Your Life” arc. As for what actually happens …
After a rewind, we learn that before encountering Buffy last issue, Melaka Fray was on the trail of a powerful dark-haired mad woman, who is working with Harth, who has lived for centuries, and who speaks in riddles. Early on, we suspect who this might be. Or at least I did. And honestly, I don’t think Whedon was trying to hide it all that much. Of course it’s Dark Willow. But knowing that doesn’t really tell us anything about the whys and hows. How is she still alive after all this time? Why is she working with vamp — um, lurks? Why did she orchestrate things to bring Buffy to the future, including manipulating her own past self? Is this connected to the falling out Buff and Will had back in the Whedon-penned “Anywhere But Here” issue (#10)? Is Dark Willow really doing something dark, or is she trying to fix something dark she did in the past? Will her actions prevent this One-Slayer Future from happening? Or cause it to happen? So many questions!
Meanwhile, in the present, as Willow in New York pieces together what’s happening, Xander in Scotland deals with the aftermath of the magic missile that Warren dropped on Castle Scooby, which has everything glowing green, and which seems to have propagated a legion of “medieval cobra-faced foot soldiers”. Xander gets injured in the ensuing melee, and in what is a decidedly ignominious moment for Centauress Dawn, she carries him away from the castle and into the woods on her back. Which actually makes me like Dawn a little more than I already started to in the Japan issues. Let me tell you why …
Recently, because of Dr. Horrible, I’ve been listening to “Once More With Feeling,” the Buffy musical episode. And without a doubt, my favorite (non-sung) line in that ep is when Buffy says, “Dawn’s in trouble? Must be Tuesday.” And that really summed up Dawn’s existence pretty much right to the end of the series. And when Buffy Season 8 started, and we saw that she was a victim of a curse, we all pretty much thought, “Of course. Must be Tuesday.” But I see now what Whedon’s plan was all along. Make her look like a victim, but then gradually let her embrace the very thing that makes her one, and use it as a source of power instead. The result — Dawnzilla terrorizing Tokyo. And this time around, with the centaur thing, she manages to find the strength of her “curse” after only one issue.
Buffy the Show always worked best for me when it dealt in metaphors about growing up, and the metaphor here is almost transparent. Dawn is a teenager, and therefore she’s a freak. We all were. That’s what being adolescent is all about. But with any luck, teenagers find a way to transform their insecurities and secret shames into talent and power and strength, and that’s how they become adults. My guess is that once Dawn has completed her third transformation, and becomes “normal” again, she’ll miss being a freak, and may even be very sad. But hopefully she’ll realize that the freak is inside her, and will remember how to roar. Because THAT could end up being a very interesting character.