Created & Written by: Joss Whedon
Pencilled by: Karl Moline
Inked by: Andy Owens
Colored by: Dave Stewart & Michelle Madsen
Lettered by: Michelle Madsen
Page 01: Fray finds herself within the mouth of the Gateway Demon. She is not pleased.
Page 02: Outside of the Beast, battle continues for the Lurks and the warren residents. Mostly though, there is just a lot of running to get out of the giant demon's way.
Within its maw, Melaka struggles not to brush against the razor-sharp teeth, get out of the saliva before it starts to eat through her, not breathe in any toxic/acidic fumes, and not to be swallowed whole. A sweeping roll of the thing's tongue and she loses her precarious perch and heads down the gullet.
Fortunately for Fray, the creature has dozens of the useless uvulas hanging down from the back of its throat. She's able to make use of them and the Scythe to start burrowing her way up toward its brain....
Page 03: Over the streetscape, Erin screams for Mel. She spots Harth on the back of the monster and narrows her gaze. She takes her damaged bike into a dive.
Meanwhile at street level, Urkonn is ripping a vampire in half. He's equally shocked that he's lost the Slayer.
Page 04: A despondant Urkonn is tackled by multiple vampires, possibly because he has simply lost the will to fight. With Melaka's apparent demise, he realizes that Harth has won. When the Gateway Demon disgorges its developing horde of demons, they will overrun the planet. He's left as a failure (in his estimation).
Back with Erin, she yells out her brother's name as she dive bombs for him. He's ready, however, with his vampire reflexes. Jumping over the careening craft, he grabs his sis and gives her a sarcastic greeting as they tumble toward the street.
Commentary: I like Urkonn's dialog to himself here. I'm not sure exactly what it is, but I find there to be something a bit touching in the way he just sort of gets tackled by the vampires, as if he has stopped trying to defend himself after Melaka's "loss".
Page 05: Further down on the monster's back, Harth and Erin falls with her body slamming onto the creature's back. He lands on her, with his feet planted to her face....
Commentary: Yeah. This was a bad choice, because Harth needs to taunt Erin. There is no way in hell that she'd be in a listening mood - probably not even alive- if he'd come down on her, feet first, after the momentum of falling from the sky, and landing right on her face as depicted. Her bones should be broken, blood should be pouring from her wound, her jaw and teeth should be smashed... amazingly, no. It just doesn't make sense, and there was zero need to have had the tackle turn out this exact way, so I don't understand why there was a sudden lack of logic for this one panel.
Anyway, in the background, Gateway Demon's head thrashes about convulsively. Harth taunts his big sister, while snapping her wrist quite deliberately. He tells her how much joy he took in her blaming Mel for his death and how ironically funny it was when she ran away from their sister by joining the police. He's also glad that she's there with him now, to die along with Mel as a family.
Up on their rooftop sniper post, the tavern owners are down to two shells. With the vampires about to over run them, Ma turns the gun on Pa....
Commentary: This scene really took me aback (although, spoiler for next page - she doesn't fire) because of the bravery and darkness. There is a difference in 'fun violence' and 'serious violence' in entertainment. It's mostly a sense of the tone - from BTVS, I would put most of the violence as 'fun violence'. Sure, Buffy gets knocked around, the Scoobies (especially Giles) gets knocked out but we know that they'll ultimately be okay. But once in a while, there would be a scene of violence that was 'serious'... that we weren't meant to cheer or get that delicious chill up the spine over the possible fates of our characters. These select scenes are meant to *hurt* us - not only the characters. I would put Jenny Calendar's killing in this category. Despite Angelus' quip, before snapping her neck, we're not meant to identify with him or to find the violence 'thrilling'.
I would put Ma pointing her rifle to the head of Pa, and he's saying to her, "Best damn woman I ever knew" to be in this second 'serious' mode. It sits uncomfortably, and in contradiction to the 'fun' violence between Erin and Harth. Not that watching Erin's wrist snapped is 'fun' per se, but it has the feel of 'comic book violence' ... the feeling that Erin is going to be okay. Ma and Pa (despite their last minute save coming up) feels more like watching Jenny die.
Page 06: The Gateway Demon convulses again, but this time enough to draw attention of the battle participants, including Tavern Ma and Pa, saving them from shooting themselves. The creature's giant head slams back and forth between two high rises as it roars in pain.
Harth gets an idea that something isn't quite right with this scene....
Page 07: With the monster in its death throes, Mel comes splashing out through its eye! She greets her brother and sister, before another convulsion sends her off the monster's thrashing back.
Page 08: The monster tumbles over, interrupting the battle again between vampire and human as everyone makes a mad run for it. Erin joins Mel in a hard fall off of its back and onto the street.
Page 09: Harth stands over his sisters. He tells Mel she'll never see what is about to come next and gives her a shockingly deep kiss before running off....
Page 10: Looking down from above, we see just how big the creature was as damaged and burning buildings abound. Police vehicles swarm the area.
Page 11: In the aftermath, medics load up Erin reporting she has internal trauma. They rush her off by air-ambulance leaving Mel standing with the survivors. Urkonn tells her optimistically that her brother won't be able to tap that amount of energy again for quite some time, perhaps even years. He congratulates her that it's over, but she says that it isn't.
Page 12: Mel has brought Urkonn with her to speak to Gunther. She confronts Gunther on knowing who was buying her grabs and not telling her. She also confronts him on turning her over to police. But, he's always got a smooth answer, claiming he didn't know at first that her supposedly dead brother was involved. And when he did find out that he was intending on going after her, he tried to 'save' her by turning her over to Erin, instead. Really, he had her best interests at heart the whole time.
She tells him that she isn't really there to bust him about all of that stuff, however much she might like to. She's there about Loo.
Page 13: Gunther swears that he had nothing to do with killing a child. And to Urkonn's surprise, she agrees that she knows he wasn't responsible.
Mel points out all of the evidence that was right before our eyes - Lurks couldn't have entered her apartment without her invite, and she never issued any. In addition, they didn't bother feeding on the girl. Mel tells Urkonn that she figured out what the story must have been....
That he was afraid she wasn't getting into the game fast enough. He was afraid that she wouldn't fight, thought that she needed a little push to get her motivated. So he snapped Loo's little neck, because what the hell, what was one child's life against the coming war? And, he is a demon after all - killing her was nothing to him.
Commentary: And stupidly, I did not even suspect this was happening. Sure, something bothered me about Loo's death - but I really liked Urkonn and just didn't put the pieces together!
Page 14: Urkonn basically admits she was right by telling her, "We would have lost". She tells him that isn't good enough.
But, more, she's worked out something else as well - and the clues were there for us. Everytime Mel went into the water, he never helped her. She tells him despite his power, there is one weakness; she doesn't think he can swim.
Page 15: Using the Scythe, Mel smashes Gunther's tank ceiling/floor, sending them into his tank. Urkonn tries to strangle her, but she slices him open with the blade.
As the two wrestle, drifting deeper into Gunther's lair, Mel laments that Urkonn had been a good teacher, maybe even a friend....
Page 16: Drifting down to the second level, near the bottom of the tank, Urkonn is able to punch through the glass. Water pours out of the tank, sweeping them all out. Urkonn vomits up water, but before he can do anything else, Fray drives the point end of the Scythe through the back of his skull.
"For a friend, I make it quick," she thinks.
Commentary: I was really bummed out by Urkonn. I liked him a lot and I really thought he would've made an excellent Watcher to Mel, since she can't rely on the self-immolating ex-Council nutters. I can't believe that I missed all of the obvious clues that he was the one to kill Little Loo when everything was laid out for us. Even after that, his death saddened me.
Page 17: With Urkonn dead, Mel scoops up the floundering and suffocating Gunther and tosses him back into the low level of water remaining below the break in the tank glass. She also works to make amends to him by offering to continue being his best grabber.
Commentary: Melaka the theiving Slayer - is this what gave Joss the idea that Buffy being a bank robber was going to be accepted by fandom? I'll just say, "Uh, no!"
In Fray's case it makes sense. This is what she is, it's all that she has known. For Buffy, seeing her robbing anyone just seems so Out Of Character to me, that I cannot reconcile it.
Elsewhere, in the demon dimension, the two Lords are arguing. We find out here that Urkonn wasn't meant to be Fray's Watcher at all. His orders were to stop the Gateway from opening and then to kill Melaka. Bug-Lord is upset that she still lives and orders that Urkonn's name be stricken and unremembered. Brood-Lord insults him for continuing to focus on the petty. He tells him that they must keep their eyes on the girl, but also Harth yet lives, so there are two threats to keep track of.
Page 18: In four panels, we see life going on in the aftermath.... The Residents work on cleaning up and rebuilding with their scant resources, Mel reconciles with Erin in the hospital, she continues to grab for Gunther, and she continues to hunt lurks.
Page 19: As she patrols her neighborhood, she also knows that Harth is still out there, waiting. She realizes too, that whoever sent her Urkonn will also be watching for her to falter. She's ready to accept that challenge.
Page 20: We see Mel on high rise, overlooking the city with her Scythe and a smile on her face.
The Good: The wrap up was very strongly written - paced very well, exciting, action packed, and with shocking revelations (for some of us dunderheads, anyway).
I really loved how Mel figured everything out, and how we knew everything she did and could have (if we weren't so naive, thanks to years of Spike & Angel) figured out that Urkonn wasn't the good guy he pretended.
The Bad: Only Erin's getting double-footed, face stomped by Harth with no ill effect. It was just so unnecessary to have him tackle her in that move if they weren't going to have her immediately incapacitated, if not fatally injured.
I also find it extremely problematic that Melaka could so easily smooth things over with Gunther.
Other Thoughts: I do wonder why Fray hasn't been given any follow up stories of her own (yes, 'Time of Your Life' ... But, I'm referring to FRAY II). There is certainly more then enough potential in the world created to tell more stories.
I'm also sorry with the way that Urkonn was handled, but I don't object. I just really liked him and would have liked him to continue.
I wish that Icarus had survived as well.
The Score: I found this wrap up issue to Mel's tale to be very strong, engaging, and well handled.
4.0 out of 5
And that makes the average score for the eight issue arc: 3.5 out of 5.