[REVIEW] Strayed Volume 1 from Dark Horse Comics is Worthy of 7 of its 9 Lives

Welcome one and all to the premier of my comic book ramblings. My name is Mike. I’m a huge Cat-Dad so obviously Dark Horse Comics’ Strayed made it onto my pull list.

Dark Horse Presents Strayed Vol 1 TP
Written by Carlos Giffoni
Drawn and Coloured by Juan Doe
On Sale June 3rd 2020

In a tale as old as time, once again we have the story of the evils of humanity. A story where villainy is born from greed and an unlikely soul becomes the champion of righting our collective wrongs. Many books and films have utilised the plot. including the formerly highest grossing film of all time, James Cameron’s Avatar.  An outing which always impressed visually while leaving a void in the world building and characterisation. The stunning visuals keep Avatar as a talking point to this day, but my issue with the cinematic epic is just how little you remember outside of the pretty visuals. The world building far outshines the narrative, leaving the viewer with a stunning visual experience but a shallow story with forgettable characters. So how does Dark Horse’s Strayed tell a similar story while trying to avoid the same issues which plagued the blockbuster?

Strayed has no paraplegic protagonist driving the plot, but instead has an astral projecting cat called Lou floating through space seeking resources to support the human race. The opening issue sees writer Carlos Giffoni strongly asserting everything we need to know about the story going forth, giving the reader ample opportunity to really breathe in Juan Doe’s truly stunning art hitting every page. Strayed, like Avatar, uses the art to tell 70% of the story. Where Avatar failed to capture out hearts with its lead, Strayed made Lou an instant show-stealer. Lou is paired with Kiara, his best friend and owner (if cats truly have such a thing). Together their goal is to use Lou’s gift to scout planets for a new power source while living under the thumb of their superiors. Unfortunately, the strain from using Lou’s powers creates a tension which the five issues explore from the opposing angles of duty and love. Doe’s art style really captures the curiosity and playfulness of our leading feline, harmonising it with the beauty of space yet contrasting it with the brutality of the military presence.

As with Avatar, humanity has developed into a military presence with the sole task of furthering its reach across the galaxy. A human led universe believing in peace by superior firepower. Strayed harmonises the otherworldly with the relatable in a meaningful way, lovingly capturing the reader but not at the cost of lead character building. The dynamics between Lou and Kiara are heart-warming. We have all had to face hardship with loved ones, and moreover no one likes to witness harm to animals, certainly not our beloved pets. The pages are edge to edge with vibrant colours and detailing, further expanding grandeur of space for the reader. The worlds created here also suggest other events occurring without being shown on the page, adding some real depth and populous to the universe and enhancing the risk factor of the narrative. To add another layer of immersion, the creators have supported each issue with a spatial soundtrack, the link to which is available at the start of each chapter. I highly recommend trying this out at least once.

This story is by no means a masterpiece, but it does present a strong, heartfelt journey worthy of seven of nine lives. Like Avatar, the visuals had to take the weight of many of the key narrative moments, but the strains became more obvious, certainly in the final issue.  Some more nurturing of the military higher up’s personas could have made for a more imposing defined threat. Take a chance on this book if you want a break from your spandex clad super-beings and, like me, you may be very pleasantly surprised. If you enjoyed this book consider reading Dc’s Martian Manhunter 2018 by Steve Orlando. The art style and character defining sci-fi  stories have a lot in common with Strayed and both are worthy of getting your claws into.

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