Publisher: Image Comics
Writer: Tony Fleecs
Artwork: Trish Forstner
Colours: Brad Simpson
Layouts: Tone Rodriguez
Release Date: 17th February 2021
Stray Dogs has to have one of the oddest pitches I’ve heard in a while. Cross Lady and the Tramp with Silence of the Lambs and you’ve got a Don Bluth-esque thrilling horror. Having initially had more than a little doubt at how well this almost diametrically opposed pairing would work, I must now eat my hat. What a charmingly horrific debut issue!
Sophie is a small, nervous dog who we first meet on a routine trip to a vet for one of her inoculations. It’s a very familiar animated opening in so far as we have the female lead, timid and a little skittish, with a kindly sounding owner. There’re no human faces so it’s all from the dog’s perspective. This is an interesting choice because it neatly allows for one of the nifty plot hooks and devices. As the vet informatively offers up, dogs are incapable of hating their ‘person’, and do not have the same short term memory processing as we do.
And that’s about all I can say about that.
Honestly, I know I probably prattle on about not wanting to spoil things but in this case, you owe it to yourself to not only read this book but also to try and go in without too many preconceptions.
What I can espouse upon though is the warm, wonderfully disarming cast of characters. As I said, we don’t have any ‘person’ expression here, but that is more than made up for by the dogs themselves. There’s the roguish but engagingly friendly Rusty who could have walked in off the set of a ‘90s family adventure movie, through to a somewhat goofy looking dalmatian or the gruff but kindly hound. No doubt each of these mutts will have a story to tell but their presence alone becomes telling.
The whole look lands perfectly. The team deliver that soft, cosy, easy styling reminiscent of so many animal-centred animations, but with a story that has both bark and bite. The use of cartoony or cuddly art with hard-hitting story themes is by no means new, but it’s not simple to achieve in such an impactful fashion. The opening might have laid it on a bit thick with the vet and the huge needle, but I loved how quickly the smiles and doggy swagger gave way to sinister snippets.
Stray Dogs #1 could be read as an almost perfect short story. The build-up and little hints dropped get the brain juices flowing with the last panel delivering that gut punch of ‘oh no!’ Given how impression this debut issue is, it’s going to be hard work to deliver this standard over the course of the arc. However, I for one have a feeling I’m going to heartily enjoy testing that out.
[PREVIEW ARTWORK – CLICK TO ENLARGE]
The writer of this piece was: Adam Brown
Adam Tweets from @brother_rooster