Strayed #1 is an innovative science fiction comic with an unconventional pair of protagonists—an astral projecting cat and his human owner. Written by Carlos Giffoni and illustrated by Juan Doe, Strayed #1 fills an interesting niche, exploring the horrors of unchecked military expansion while simultaneously showing the strength of the bonds between humans and pets. While a bit unconventional both in theme and presentation, Strayed captures a sort of hopeless melancholy that many should be able to relate to, and gives us a personal stake with the exploitation of a helpless animal.
The series focuses on the human Kiara Rodriguez and her cat Lou who has the power to astral project himself to faraway planets. After building a translation device that allows Lou to communicate with her, Kiara is drafted into a military project that uses Lou's powers to locate planets suitable for resource mining and colonization. While Kiara is reluctant to participate in the military's exploitation of Lou, she stays only out of loyalty to her cat—she's free to leave at anytime, while Lou is not.
Strayed hints at a wider world with strange alien deities and military powers holding unknown agendas, but the first issue is set solely within the confines of a small space station. It's an interesting choice for a science fiction story about military expansion, but it's an effective means to showcase Lou's abilities. The reader's only glances of the outside world comes with Lou's astral projection. By limiting our view of the outside world to only what Lou sees, Giffoni emphasizes the importance of these abilities. It's a simple but effective storytelling device, and it also helps to keep Strayed from....straying too far from its intended subject. This is not a story about an expansive sci-fi world, and Giffoni does well to keep us focused.
Juan Doe's artwork deliberately evokes a sense of hopelessness, providing the comic a unique mood. There's very little joy in Strayed, and that's driven home by Doe's subdued colors. He also does a great job of bringing a sense of alien strangeness and vastness to the worlds that Lou visits—which makes sense because the book views these worlds from a cat's eyes. There is some inconsistency in Doe's figures—Kayla seems to shift body types a few times in the issue—but overall Doe's artwork provides the necessary somberness to pull off Strayed's unconventional mix of themes.
Another positive to Strayed is that it stays away from typical cat stereotypes. While cats are almost universally portrayed as uncaring and aloof, Lou shows concern for his human and a readiness to please. Anyone who has owned a cat will likely see a bit of their feline in Lou—instead of focusing on cats' more cantankerous attributes, we instead see the reason why cats and humans have enjoyed a co-dependent relationship for thousands of years. Choosing to depict a cat as an empathetic creature instead of as a selfish one helps separate Strayed from everything else on the stands.
The only major weakness that Strayed has is poor layouts. There are a few double page spreads, as well as a transition or two, that don't flow effectively, which gives the book an amateurish feel at times. Strayed's concept is already so ambitious and unconventional, it doesn't need weird spreads or a strangely constructed page where the cat and human attempt to talk through a door in order to break the mold. The odd layouts won't hurt your enjoyment of the book, but you will want to read a bit more slowly as word bubbles and captions don't flow the way they usually do in comics.
A few technical flaws aside, Strayed is an ambitious and delightfully weird comic that attempts to do something different. While we've seen technological exploitation of animals in comics like We3, this one is different in that it really focuses on the bond between human and animal—a theme that almost everyone can appreciate. Strange sci-fi comics that aren't solely about being strange are a rarity in today's monthly comics industry, and comics that have a wholesome heart are even rarer. Strayed is both, and that's what makes it a must-read.
Published by Dark Horse Comics
On August 21, 2019
Written by Carlos Giffoni
Art by Juan Doe
Letters by Matt Krotzer