Stray Dogs by Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner (2021)

L: 7/10

M: 10/10

J: 9.5/10

Analysis from a constant toothache:

My comic pick for this round was Stray Dogs. After seeing an advertisement that (adequately) described it to a mix of Silence of the Lambs and Lady and the Tramp, I immediately bought three copies from my comic shop. I just put the comic down, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel.

It’s successfully shocking to switch humans out for a pack of dogs and place them in a horror story. Adding to this confusion of my feelings was Trish Forstner pencils, a very polished style that you’d typically see in something like My Little Pony, not something involving a serial killer targeting single women and stealing their dogs after stalking and murdering them.

The story follows Sophie, the pomeranian, as she is brought to the new home. She and the other dogs all lack long-term memory comprehension, so the early pages are covered with a thick fog of confusion as she is integrated into the new pack. After getting acquainted with her new family and the strange new house, she eventually has a memory strike her that reveals that her owner was murdered by her new master.

It takes a little while for any of her fellow dogs to believe her, but eventually, they all get on the same page. They begin to pick up on what their master is up to and even witness the murder of one thier own, finding out that when they’ve lived out their usefulness, they are turned into trophies. One of the oldest dogs, Earl, is the longest holdout on accepting the reality, but he turns into the lynchpin in thier final escape, even giving his own life as a final sacrifice.

Stray Dogs is written well, but no amount of talent could get me pumped about a story involving dogs getting beaten, skinned, and hit by cars. It’s funny how much more effective this story was than the alternative of just having a serial killer go around and murder humans. When the three-legged dalmatian Victor is getting led behind the shed to get shot, he rubs his head against the master’s leg in an attempt to change his mind, filling my stomach with an abysmally black pit. I don’t feel that way about many things, and it honestly made me a little upset, but I finished the second half of the trade-in a rapid flurry of page turns, showing the effectiveness. 

I see there is a spinoff to Stray Dogs titled Dog Days coming out soon, but this world isn’t one I want to travel back in time to. I want to make it clear that I did enjoy this book; it’s a well-crafted five-issue story that hits beats that any big-budget suspense thriller would do. The overpolished art style works for this story but isn’t typically something I gravitate to. It’s a unique blend that Image Comics is so great at pumping up and putting out on shelves time and time again. Also, all of the variant covers showcasing various spoofs on horror movies is an excellent touch.

Analysis from the gal that carries a spare leash and baggie of dog treats in her car:

So my theory is that L knew his audience and “understood the assignment,” as the kids say. He decided to close out the year with a pick that he had no doubt would be a slam dunk with this audience. Sweet rescued pups mixed with true crime?? Y’all, this is my crack!

I read the first few pages and thought this seems juvenile, but I’m along for the ride. I never expected it to take such a turn. I felt like a kid reading a sweet story, and then I was thrown into a very adult tale. I get this seems strange for some, but it reminded me of a cartoon bible I had when I was young. It was cute for the Noah’s Ark parts, but the dark passages seemed so weird in a cartoon context. The same applied to this, and I had the same feelings of awe and intrigue and total obsession that 8-year-old holy-roller Megan did with her bible.

The illustrations were perfect. It was sweet and cute, and even the dalmatian carcass was charming with an edge. Truly this is beautiful work. I cannot hype this up enough! Great pick! Love it, and I need more!!!

Analysis from the scent of someone you care about lingering even after he is gone:

I am surprised that my copy of this graphic novel is not torn to shreds by how quickly I turned the pages. I was hooked from the start! I had to take emotional breaks so my heart would stop racing.

Firstly, I enjoyed this graphic novel’s illustrations, reminiscent of one of my favorite childhood films, All Dogs Go to Heaven (which is also referenced in the Forbes review). The images for the chapter splits were gut-wrenching! The use of color to show the blissful ignorance in the dogs’ memory loss vs. the dark, eerie shades of the truth strongly urged my heart to race at just the right times. I found it interesting the way that the author was able to convey the different personality traits that I associate with each breed as well, from the dialogue to facial expressions. 

While this reading can certainly be triggering because of its violence toward dogs, there is some redemption for the reader in that the animals as a whole are triumphant in beating the clock to expose the human who assaulted their previous life. Couple that with a bittersweet post-climax scene, and you have about as gratifying an end as you can get. 

Tony Fleecs

Trish Forstner