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Strayed #1 review: dominion

Colonization examined through the simple but endless bond between a cat and his owner.

Carlos Giffoni and Juan Doe
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“Happiness.”

Carlos Giffoni has a lot of creative experience in all kinds of media.  From music to video games and now comics, he truly understands the full sensory experience people can have with art.  All tell a story in very different ways, so Giffoni is familiar with building a powerful narrative.  This time, however, Giffoni won’t have the audio elements to aide the experience.

Or will he?  With Juan Doe and Matt Krotzer by his side, Giffoni uses a variety of tools to surround and incorporate all senses.  Juan Doe’s art envelops you into this world with its frayed, piercing, an polygonal line work combined with a brilliant mix of fiery warm and radiant cool colors.  It is spectacular, beautiful, wonderful, and cosmic all at the same time.  You feel as though each page and panel perfectly captures an entire moment in time.

Strayed #1 may seem like a simple story of a cat, its owner, and colonization because that’s exactly what it is, but it’s also so much more.  Strayed is about the intense bond that can be forged between two beings, the power of pets, and the value of those who are different from us.  There is a narrative to follow here, but it’s really a vehicle to illustrate and discuss larger concepts through a visual medium.  Giffoni seems unconcerned with a lot of the broad and expansive, yet meticulous world building that fills most sci-fi first issues.  The conquerors and subjects are all sentient beings, and that’s all that matters and all that should.  Lou’s eyes provide a clear, simple, and refreshing lens through which to view universal truths often bogged down with bias and overthinking.  Lou’s the protagonist we need right now.

This is best illustrated by comparing Lou and Kiara’s approaches to their precarious situation.  Humanity is colonizing other planets.  There’s not much information as to why besides that they view it as necessary, but Giffoni, Doe, and Krotzer are unconcerned with much beyond that.  Through vast, vibrant, and explosive double page spreads, Strayed #1 shows that Kiara and Lou are being manupulated to steal resources, lives, and planets.  It’s horrific, cruel, and wrong with the only question being: how can we stop it?  Hopfeully through a mysterious entity helping Lou reach his full potential and Kiara’s disadvantaged but careful negotiating, this chaos and destruction can come to an end sooner rather than later.  It doesn’t matter that they’re aliens in this context because they’re really just viewed as an “other” by the dominant group.  The ugly prejudices and actions from our past and present are just as horrifying in a new context.  One might not expect cats and colonialism to be such a powerful combination, but they’re certainly proved wrong here.

Krotzer’s captions and lettering keep the story firmly planted in its cosmic vehicle while enhancing the magnitude of Giffoni’s words, especially through Lou.  At the same time, Doe illustrates the magical levels of communication that can be achieved with images.  Lou’s desire is simple.  He wants happiness, and being with his owner Kiara provides that.  He’ll do what’s necessary to accomplish this state no matter what because he doesn’t know what he’s being used for, but as his views and scope expand, Lou is beginning to sense the wrongs he’s a part of.  Kiara, meanwhile, has long known about what’s going on, but s powerless to stop it.  She sees Lou’s beauty and goodness.  Everyone else only sees his potential.  Together we see two individuals who share a special connection and want to be together.

This is a story that revels in its simple approach.  Sometimes it is just a matter of right and wrong while everything else gets in the way.  The sci-fi framework is brilliant because it is usually one of the most complex genres, especially in comics.  Here, the bad guys can be, were, and are us.  No matter the motivation, they did evil things and hurt others.  Kiara is doing everything she can, but ultimately Lou is going to have to see more than just this connection.

Overall, Strayed works because the bond it speaks of is real, true, and full of goodness.  However, it does get a little muddled in the middle.  There are some confusing progressions surrounding the colonized aliens, who is saying what to whom, and when Lou is projecting versus dreaming and if one means the other.  That may sound like a lot, but it’s only a couple pages, and it only blurs the surface-level narrative while the core messages still ring true.  Simple and direct, Strayed #1 holds nothing back while discussing the importance of forming connections and preserving integrity.

Strayed #1 is a great comic from Giffoni, Doe, ad Krotzer that any pet or person lover should check out.  The title is a heartwarming and satisfying journey for everyone.

Strayed #1
Is it good?
Giffoni, Doe, and Krotzer, tell a tale rooted in connection and truth while wrestling with relevant themes of imperialism and conquest.
Revels in its clear, simple approach to a classic sci-fi narrative.
Strong messages about the importance of interpersonal connection.
Beautiful, vast, and majestic double pages spreads that shine brilliantly thanks to Doe's art.
How cool is it that this story is just about a girl and her cat at its core?
Gets a bit confusing in the middle while Lou is dreaming, but it doesn't affect much.
9.5
Great
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