STRAYED, ISSUES #3-4
Writer: Carlos Giffoni
Illustrator: Juan Doe
Publisher: Dark Horse
WHAT IS IT?
A space opera centered on the relationship between a captive woman and her astral-projecting cat and the colonizing empire using them to expand their interests.
Think Battlestar Galactica meets Secretariat (or any other movie about a human/pet bond).
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Humans are ransacking planets for their resources, killing any who stand in their way. Of particular interest are "flowers," extraordinary creations that can help humans live forever. But with the flowers comes the mystery of who made them, how many of them there are, and more.
The humans find these planets by using an astrally projecting cat, Lou, and his owner, Kiara, both of whom are being held captive. Lou is sick, and astrally projecting himself into space to try and find the aliens who make these flowers is likely killing him. But the only way their captors will let them go home is by doing what they ask.
They don't know the harm that's befallen the civilizations Lou has found, nor do they know the damage Lou's work is doing to his body. But even if Lou and Kiara knew...what choice do they have? Would their captors even allow them to stop their work?
The covers establish a style for the title, highlighting central characters while also foreshadowing events in each issue. I personally really like this strict adherence to stylistic choices; it helps give the comic its unique personality.
This is the comic Juan Doe was made for. Splash pages astonish. Innovative layouts impress with their geometric patterns. Transitions to pages where each moment that follows is a smaller and smaller panel, leading to a single quiet, significant moment are powerful, yet elegant. It's really enjoyable seeing him in his element.
Green and red colors are very much the usual for Doe, but they work without oversimplifying the page or feeling Christmassy. Doe uses them to surprising effect, somehow managing to make them seem galactic and surreal, or strange and anxiety-inducing. It's truly impressive.
Honestly, a lot more from Doe impresses in these issues, from the opening to issue 4, using a series of spreads to convey concurrent actions and plot lines, to the believable yet authentic emotion in Lou's face, to his ability to capture terror in large, empty rooms.
Matt Krotzer's word balloons fit the book’s unique style, as well as the title’s logo, at times with an extra ring or stroke around the balloons. Captions and balloons are intentionally imperfect, adding a touch of the organic to the clean lines of the page. They convey the speakers with color more often than tails or a separate typeface, which helps break up the green and red and helps effectively assign dialogue to off-panel speakers.
Simple sound effects are effective and clean, even when conveying a discordant sound.
Character design-wise, I do not trust the panel of leaders in the tubes. It could be because their faces seem sly and vaguely monstrous, or simply because they’re giving orders from tubes. It makes the human race from the top, down, feel sinister and terrifying.
WHAT DOESN'T WORK?
As previously mentioned, the antagonist, from design to dialogue, is one-note and flatly evil. There's a fleeting moment where we think Oscar might actually believe his actions will benefit humanity, and that he's using that belief to justify his choices to himself, but honestly, it's just about power and its corrupting qualities. It feels odd that this is so blatant, but the creative team likely is drawing parallels to our real-world leaders and wants to be abundantly certain that everyone in the audience sees the resemblance. Also, "Oscar" is his name? Not "Supreme Lord Prelate of the Seventh Octant," or something sinister-sounding? Just...Oscar?
It feels like Lou is being used by Alix as well as Oscar. And, even though Alix is pretty clearly on the side of the angels here, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth knowing Lou's fragility and how he and Kiara just want to go home. I'm not sure if this is intentional.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
The art is incredible, fresh, and unique from design and layout to atmosphere and colors. It doesn't always hit every mark, but it stands out and is certainly worth taking a look at.
The key relationship between a psychic cat and its owner is well-written and authentic, and what mystery remains after this expository chapter is legitimately compelling. There's a lot of personality and ideas in this book, not all of which are completely original – but it does familiar things through a unique perspective which can make even the stalest concepts fun and interesting again.
I find the writing a mixed bag, but if you're more interested in a comic's art than its writing, Strayed is definitely worth checking out.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Space Riders: Vortex of Darkness by Carlos Giffoni & Alexis Ziritt
Incursion by Alex Paknadel, Andy Diggle & Doug Braithwaite
WE3 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely
If you like the art:
Dark Ark by Cullen Bunn & Juan Doe
Sea of Stars by Jason Aaron & Dennis Hallum
Martian Manhunter by Steve Orlando & Riley Rossmo
ABOUT THE CREATORS
Carlos Giffoni – Writer
Multitalented: Since he was 14, he's been in electronic and punk bands as a singer, a musician, and even a producer. He's also a creative director in the video game and television industries and has credits working on League of Legends, South Park, and The Daily Show.
Outlander: Originally from Venezuela, but currently lives near the beach in Los Angeles, according to his personal website.
Animal Lover: Viktor Fulgencio and Lou Reed are the names of his two cats. Whether the Lou in the comic is a shameless Mary-Sue for Lou the cat has yet to be determined.
Juan Doe – Artist
On his art: "The images he creates are snippets of warp speed hallucinations colliding with the split-second reactions to the cultural zeitgeist." -Juan Doe
Cover Artist: Best known in the industry as a cover artist due to his bold and flashy style.
Alias?: Though his name likely is Juan Doe, it also happens to be police short-hand for an unidentified Hispanic male.
Matt Krotzer – Lettering
Multitalented: Also works as a graphic designer
Chas Pangburn – Editor
Multitalented: Though he edits other comics, like Metalshark Bro, he also writes and letters comics, too! Also has some film credits.
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