Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner’s Stray Dogs not only stands as one of the best horror comics of the year, but also one of its most emotional. Forstner’s Disney-inspired illustrations and Fleecs’ clever scripting choices helped craft a story about a pack of dogs living with a serial killer who brings back the pets of those he kills with a very delicate sensibility that values character development over gratuitous suffering.
The trend continues with the newest chapter of the series titled Stray Dogs: Dog Days, which looks at each individual dog’s story to explore their connection with their owners and what was lost when the serial killer took them away. There’s not a single page that won’t make you want to burst in tears, but there’s also not a page that isn’t treated with the care it deserves to get the most out of it.
Dog Days is presented in a kind of anthology format, which each segment getting a few pages of story before moving on to the next one. The chapter breaks are particularly clever. They show the “Missing Dog” poster with a picture of the dog accompanied by a few bits of info on their temperament and how best to approach them if you see them.
The concept isn’t just clever, though. It’s a part of the storytelling and speaks volumes about the dogs’ current status, especially when you remember they’re actually living with the man that killed their human companions.
While the stories all share a deep sadness between them, there also some truly frightening details that magnify the serial killer’s presence. One in particular finds its horror in a dog trying to barter with another dog for a ball he wants to play with. What he offers in return is chilling and downright unsettling. And yet, the dogs don’t fully grasp the gravity of what’s being exchanged, playing into their unique perspective on life and how naturally innocent they are in their view of it.
The Disney-inspired style retains its power here and is still effective in subverting genre conventions. The contrast between it and the subject matter itself is a thing to behold and may even help the story hit harder. Where the visuals to change entirely, Stray Dogs would become a completely different book and reading experience.
Dog Days #1 signals a return to darkness for the pups of the main story. The segments included in this story aren’t there to be crowd pleasers or alleviate the sadness. That said, the bond the dogs create within the pack is still given its time to shine and points to the light these animals bring to life even when it’s at its most terrifying. I can’t wait for issue #2, even though I dread knowing what each dog went through once the killer steps into their lives. Despite that, Stray Dogs is still a world I want to spend more time in.
Story: Tony Fleecs Art: Trish Forstner Colors: Brad Simpson
Art: 10 Story: 10 Overall: 10
Recommendation: Buy, read, and hug your dog…and also maybe invest in home security (just in case).
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review