Stray Dogs has been an emotional read since the very first issue. It’s fitting that it ends on equal terms, with an emphasis on moving beyond trauma to find some kind of closure. The individual dog stories in “Dog Days” (the two-issue follow-up to the main series) achieves this while also combining for a sensible conclusion that lays every emotion imaginable out in the open with an invitation to feel each one.
Dog Days #2, which continues in the same short story format of the first entry, centers on several of the main story’s dogs to get at their origin stories and how they related to their human companions, the ones taken by their serial killer master. Creators Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner change it up with stories about victims that initially get away from the main story’s serial killer thanks to their protective dogs and stories focused on memorial services for those who were unfortunate enough to cross paths with the killer.
This issue plays out like an emotional reckoning that brings in the ugliness of the story to the forefront with the intention of accentuating the ripple effects of evil actions and how they all stem from the egotistical desires of twisted individual. What’s impressive is how each segment in the book wrestles with those ideas.
Fleecs and Forstner allow each dog to represent themes such as confusion, anger, acceptance, and mourning during their stories to make sure the overarching narrative closes with an understanding that violence leads to messy endings and that navigating them is never meant to be an easy or clearly defined process.
As has been the case with the entire series, the art style continues to be an exercise in contrasts where the dark subject matter collides with Disney-like cartoon visuals to produce a harder-hitting storytelling experience. The same strategy that’s worked before is still intact and continues to work just as well. Forstner has shown complete mastery of the cartoon style and has done a remarkable job adapting it to a type of story that is not usually associated with it.
Fleecs’ script also stays true to form, unafraid to venture into heart-breaking territory without beating you over the head with it. Dog Days #1 already tugged on the heart strings enough, so it was refreshing to see Fleecs take a step back to explore other possibilities, as was the case of one the dog’s successful attempt at scaring the killer away during a kidnapping attempt. It helps to develop the dogs beyond just being victims of the killer’s design and it puts the animal characters under a different light.
Fleecs and Forstner make a formidable creative team and I hope to see more of their work together. Stray Dogs is so good I wish there was a way to extend our stay in its world. There might be a chance of it if they try for an American Horror Story kind of anthology format in which a different horror scenario plays out with different animals and settings. It might open the door for a Stray Cats series in the future, hopefully. For now, though, we have Stray Dogs, and I’ll be rereading it several times more before I’m done with it. You should too.
Story: Tony Fleecs Art: Trish Forstner Colors: Brad Simpson
Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10
Recommendation: Buy, read, reread, and then adopt a dog. They can scare away serial killers.
Image Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review