Image Comics’ Stray Dogs is back for a short interlude in Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1. So if you’re in the mood for more stories (and heartbreak) from this crew, tune into this latest issue by Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner, available December 29, 2021.
Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1 brings readers back to the beloved dogs introduced during Stray Dogs. This miniseries (consisting of two issues) is a prequel, so all of it takes place before the events of the previous plot arc. Most of the stories involved take place before the dogs even find their…new home.
As one might imagine, that results in a very bittersweet series of stories. On the one hand, it is lovely to see many of these dogs happy and with their owners. On the other hand…not all stories end on a happy note. Not to mention, we all know how it is going to end.
On the bright side, if you have a favorite dog from this series, you’ll probably love their moment in the spotlight here. Each of the dogs introduced in the primary plot arc will get their own short story to tell throughout these two issues.
*Spoiler/content warning: Stray Dogs and Stray Dogs: Dog Days is essentially Silence of the Lambs merged with All Dogs Go to Heaven. It gets pretty heavy at times, especially for animal lovers in the audience. As the saying goes, viewer discretion is advised.
If ever there was a series explicitly designed to tug at readers’ heartstrings, it would be Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1. Written by Tony Fleecs, this issue is everything it promised to be: vignettes from the lives of the leading characters.
However, there’s a darker twist in each of these stories. Take Killer’s story. His tale (pun intended) reveals the family he had once upon a time, including the friendly monster in his life. There’s this sense of unease that passes from one panel to the next. Likely because we’re all waiting to see how it’s all going to go wrong (hint: it goes horribly wrong, we already know this!).
Then there’s Gucci. Her story would be pretty cute if you were to remove a single panel. This short story is a perfect example of using imagery to tell a story. We can immediately tell Gucci’s loved and what sort of life she had. Likewise, it’s rather hard to miss that sense of foreshadowing snuck in.
Aldo’s story is the one that stands out from the rest. His story occurs when all the dogs are in their ‘new home,’ but before the story really takes place. It’s jarring and more than a little upsetting. But it also is a strong fit for the main series.
Not to be forgotten, Henry, Imogene, and Roxanne have shorts in this issue. Theirs are in a similar vein to the first couple described. However, their tales are also more graphic as far as timing is concerned.
All things told, there are six short stories in Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1, and I have no doubt that the rest of the pack will be following in the second issue. This is a read that weighs heavy on the heart. And yet, it’s so tough to look away from.
The artwork in Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1 cannot be ignored. Trish Forstner was the lead artist, with Brad Simpson providing colors. Together they created an issue that rings true to the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Much of the story relies on visual elements, especially Gucci’s story. There’s almost no need for words or explanations at any point. It’s brilliantly done. Naturally, this storytelling style is well suited to a story with dogs as the main characters.
As mentioned above, there are still some graphic scenes within these pages. On the whole, they do an excellent job of dancing around the worst of these elements – letting scenes slip out of the frame and the like.
The artwork shines when one looks closely at the animals’ expressions. You can almost feel what they’re going through – and it will make you want to hug each and every one of them. One scene in particular really struck me for the sheer amount of emotion packed into such a small amount of space. I’ll be curious to see if other readers react as strongly as I did.
Brad Simpson’s colors are vibrant and so very alive. It’s another intentionally jarring element to this series. Yet it also makes the connection to All Dogs Go to Heaven even stronger. Simpson knows how to make the forefront pop through the use of solid backgrounds as needed, and it is never overdone or overstated.
Another impressive feat is how loud this issue feels, despite the relatively low amount of actual conversations that occur within these pages. Every bang or bark practically makes you jump, and the lettering has a lot to do with that reaction. It all feels so real and raw.
I won’t say that Stray Dogs: Dog Days #1 is the closure fans have been needing (I feel like issue #5 of Stay Dogs handled that quite nicely). But I will say that there is something beautifully bittersweet about these tales and how they fit into the larger whole.