Strayed #1, a new sci-fi series from Dark Horse Comics hits your local comic book store on August 14. The tagline does engage readers with an interesting premise, Most cats have nine lives, but the fates of billions rest on this feline.
I was excited to read Strayed #1 because who hasn’t ever wanted to speak with their cat or dog? Despite the unique and fun premise, the first issue does not reach the high goals it sets for itself. Unfortunately, writer Carlos Giffoni and artist Juan Doe miss the mark with poor characterization, depressing tone, and confusing world-building decisions. While the premise still holds incredible potential, it will take some work to fulfill it.
Strayed #1 introduces us to Lou, the cat, and Kiara, his owner aboard a spaceship in orbit. Kiara invented a device that lets her communicate with her cat, then learned her cat can astral project to basically anywhere in the universe. The government (I guess, Giffoni never explains who is actually holding Lou and Kiara.) learned of this invention and forced Lou and Kiara to scour the planets for a new homeworld full of resources and capable of sustaining human life.
Needless to say, the government lies and holds Kiara and Lou hostage until they find the origin of a mysterious, infinite energy resource. Along the way, the government also co-opts Kiara cat communicating technology to torture indigenous aliens for information.
Perhaps the biggest critique with Giffoni’s script is how serious it is. If Giffoni wants to take Strayed in a darker more political direction, there is a story to tell there as long as the tone remains balanced. Unfortunately, the script feels unnecessarily dower and distrusting. There is no moment of levity to balance it out unless you find the premise of cats astral projecting to find hospitable planets funny in of itself. Kiara as the central protagonist of Strayed is uninteresting and unfulfilled as well. It seems the only thing she does in this spaceship is yearn for her cat.
More questions pop up throughout the issue. Why did Kiara had over her animal communicating technology to the government? What happened to Earth? Are they just using Lou or are other cats involved? And Giffoni does not seem interested in answering these questions at all, yet they are integral to the characters future decisions. If we even got a quick expository flashback with all of the answers, it would be incredibly enlightening.
If there is one highlight in Strayed #1, it is Juan Doe’s art and colors and contributions from letterer Matt Krotzer. While the humans and spaceship settings can be cookie-cutter by design and drenched in sepia, the scenes drawn from Lou’s perspective are interesting and borderline trippy. When Lou is projecting too far-off planets, the colors are vibrant, lively, and allow Doe to experiment with panel layout and framing. When Lou remembers his past, prior traumatic events are flashed on the panel beside his alarmed eyes. When depicting explosions and other kinetic scenes, Doe can be heavy-handed with the bright colors. One scene in which the humans destroy a planet almost hurts the eyes when stared at too long.
Strayed #1 has such a unique and whimsical premise, and Giffoni’s script and the story are allowed to be dark and distrusting, as long as the script and tone remain balanced. However, Giffoni’s tale feels troubled and incomplete. Doe’s art and colors lift the plot when they can, but the visuals are not strong enough to carry the first issue. The second issue needs to come out strong to hook the reader for the long term.