Review: ‘Stray Dogs’ Issue 1 – Where The Good Boys And Good Girls Meet A Bad Man

by Richard Bruton

Already set to be an animated feature from Paramount, this is one that’s so perfectly summed up with the tagline “Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs“, and this is a first issue that delivers a strange mix of cuteness and chills…

Such a simple premise here – that whole “Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs” thing, a dogs tale with a murderous twist. Yet it’s the way it’s told, the work done in the details to tell the story from the dog’s perspective that marks it out as something special.

Frankly, it’s no surprise that this “serial killer who kidnaps dogs as trophies mystery, told from the dog’s point of view” series has already been picked up to be adapted into an animated feature by Paramount Animation as it’s such an easy sell of a concept. And with artist Trish Forstner’s ever so easy on the eye artwork so reminiscent of that classic Don Bluth-style animation of the 80s and 90s, the animated feature is pretty much production ready here on the comic page.

It’s a winner right from the very start, with the sweet, gentle introduction to Sophie, her lady’s nervous little dog, as they wait at the vets.

Immediately, we’re introduced to one of the clever bits of the comic, where Tony Fleecs first introduces us to the ideas around doggie memory, with the vet reassuring Sophie’s owner that her dog won’t remember the procedure she’s in for, won’t hate her owner… in fact saying that it’s a proven fact that it’s impossible for a dog to hate her person.

All of which means that Sophie’s in for a real shock when she wakes up…

Because all of a sudden, poor Sophie’s in the wrong place.

She’s surrounded by a pack of completely new dogs.

There’s a strange man bringing her into it all.

And she is very, very scared and very, very confused.

You can immediately see from the artwork that whole animated vibe, all those loveable characters with their full range of emotional expressions that draw you into their world

It’s very scary to be the new dog for sure, but there’s something nagging at her dog memory, something that Sophie thinks is wrong, except thanks to that short-term memory issue of dogs that Fleecs has introduced to our thinking in the very first couple of pages, we can see exactly what the problem is.

But she knows her lady, she knows this man is the wrong owner, and she’s out to prove it to the other dogs. And then, perfectly done in a couple of pages, everything takes a chilling turn. And again, Fleecs uses Sophie’s strongest sense to hammer that turn home… as Sophie gets a familiar smell… and the memories flood back…

Now that is incredibly well done, a great control from writer and artist in the reveal – the fact that we all knew it was coming because of the taglines and the news about the book doesn’t matter, it’s still a moment of profound shock as you realise just what’s happened, that poor Sophie and all of the other dogs are prisoners of the serial killer that killed their masters and mistresses, including Sophie’s lady.

There you go – the plot is simple, the concept so easy but so obviously full of story potential, and the execution of it all by Fleecs and Forstner is so well done, with Forstner’s art so obviously cute and endearing but also able, because of the shock contrast in what we’re seeing with all that cuteness and what we’re reading with Sophie’s terrified realisation of what happened to her lasy, to show us moments of chills and genuine shock.

It’s a really well done first episode, complete with that final twist on the last page, all perfectly reasonable given what Fleecs has already set out here in Stray Dogs.

A great first issue, and one that I’m really looking forward to seeing where Fleecs and Forstner take it across the whole five-issue series.

Stray Dogs #1, co-created by Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner, written by Tony Fleecs, art by Trish Forstner, layout artist Tone Rodriguez, colours by Brad Simpson. Published by Image Comics

Horror Movie homage variant for issue one – of course it’s Silence of the Lambs)



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