Are you looking forward to a new comic book but it’s impossible for you to wait for its release before you know what we thought about it? That’s why there’s DoomRocket’s Advanced Reviews—now we assess books you can’t even buy yet. This week: ‘Strayed’ #1, out August 14 from Dark Horse Comics.

Cover to ‘Strayed’ #1. Art: Juan Doe/Dark Horse Comics

by Lauren Fernandes. In a world where Manhattan is sinking, where the tides are encroaching ever higher up the beaches of Florida, and where California is burning down or shaking apart in cyclical succession, the question about where we go next as a people grows from a whisper to a battle cry. Carlos Giffoni examines this next step for humanity in Strayed, his first step into the world of comic books, and joining him in this journey is the eclectic Juan Doe. The pairing of Giffoni and Doe births a mesmerizingly beautiful story in this debut issue, one full of thought and love.

In Strayed, we follow a dynamic duo made up of a cat named Lou and his human, Dr. Kiara Rodriguez. Brilliant Kiara invented a translator that allows her to communicate directly with Lou, who is capable of astral projecting his little kitty self anywhere in space. 

Yep. Space cats. Get me an astronaut suit and beam me up, Scotty.

Enter an ultra-powerful fascist military regime, and you have the setup for our tale. They hold Lou and Kiara against their wills, forcing them to participate in their mission. This military regime wants Lou to use his space-cat astral projection powers to find new planets for them to colonize, making all the resources of the universe available to them.

Because colonizing unsuspecting lands without regard to the current cultures and ecosystems has never hurt anyone, right? 

The relationship between Kiara and Lou is one full of the unyielding love that exists between a pet and their person. Imagine a moment where you looked into the eyes of an animal and felt that soul-deep connection of spirits. Imagine that inexplicable feeling of love, that feeling of being seen and accepted. The oxytocin coursing through your body in that moment fills your chest with the warm fuzzies that make you want to stick your face into the soft fur of the creature beside you. If you are a cat person, this moment might be followed by a contented purr, little needle claws gouging into your hand, or the hacking up of an icky hairball. However, if you were Kiara and your fur-child was Lou, a moment like that might be followed by him making one statement through the translator you designed: “Happiness.”

Giffoni writes these exchanges between Lou and Kiara in a way that underscores their love and devotion to one another. Their relationship is touching, and brings to this world the thread of humanity it desperately needs to stand up to the colonizing monolith that is in power. Giffoni uses this thread of humanity to weave readers into the story, making our hearts go out to Lou in his moments of anxiety, and making us cheer for Kiara when she fights to free herself and Lou from the claws of the military regime they’re being forced to work for.

Juan Doe’s art fits the story of Kiara and Lou like a glove, or a space suit. He creates beautiful, floating images of Lou’s spirit traveling through space, a golden comet blasting gracefully across the stars. He gives us a variety of landscapes, all aglow in cosmic colors and lighting. Doe shows us strange creatures, amorphous blobs with teeth, brightly colored bird-aliens, all with a sleek and cuddly Lou traveling unseen past them. This cast of imaginative creatures are all overlaid with mesmerizing geometric patterns in flowing fuchsias, luminous ceruleans, and candescent chartreuse greens.

It brings to mind sacred geometry, which is, in essence, the concept that there are sacred, universal geometric patterns found across all aspects of human existence and nature. From Hindu mandalas, to the spiraling center of a sunflower, to the naturally perfect repetition of a honeycomb, these patterns hold spiritual significance for those looking. Doe’s genius use of hexagons to frame moments of Lou’s astral projection is a simple but stunning nod to sacred geometry. It is an acknowledgement of the spirituality that exists behind the idea of astral projection, and acknowledging that spirituality is a striking contrast to the sterile, scientific environment Lou’s physical body is trapped in. Anyone in possession of this book will want to pick it up again and again, just to view the magical beauty of a cat in space.

On the flip side, Doe also gives us hints of horrors and terror, teasing at the destruction that may come. 

Strayed is a look at humanity and the things that motivate us as people. It interrogates opposite ends of the motivational spectrum: greed and love. It also asks us some of the Big Questions: Where do we go next? At what costs? And above all, how did we, the human race, get lucky enough to have pets that love us so much?

Dark Horse Comics / $3.99 

Written by Carlos Giffoni. 

Art by Juan Doe. 

Letters by Matt Krotzer. 

7.5 out of 10

‘Strayed’ #1 hits stores on August 14.

Check out this variant cover to ‘Strayed’ #1 by Dustin Nguyen, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!