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’ #2, out September 18 from Dark Horse Comics.

'Strayed' #2: The DoomRocket Review
Cover to ‘Strayed’ #2. Art: Juan Doe/Dark Horse Comics

THIS ADVANCE REVIEW OF ‘STRAYED’ #2 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.

by Sara Mitchell. While Strayed is a comic about communication, exploitation, and the infinite, its ultimate task is one of empathy. Of trusting that in the vast infinite-ness of space and time, there are creatures out there just like us—and maybe even creatures right here on our own planet more like us than we think. And, of course, along the way we get the absolute delight of spending time with Lou, the astral-projecting cat, and his super-smart scientist human, Kiara.

In issue #2, we find Kiara and Lou are losing track of time as Lou is sent out on countless missions, despite the consequences it is taking on his health. It’s dangerous to be held against your will on a military spaceship alongside someone you’d do anything for. Kiara stays on board for as long as these forces keep using Lou, and Lou will do anything for Kiara as long as she’s there. Letterer Matt Krotzer elegantly transitions not only from character to character, but between Lou’s internal voice and the one that comes out through his translations collar. All he thinks about is Kiara. He’s an altruistic cat, unlike some cats I know. 

Within our story, it is not desirable that Lou is forced to continue astral-projecting around the universe in search of new energy sources. However, the more missions Lou embarks on, the more characters and landscapes we get to see from artist Juan Doe. Between the thick black borders that seem to go on forever in every direction, each panel is floating in the darkness. As if each panel was its own planet, glimmering with light and life and vibrancy amidst the dense blackness of space. 

Unfortunately, on top of the health concerns, the more missions Lou embarks on, the more destruction—unbeknownst to Lou—follows in his wake. Each new land is exploited for its resources, each new being is exploited for their knowledge, and then their labor… if not just lost in the carnage.

While the spectacle of Strayed lies in the remarkable colors and sweeping landscapes, the truth of Strayed is in the eyes. In the eyes of the alien parents holding on for their child’s life, in the eyes of the fallen beings of these resource-rich lands. The most humanity in all the universe is found in the eyes of aliens. 

Which is a sentiment that rings all too close to home, for those of us here on Earth these days, and all the days before, too. 

Innocent, helpless creatures are being exploited for the sake of a single race, and that’s still not enough for the military complex known as The Infinite. They don’t just want the human race to survive. They want humans to live infinitely as a race of gods. And they’re decimating everything along the way in their search. 

And while I was focused on all the planets in the sky, something striking hit me. I realized I didn’t want to live forever. So I wondered, why would The Infinite? Why would anyone want to live forever? Sure, I’m not too keen on dying, but I’ve accepted the average human life expectancy as reality. Living forever is just something that villains want, right? 

But when you think of what Robert, a foot soldier in this war, has seen—as what’s left of humanity has been forced into space after the loss of our planet—you must realize that he’s probably terrified. The driving, internal force to keep himself and his people alive is an instinct for survival in hyper-drive. Flight is in the past, now it’s time to fight. When The Infinite offer the prospect of you and those you love living forever, after witnessing so much loss, it’s easy to see how one might get swept up in that promise.

The reason why it’s so important to understand where someone like Robert is coming from is because we’ve seen these same mistakes made time and time again. What The Infinite are doing is terrible. And while there isn’t really an alternative to pure evil, there are alternatives to decisions made in fear. 

Writer Carlos Giffoni has slipped us a complex pill to swallow after reeling us in with an astral-projecting space cat. He started me off with omfg CUUTE and left me with how can I improve upon the landscape in society which allows the exploitation and colonization of the many to profit the few? And is it possible to change that trajectory when you think of these people as having deep-seated fears of mortality and convince them to stop building monuments of wealth to themselves, or are some people just void of all empathy for the world around them?

I don’t know. But Lou sure is a nice spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. In the words of Lou’s translation collar, “untranslatable emotion.”

Dark Horse Comics / $3.99

Written by Carlos Giffoni.

Art by Juan Doe.

Letters by Matt Krotzer.

7 out of 10

‘Strayed’ #2 hits stores September 18.

Check out this 4-page preview of ‘Strayed’ #2, including a variant cover by Jim Mahfood, courtesy of Dark Horse Comics!

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