REVIEW: 'Stray Dogs' #4 by Tony Fleecs, Trish Forstner, and Brad Simpson

 What happens when you upset your owner? You get taken behind a shed. But then what? How can you escape under the control of a serial killer? For the dogs in 'Stray Dogs' the truth about their owner continues to peel away like an onion. It's all coming to a head in issue four. 

Writer: Tony Fleecs
Artist: Trish Forstner, Brad Simpson
Layouts: Tone Rodriguez
Flatter: Lauren Perry
Publisher: Image Comics
Release Date: May 19, 2021
Cover Price: $3.99


Time is running out. Hackles are raised, tensions are high, and nobody's had a thing to eat. When the Master's away, the dogs will drag everything awful into the light. And the awful truth is nobody's coming to set them free.

★★★★★ (5/5)

'Stray Dogs' continues to be an excellent suspense thriller. Each issue reveals darker and darker truths about the dogs' current owner. As the series enters the penultimate issue, more and more dogs remember their previous owners and how they were murdered. Sophie's investigation has awakened the memories of other dogs and it's inadvertently caused Victor to receive the ire of their owner and a trip behind the shed. Bang, indeed. 

Like a Hitchcock film, 'Stray Dogs' oozes with tension and mystery. The beauty and innocence of Trish Forstner's cartoon designs make the threat to the dogs all that more nerve-wracking. The end of each issue reveals another layer of the mystery confirming Sophie's worst fears. Issue four shows us Victor's fate and it's worse than you can guess. Tony Fleecs has devised a smartly constructed thriller that preys on the reader's fears, anxieties, and emotions. Few things stir emotions like the treatment of dogs and Fleecs knows this and he weaponizes it in his storytelling to create a dread-inducing nightmare. Hitchcock would be proud. 

Forstner and Brad Simpson continue to do some spectacular art. What started as a cute homage to Don Bluth-style cartoon designs has given way to deeply expressive and charismatic protagonists (and one snitch) that convey so much emotion that it transmits to the reader. I feel the fear in Sophie's eyes. I can sense the anger in Earl's face. The shock in horror by the dogs is palpable during one particular scene. There's a connection through these terrifying events that the art galvanizes the reader to the story and the horror is unshakable. 

'Stray Dogs' with the penultimate issue sets the stage to complete the five-issue series and could possibly be one of the year's best stories in comics. Up to now, it's been an exceptionally well-crafted suspense story that terrifies and shocks. If Fleecs and the team nail the landing with the finale, 'Stray Dogs' will cement itself as the trade to buy when it becomes available. But don't wait, catch up now if you haven't because I suspect issue five will be a barnburner. 



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