Stray, if you wanted to be reductive, is a double-sized single-issue story about the main character Jack getting over a former lover. But that undersells Stray and the most important part of the book: Molly Mendoza's art. Mendoza is hardly new to comics (ShortBox Comics Fair 2021, a wide array of zines, two books from Nobrow), and her experience shows in her on-panel choices in Stray.
When Amy breaks up with Jack, instead of multiple pages of self-destructive, chaotic behavior, there's a single splash page with art supplies, cigarettes, and liquor bottles falling towards the bottom of the page. Mendoza shows you the image and allows you to put the meaning together yourself while also choosing a moment where you can imagine and anticipate the forthcoming clatter. Mendoza's best work in Stray might be the imagery. There's a scene later in the issue where Jack and another lover are holding each other, and the image of brushing away the hair from the lover's head is put next to the blinds and light through a window, next to the underside of a CD.
Stray is absolutely a comic in the style of young people at bars hurting each other emotionally and trying to heal, but it's so well executed that it feels best in class. The pages available online hooked me instantly, and by the response on Twitter, it looks like it hooked a lot of other reviewers too. On the store page, publisher Bulgilhan Press hosts two more pages to look at.
Stray follows Jack, a chaotic romantic spiraling into disaster desperately seeking comfort in others while ignoring their own destructive tendencies. While thoroughly hung up on the past, Jack meets Stray and their whole world changes. Tender and sensual, lush and palpable, Stray ushers in a new era of cartoonist Molly Mendoza's wholehearted approach to making comics and telling stories. For readers 16+