Domino: Strays is the first book in the new Marvel Heroines line, published by Aconyte Books, an imprint of Asmodee Entertainment. Written by Tristan Palmgren (author of Quietus and Terminus), Domino: Strays is perfect for longtime fans and brand new fans of Domino alike. Domino’s background with Project Armageddon, growing up isolated, constantly tortured, and pushed beyond her limits: it’s given her the perfect skills to infiltrate a cult. She’s also got plenty of reasons to stay away from creepy zealots and brainwashed masses, but when you’re a merc and there’s money involved, and if you really do care deep down though you don’t want to show it, you’ll take the job. Domino won’t let anyone stay in a cage, however gilded said cage might seem.
The inclusion of Domino’s posse, Rachel (aka Diamondback), and Inez (aka Outlaw), adds depth to her characterization and the story itself. Rachel (Domino refers to her best friends by their real names, while the rest of the Hotshots haven’t earned that trust yet), is at first appearances, a standoffish snob, and Inez, a hard-partying brawler. But appearances are deceiving because there’s a lot more to these women; after all, they have saved the world a time or two. Rachel is one of the most reliable friends a merc could ever have, and her explosives expertise is invaluable. And Inez, with her super strength and endurance, can take down armed cultists. She also provides Domino comfort when she experiences flashbacks to her traumatic childhood. Few people know Domino as well as these two, and there’s few she would also trust with her life.
Written in second person POV, Palmgren often has Domino speak directly to the reader. But rather than being a fourth wall break where Domino is aware she’s a fictional character in a fictional story (à la Deadpool fourth wall breaks), it feels like the reader is sitting down with Domino as she tells them a story. This provides Domino with the opportunity to make jokes and references, but it also allows her to get very personal, especially when she describes her traumatic childhood. The way Palmgren blends humor with raw emotion speaks to their strengths as a writer.
In their author’s note, Palmgren cites Gail Simone’s 2018 Domino run, and 2019 Domino: Hotshots run as inspirations for Domino: Strays. Palmgren also mentions Joe Pruett and Brian Stelfreeze’s 2003 Domino miniseries as providing material for Domino’s backstory. One doesn’t need to read any of these comics though to understand Strays, which does not take place in the same continuity. However, I highly recommend it because it’s so much fun to see the references Palgrem includes. References to The Painted Lady, Pip the dog, and the rest of Domino’s Hotshot group, Atlas Bear, White Fox, and Black Widow, are a delight to readers familiar with the comics. And of course, Diamondback and Outlaw, are also along for the ride.
References to Pruett and Stelfreeze’s run are also prominent, as Domino: Strays alternates between the present day, Domino telling the story of her childhood, and then discovering her brother Lazarus. Domino’s infiltration of her mother’s compound and discovery of Lazarus is a storyline right out of the comics. But it hits even harder when Domino directly tells the reader what she’s feeling in those moments. One such moment is written exactly how it appears in the comic.
Palmgren also uses footnotes to give Domino more opportunities to speak directly to the reader. Initially, I enjoyed this, but ultimately it became a hassle having to flip back and forth between the footnotes and main text. But this is a very minor issue due to my own impatience. Eventually, I started just reading all of the footnotes at the end of the chapter and that worked really well for me.
Aside from my minor issue with the footnotes, I loved this book, and I can’t recommend Domino: Strays enough. I was a huge fan of Simone’s Domino and Domino: Hotshots runs, and I especially loved how she made Domino, Outlaw, and Diamondback a team. Getting to read more about that team in an entire book was an absolute delight. The girls’ powers balance each other out, covering for each other’s weaknesses. And the way they love and care for each other is heartwarming. After reading this story, I immediately had to go back and read the comics that inspired it because I wanted even more of Domino’s self-described posse.
Domino: Strays will be available from Barnes and Noble and Amazon on October 6th, 2020.
Aside from my minor issue with the footnotes, I absolutely loved this book, and I can’t recommend Domino: Strays enough. I was a huge fan of Simone’s Domino and Domino: Hotshots runs, and I especially loved how she made Domino, Outlaw, and Diamondback a team. Getting to read more about that team in an entire book was an absolute delight. The girls’ powers balance each other out, covering for each other’s weaknesses. And the way they love and care for each other is heartwarming. After reading this story, I immediately had to go back and read the comics that inspired it because I wanted even more of Domino’s self-described posse.