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posted September 12, 2005
AdHouse Books, $15, 98 pages, 2005
As Hope Larson's young adult-level fantasy short story Salamander Dream
is available on-line in its entirety
, I think most people can decide through that experience whether or not they'd like it on paper. It is
a nice little object. AdHouse does their usual swell job maintaining production quality, at least to my eyes. The book has been printed at a small size that emphasizes the intimacy of the story; the high quality of the paper holds the colors and gives a subtle, pleasing tactile aspect to one's reading experience.
The story itself I found modest, interesting and admirable. If this is where Larson stays, there should be several decent comics to read in the future. If this is a way station to less predictable, more relentlessly odd, and even more lushly drawn comics (her figures tend not to match her lovingly-suggested landscapes in energy or expressiveness), they should really be something to check out. The best things about this story, about a young girl and her strange woodland friend, are the evocatively designed setting, the creepy looks given the creatures (fluid bodies, rigid masks), and the way Larson keeps the creature and the creature-girl relationship mysterious enough that the stories in Salamander Dream
maintain their ability to suggest any number of interpretations. I think one key may be that the time Hailey spends with her friend become stories told about adventures shared rather than simply adventures shared. Those are the portable experiences, the contribution that we make to all those places that suggest magic without ever putting it into our hands.