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Salmon Doubts
posted October 14, 2004


Creator: Adam Sacks
Publishing Info: Alternative Comics, $14.95, 128 pages, 2004
Ordering Numbers: 1891867717 (ISBN)

Salmon Doubts marks a strong comics debut for Rhode Island School of Design graduate Adam Sacks, a Boston-based illustrator with an obvious flair for cartoon figure drawing. Salmon Doubts was purchased by publisher Jeff Mason immediately upon seeing it in mini-comics form, and it's easy to guess what Mason liked; Sacks' art has both the lovely, rounded look of the kind that might appeal to fans of commercial cartoons and a line that is expressive in its varying thickness. He also makes effective use of different angles and perspectives to hold the readers' interest through what is by virtue of the story told a rather dull way of marking plot progression -- fish swimming. A simple story smartly executed, Salmon Doubts is assured work for someone this early in his development as a cartoonist..

The story consists of following two fish, Henry and Geoff, through the restrictive life available to salmon -- basically feed, swim upstream, spawn, die. Henry is a bit dim, while Geoff is more adventurous. The book's biggest narrative weakness is the way Sacks handles Geoff's decision to stay in the ocean, and even an incident where he is caught by fishermen and thrown back. He seems unable to cast these events in their deserved, startling light. What should make for a dramatic break with the embrace of simplicity represented by Henry becomes further diminished because Henry's acceptance is very sweetly played. There's something touching about demanding so little and getting what you ask for. The best scene in the book reinforces this in an odd way by showing two female salmon laugh over one's decision to mate with poor, dumb Henry.

With this book, Grickle, and the artists uncovered by Ng Suat Tong in the anthology Rosetta, some of Alternative Comics' best books these days seems to be in finding talented people on the verge of crossing over and putting the first, attractive face on their work for the traditional small-press comics market. Salmon Doubts is an extremely pleasant book that feels more like a discovery than a debut.