Overview

Salt Water Taffy Vol. 4

Review

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Salt Water Taffy Vol. 4

Credits

  • Words: Matthew Loux
  • Art: Matthew Loux
  • Story Title: "Caldera's Revenge, Part One"
  • Publisher: Oni Press
  • Price: $5.99
  • Release Date: Apr 13, 2011

Recently, I had occasion to discuss the state of the all-ages comic book market with writer Martin Powell, who has created a variety of works for both youth and adult audiences. During the course of our interview, we both lamented the lack of books on the shelves targeting younger readers. It’s a sad fact that the North American market has refused to grow its audience, instead aging with its readers, and scrambling for fewer and fewer crumbs each year.

Flash forward a few weeks to the arrival of Oni Press’ Salt Water Taffy in my mailbox. The whimsical brainchild of Matthew Loux, here is a title that flies in the face of current publishing trends. Geared towards younger readers aged seven and above, Salt Water Taffy chronicles the adventures of Jack and Benny Putnam, as they explore the mysterious environs of a small coastal Maine town called Chowder Bay, during one eventful summer vacation. Populated by all manners of strange creatures and characters, Chowder Bay is a magical seaside town where tall tales not only come true on a daily basis but inform and directly intersect with the everyday workings of the community and its inhabitants.

Loux spends as much, if not more, time developing his setting as he does the Putnam Brothers, creating a secondary world replete with its own rich history and geography. Lushly realized through the clever characterization of the town’s eclectic citizenry and the textured backgrounds of his establishing shots, Loux creates another fully developed character in Chowder Bay. In this latest volume, Loux sets the stage for Jack and Benny’s first multi-part epic, as the intrepid brothers embark upon another mind-blowing adventure into the hidden history of Chowder Bay.

Featuring ghost ships, vengeful sperm whales, and an adolescent giant squid named Sunny, "Caldera’s Revenge" unfolds in typical SWT fashion. The plot uncoils like a broken spring from the relatively pedestrian beginning of a family barbecue, twisting and turning unpredictably until the final cliffhanger, which sees Jack and Benny in dire straits and separated for the first time since their arrival in Chowder Bay. Beautifully drawn and brilliantly told, Salt Water Taffy is a great read for kids and adults alike. Loux refrains from talking down to his audience, at least somewhat aware that a good portion of them are likely of legal drinking age.

Be that as it may, his ability to draw in readers of all ages is a true gift, one that is rare in today’s market. The perfect book for the kids to read in the back seat during those long summer family road trips, Salt Water Taffy reminds all of us of the power of unfettered imagination and to embrace the adventure and magic of the everyday.

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