Salt Water Taffy: The Seaside Adventures of Jack and Benny, volume 2: A Climb Up Mt. Barnabas
By Matthew Loux
Matthew Loux can do pretty great kids' comics, that's for sure. He established that with the first volume of Salt Water Taffy, which introduced his young sibling protagonists and their fantastical setting. But you don't need to know anything that's not explained on the back cover of the book, so it's okay to read this one if you haven't read the first one.
This time out, Jack and Benny get involved in a quest to recover their dad's hat after it gets stolen by a giant eagle that lives on top of Mt. Barnabas, an impassible peak that has never been conquered (or so the legend goes). It's a fun story, and it's impeccably structured, with the whole thing being kicked off by their dad's tall tale about climbing the mountain as a child and stealing his hat from Barnabas (who shares his moniker with the mountain where he lives). Even tossed-off bits like a helicopter toy that disappoints in its lameness and a pail of blueberries come in handy later in the story; it all fits together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Loux's artwork really works to bring out the best in the story; it's a unique style that perfectly fits the subject matter. The thick lines, sharp angles, and weird pointy bits give all the characters (both animal and human) a nice physicality that blends right into the lush backgrounds. It's really nice-looking stuff:
And the comedy works really well, playing Jack and Benny's relationship off each other and everyone they meet. He also gets some mileage out of talking animals, in scenes that seem strongly inspired by Jeff Smith's Bone:
It's good times all around in Chowder Bay. Bring on volume three!