The second volume of a new series is, in some ways, more telling than the first. With your first story out of the gate, the creator might still be finding his or her creative feet, trying to make it so what’s on the page matches what’s in the imagination. Other times, all of the energy and excitement out of the first issue is gone with the second, all of the great ideas getting used up in that initial story. In the case of “Salt Water Taffy” and its second issue, though, it was a real relief to see that Matthew Loux was able to make it just as entertaining and funny at the first.
After the first story dove into the depths of the waters of Chowder Bay, it makes sense that Loux next takes the reader up into the sky, with the mountains that surround this remote part of Maine. Benny and Jack’s parents take them on a hike up Mount Small, but it’s there that they (and we) learn about Mount Barnabas, a mountain so steep and dangerous that no one is allowed on it any more. Add in a story of the giant gold eagle, Barnabas, that lives on top of the mountain as well, and the kids are entranced by the idea of going there themselves. When Barnabas steals their father’s hat, though, all bets are off as they struggle to retrieve it before he notices it’s missing. And that’s when the craziness really begins.
What I love about “Salt Water Taffy” is how Loux’s stories feel like an aimless, rambling, making-it-up-as-you-go sort of tale at first. He brings the action from one location to the next, introducing new characters and plot elements left and right. And then, just when you wonder if this is going anywhere, he effortlessly brings all of the plot points together in the second half of the book and makes you feel bad for ever doubting him. What’s nice is that not only does he make it feel really easy, but all of the different additions to the story are a lot of fun. From a kleptomaniac eagle to a crafty wolf, allies and foes alike each have strong, defined personalities that quickly stand out to the reader. Characters from the first story make a welcome return as well; it’s a nice reminder that “Salt Water Taffy” is an actual series and it feels like we’ve got some bigger reveals regarding Angus and the lobsters just around the corner.
Loux’s art is still crisp and clean, here, and he’s able to tackle people, animals, and fantastic settings all with equal ease. The art is easy to follow, which is good for an all-ages title. The art, like the story, never seems to be trying to appeal to any one age group; there’s a little something for everyone old and young alike. At this point I think it’s safe to say that “Salt Water Taffy” is a bona fide hit. You may not be able to actually eat issues of “Salt Water Taffy” (unlike its namesake) but in every other way, it’s just as deliciously great. Definitely check this series out.