Salmon Doubts

By Adam Sacks
128 pages, two-color
Published by Alternative Comics

About a year ago, Alternative Comics publisher Jeff Mason was talking about an upcoming graphic novel he’d just gotten the rights to publish called Salmon Doubts, and how this would be a book that everyone would talk about for some time to come. Having now read Salmon Doubts for myself, it’s easy to see why he was so excited.

Henry and Geoff are two newly hatched salmon, swimming down the stream into the ocean. As they grow, they learn about the democracy of schools, other species of marine life, and the dangers that lurk around every corner. But will any of them be able to fight what nature decrees their lives should be?

Adam Sacks’s writing for Salmon Doubts was a pleasant surprise in how it handled the themes and ideas behind the story. While Sacks gives his fish human names and speech patterns, he’s still able to keep a certain animalistic thought process throughout the graphic novel. The pack mentality and the slavery to nature’s demands come across not as arbitrary, but rather as something which has to be obeyed and is a part of their very core. The only problem with this is that when Geoff’s titular doubts do appear, it just seems to come out of nowhere. It’s hard to buy it’s Geoff that suddenly rebels against the school, doubly so when up until this point it’s been Henry that doesn’t seem to really fit in with the other salmon. It’s certainly a surprise when it does happen, but I do wish that there had been a bit more leading up to it.

Salmon Doubts uses an attractive two-color printing process to bring its underwater world to life. Sacks is really able to make the sheer mass and power of the salmon school come across on the page, with hundreds of fish crowding into panels to help bring that imagery to the reader. Sacks especially shines in drawing the salmon once they’ve reached the ocean, arcing through rock formations and amidst the currents. It’s there that Sacks is able to let the school move in interesting groupings, giving the comic a real sense of motion that it had lacked up until then. As a result, when the salmon do return to the river to travel upstream and spawn, as their surroundings close in on them again Sacks is able to give the book a sudden sense of inevitability, that this will soon be the end of the fish. It works well, making the river have an added sense of death that it previously didn’t hold.

For a debut, Salmon Doubts is pleasantly strong; Sacks has a good eye for visuals, and his imagination certainly shines through. Sacks is definitely someone to watch closely, both to see what he’ll put together next, as well as taking a look at Salmon Doubts itself. It may not be a perfect first work, but it’s still quite good. You’ll certainly never look at a salmon filet on your plate quite the same way again.

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