Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: The Salmon of Doubt (#1 – 9) – Arvind Ethan David

3 out of 5

This is… an utter mess.  A miraculously failed experiment.  Or not…?  Maybe it’s an accurate representation of Dirk the book?  Unable to say for sure – unable to confirm my own feelings on the book – and despite my misgivings about this not being a very satisfying read, it is interesting and rather bold in its assumptions regarding the reader’s foreknowledge regarding Dirk Gently the TV series and, like, willingness to embrace loose logic and…  And so three stars.

The Salmon of Doubt is, as much as it maybe can be, based on the unfinished third DG novel.  But it’s also a lead-in to the original content of the second TV version.  However, in clearly letting plot details from said series drift in unexplained, it doesn’t really work too well as a standalone lead-in, but nor does it add much to the story to really be an addendum.  Look: I don’t know what the hell it is.  It seems to start off as a time / dimension travel / chase, with Dirk trying to discover the source of memories he’s having, as they seem to stem from a version of him he knows isn’t him but he believes to be real – this is very vaguely plucking from a concept in the book – but then there’s a subplot with an goblin and a missing cat and Isaac Newton (uh huh – and this is also a vague book bit), and then there’s the appearance of the TV show version of Dirk and his assistants and etcetera.  A mess, I say.  And yet it somehow maintains our attentions by not really trying to push its own randomness or some obvious agenda, and just letting things happen… which is a pretty good representation of Douglas Adams’ style, as well as Mr. Gently’s holistic beliefs.  But don’t fool yourself: unlike the preceding Spoon Too Short, there’s zero mystery to solve here, and unlike Adams, there’s not a sense of cohesiveness underlying the strewn-about plot strings.  The cat, the dimension-travel, the TV references – as Dirk’s assistant / partner / romantic interest Nurse Sally chases him while he chases her through different happenings, there’s zero sense that any one moment is of real importance beyond, like, a What The Hell Is Going On sensation.  …I mean, unless you’ve seen the show, in which case you still have no idea what’s going on but you at least can fill in the blanks on the rest of a random guest appearance.  Favorably, one could reason that this waywardness ties in with the series’ subtitle – the salmon of doubt – but, uh, I dunno.  Again, if so, it’s not a very satisfying tie.

Which isn’t to say it’s not a worthwhile read for entertainment’s sake, with Ilias Kyriazis’ art – though better suited to comic-Dirk than TV-Dirk – pretty fantastically balancing a comic book flexibility and funkiness with readability, which is especially impressive when you check out how some of these layouts jump through in-story spaces with ease.  Christa Miesner does an admirable job of lettering through all the panel wackniess, but David’s script is awfully wordy at points, and bubble reading order occasionally gets troublesome.

I don’t know where I go from here.  Am I interested to read another DG series?  I… guess?  But I hope they decide to keep the two worlds (comic and TV) separate going forward, as the extra ‘reality’ layer seemed to push this books’ concepts a bit too far to be successful… at, uh, whatever the goals were.  To end on a random bit of praise, I think it’s awesome that IDW let this span out into 9 issues, which is an absolutely (we’ll say appropriately) odd size for a series nowadays.  A random but related bit of damning, then, that they decided to collect the thing into two trades…

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