by Jeff Lemire (writer & artist), Jose Villarrubia (colors), and Pat Brosseau (letters

The Story: Becky’s secret is revealed, as Gus and Jepperd come face to face with the seedy underbelly of Lemire’s post-apocalyptic world.

What’s Good: Lemire truly takes us into deep waters this month, and what we get is an incredibly disturbing book.  His narrative world has never been more dark, but that darkness now has a very uncomfortable grain of perversion to go along with all the gloom and doom.  That Lemire actually went in this direction is a brave move by him and actually surprised me.  Best of all, hiss theme this month is as tasteful as possible, given the subject matter.  This is not shock for shock’s sake, and it carries not a grain of sensationalism.

Really though, it’s hard not for me to draw similarities between this month’s issue and the Road.  Much like that book/film, Lemire’s work here is so dark, that it causes the reader to grasp at any moment of human kindness.  Because the rest of the issue is so disturbing, when Lemire gives us that one good action, as innocent Gus pushes Jepperd into the role of hero, it feels so satisfying.  It also shows how solid the chemistry is between the two characters: the innocent Gus still carries the ideals the experienced Jepperd has seemingly forgotten.

And that’s another strength of this month’s issue, as it perhaps, more directly than ever, raises the issue of morality that rightfully crops up in any dystopian work.  What still counts as a “good man” in a world that is gone so wrong?  It’s clear that Gus, whether he’s aware of it or not, is attempting to move Jepperd back along the road of redemption, and it’s both fascinating and touching.

That said, even with this glimmer of goodness, Lemire is quick to remind us that the world of Sweet Tooth is still oppressive, always threatening to envelop any hope or kindness that crops up.  Even an act of heroism is, in this world, incredibly brutal and violent in its very nature.  Lemire makes no effort to render Jepperd’s actions glossy, and despite the good intentions, it’s all depicted with an unforgiving, violent, and harsh honesty.  Worse still, once this redemptive moment is complete, the darkness of Lemire’s world is quick to move in and recapture its hold.  Jepperd’s actions may have, in themselves, been good, but the difference they made turns out to be far less than one might expect.

On art, Lemire delivers some absolutely gorgeous outdoor images.  It’s clear that as an artist, he’s generally very well aware of his strengths.  There’s a stunning horse-ride in the rain that best encapsulates Lemire’s sparse, yet emotional style.

What’s Not So Good: With his rougher style, I did feel that Lemire’s artwork isn’t at its best in close, well-lit, indoor surroundings.  It strips him of the barren, outdoor landscape he works so excellently, while drawing attention to his flaws.  Essentially, he’s an utterly unconventional cartoonist being forced to draw a more conventional comic scene, and as a result, the simpler nature of his artwork that usually serves him so well becomes a bit ill-suited.

Conclusion: The best issue since the series debut.  If you’re not reading this, you are really missing out.

Grade: A –

-Alex Evans