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

The Story: The curtain is pulled back a little more on Jepperd’s past, while Singh tries to gain Gus’ trust.

What’s Good: Despite its focus on a small number of characters, it’s become clear that Sweet Tooth is quite often about betrayal.  Lemire once again does a great job of depicting this recurring theme.  A betrayal in Jepperd’s past with his wife Louise is oddly related to his betrayal of Gus, and thus trauma links with, and creates, trauma.  When Louise and Jepperd are betrayed this month, it’s bitterly fitting that the worst moment of Jepperd’s life occurs at exactly the same spot as his betrayal of Gus.  With Jepperd’s flashbacks coming to their climax, the past comes just a little closer to the present in very effective fashion.

With its running theme of betrayal, it’s only natural that this month would also focus quite a bit on trust.  It’s elegant writing on Lemire’s part that both Gus and Jepperd’s portions of the issue treat this subject.  Singh attempts to gain Gus’ trust, while in the past, Abbott tries to gain Jepperd and Louise’s.   Of course, typical of Lemire’s deftness and his dark, post-apocalyptic world, both situations pull in opposite directions:  Gus struggles to trust what seems to be an honest man, while Louise and Jepperd willingly place their trust in the hands of bad men.  It’s very effective plotting for Lemire, particularly with all the characters walking difficult routes.

Singh also continues to be a promising character.  His dedication to scientific reason, and him desperately grasping at straws as a result, is understated, but well-done by Lemire.  It also makes his constantly tired appearance all the more compelling.

Lemire illustrates it all excellently.  The present-day, beaten Jepperd’s wandering is rendered in beautifully starked, barren fashion with his environment perfectly reflecting his state of mind.  Meanwhile, Lemire also continues to expand with his layouts, no longer satisfied with strict frames and panels.  In a couple instances, panels overlay in a reflection of mental processes, making for smoother transitions.

What’s Not So Good: This is a “middle of the trade” issue, something which happens from time to time for those of us following Vertigo books in monthly format.

Basically, what that means is that this month doesn’t see any of the gut wrenching climaxes or truly emotional moments that are Sweet Tooth’s bread and butter.  Lemire is simply moving the book along, and so the little human touches aren’t as strong a presence either.  The emotional milestones and big touchstones aren’t present this month and while it’s all good, there’s nothing here that’ll punch you or connect with you quite like what we’ve seen in previous issues.  Basically, this is a good issue, but without that level of humanity and connection, it doesn’t have that “landmark issue” feel that most months of Sweet Tooth have.

I think a lot of this has to do with the nature of Jepperd and Gus’ involvement in this month’s issue.  Gus is a very small presence, with most of his portions being focused around Singh.  Jepperd, on the other hand, is mostly relegated to his flashback sequences, while the ending of the issue, which is meant to be a surprise related to him, is more confusing and lukewarm than Lemire probably intended.

Conclusion: A strong issue, but not the guaranteed pick of the week that Sweet Tooth usually is.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans