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

The Story: Singh recounts the outbreak of the plague while Gus finds glimmers of humanity in the camp.

What’s Good: This is one of the issues that shows not only Lemire’s creativity, but his bravery in his willingness to experiment with the storytelling and format of Sweet Tooth.  The result is a nice little break between story arcs that’s a solid outing in and of itself.

The strongpoint of the issue, and really its structural foundation, is how it essentially tells two stories simultaneously, one purely through images and the other mostly through narration (with sparser images along the bottom of the page).  Putting the two stories together like this makes them into brilliant parallels, foils really, for one another.  Singh depressingly recounts the barbarism and destruction of the plague’s outbreak and the early days, while Gus suffers upon his arrival at the camp, but manages to find little bits of hope, fellowship, and humanity as well.   Despite this inherent juxtaposition, both stories also feature both their very different characters attempting to find light and goodness in a pitch dark situation.

This paralleling also makes Lemire’s differing delivery of these two stories appropriate, as it again highlights Lemire’s intention of balancing innocence with experience, in this case the child Gus and the adult Singh.  Not only does the subject matter of their stories bounce off of one another in this light, but it seems right that Gus, the child, would have his story relayed solely through pictures while the world-weary adult, Singh, would use mostly words.  There’s a kind of purity in having a story told solely through artwork, while there’s a greater feel of artifice (appropriate for the adult scientist) to narration, particularly when that narration is a transcription of Singh’s own diary recordings.

Ultimately, this issue is about balance and the result is unique and stunning in the way that Sweet Tooth has often been throughout its run thus far.  The fact that the artwork easily carries the load is a testament to its quality. Best of all, though, is that in the end, both stories are touching in their own way while, for those accusing this “filler” issue of lacking narrative progress, ending with a really ominous conclusion, or idea, that could impact the rest of the series.

What’s Not So Good: The problem with telling two stories simultaneously in a 22-page comic is, of course, that both stories end up being pretty brief.  It’s pretty hard for a ton of things to occur under these circumstances, and that’s certainly the case here.  As a result, the issues strong point isn’t so much in the stories themselves as it is in how the stories reflect back upon each other.  Otherwise, it could be argued that neither story really lives up to its potential or fully explores its subject; I could have used a little bit more from both of them.

While I also don’t really hold either point against this comic, it’s also worth nothing that it’s a very quick read and, despite its one-shot status, it isn’t as great a jumping on point as its format might otherwise suggest.

Conclusion: A daring choice by Lemire, but one that prevents this from being an unremarkable filler issue.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans