by Jeff Lemire (writer & artist), Jose Villarrubia (colors), and Pat Brousseau (letters)
The Story: Jepperd and the hybrid cultists prepare for war, Gus makes good his escape, and Singh and Abbott unearth some secrets about Gus’ family.
What’s Good: This is one hell of an issue and the best issue of Sweet Tooth to come around in a while, and that’s saying a lot. It perfectly mixes big events/reveals with build-up for future issues that, all told, leaves the series at a fever pitch with more momentum and excitement behind it than ever before. What has often been a slower, quieter, thoughtful series is suddenly transformed, for the time being, into a rollicking and absolutely riveting thriller of a book.
There’s so much to like about this book. First and foremost is the change in Gus. While his childhood innocence is still there, he has emerged as a natural leader. His relationship to his fellow hybrid escapees is sincere and genuine, but he’s also clearly the one they look to. Gus almost ends up like a weird, dark kind of Peter Pan, leading a band of isolated children through a strange world filled with murderous adult figures. It’s up to Gus to call the shots, and, more important, instill hope and comfort to his group and the results are a wonderful read.
The big events, however, relate to what Singh and Abbott dig up at Gus’ old home. It hints at very interesting things to come for the series but, more than that, it lends the book an almost supernatural, or at least speculative, tone. During these scenes, and the book’s amazingly written montage conclusion, Singh narrates by reading from Gus’ father’s “bible.” This bizarre book actually reads like a legitimate holy book, written specifically for Sweet Tooth’s world. It’s filled with the appropriate metaphors and language, but it carries a very eerie prophetic power. It leads one to wonder whether there were some powers at work in Gus’ father’s work. Even if not, this narration, and this bible as a whole, lends the book a very, very ominous and downright chilling tone. More than that, it makes this issue and the events it builds feel important. The last few pages will have you starving for the next issue, which is not generally something Lemire has focused on in Sweet Tooth.
The weird sense of the supernatural doesn’t just extend to the “bible” however. There’s also a shared dream sequence between Jepperd and Gus. It not only highlights the characters’ unique bond (doing so purely through wordless images and symbolism), but it gives the issue a sense of strangeness. I don’t expect there ever to be telepathic explanations, but that only makes the sequence all the more effective and unsettling. It’s all key to the atmosphere of Sweet Tooth and Lemire’s unique storytelling.
What’s Not So Good: Admittedly, with so much going on, the issue’s overall structure is a little ramshackle. The transitions between ordinary scenes, to narrated scenes or montages, to a sudden and lengthy wordless dream sequence is a bit hammered together. I think it’s really just the fact that Lemire switches so rapidly between three very different methods of storytelling: standard comics dialogue, narration, and images alone, and the fact that all three of these methods are kept isolated from one another and in their own, lengthy portions doesn’t really make for the most cohesive whole.
Conclusion: Mr. Lemire, you make good comics. The best issue of Sweet Tooth in a while.