by Jeff Lemire (writer & artist), Nate Powell, Emi Lenox, & Matt Kindt (art), Jose Villarrubia (colors), and Patrick Brosseau (letters)

The Story: Lucy, Becky, and Wendy share their histories with one another as they wander through the forest.

The Review: One certainly can’t fault Jeff Lemire for not taking creative risks with Sweet Tooth.  Last month we got a landscape-styled “storybook” issue and this month we have Lemire bring along three indie cartoonists to help illustrate three separate tales and, much as was the case last month, he makes gold out of what could have been a disaster.

Given that it’s the main attraction this month, the art seems a fitting place to start.  All three guest artists, and Lemire himself, have incredibly different styles.  Yet, it really, really works as each artist was masterfully chosen for each particular story he or she illustrates.  Each artist has a very unique look, but it suits the stories of the particular characters they illustrate beautifully.  Nate Powell’s more mundane, slice-of-life look on Lucy’s previous life as a married nurse, Emi Lenox’s tragic Saturday-morning cartoon take on Becky’s childhood, or Matt Kindt’s dreamy, surreal storybook take on Wendy’s life with Mom.  Each artist brings something unique to the table and each gives a certain life to their part of the issue, what that highlights the tone Lemire that was going for in each little story.

Lemire’s writing is certainly very good as well.  As has often been the case with Sweet Tooth, he focuses quite well on shared tragedy and the bonds that result, a community founded in friendship that arises from grievous circumstances.  Seeing the three girls share their equally sad or horrific pasts is truly touching.  Every story is, in its own way, heart-breaking or, in Lucy’s case, horrifying.  Yet through it all, partially due to the art, there’s a kind of resignation or acceptance of that horror, as though it’s just part of the world the characters live in.  It doesn’t come across as cynical at all, given that it’s not really dwelt upon, but rather serves to further underscore the post-apocalyptic world Lemire has created.

All told, this is a beautiful issue.  It makes me even more a fan of Lemire’s creation of this little group and his expansion from the Jepperd/Gus duo that worked so well previously.  All the characters are likable, and I think Lemire’s decision to dwell on three new characters exclusively this month is a really good one; we already like Gus and Jepperd, and now it’s impossible not to see Lucy, Becky, and Wendy as similarly sympathetic characters.  Truly, Lemire’s character-work is superb.

The issue’s final couple of pages are also really well-done in the cliffhanger they offer.  It’s the sort of thing that’ll have you really itching for the next issue, while also dreading it.  It shows the success of Lemire in his world-building when you already expect that absolute worst when meeting a new character, despite the equal possibility of a perfectly innocent explanation.

Conclusion: It seems that there are only two types of issues when it comes to Sweet Tooth: fantastic, or absolutely fantastic.  This one’s the latter.

Grade: A –

-Alex Evans