By: Jeff Lemire (art/story), Lemire & Jose Villarrubia (colors), Carlos M. Mangual (letters), Gregory Lockard (assistant editor) & Mark Doyle (editor)
The Story: The good guys arrive in Alaska for the final 4 issues of this post-apocalyptic series.
A few things (with minor SPOILERS): 1). Pieces & characters falling into place. - The pieces really seem to be falling into place. As the gang arrives in Anchor Bay, Alaska, Lemire reveals to us the (probable) source of the hybrid kids and also their purpose (GOOD). Provided that we can believe Dr. Singh, these hybrid kids are kinda bearers of the disease that has killed humanity as retribution of humans digging up the vault with all the animal-gods coffins (GOOD). It should really be stressed the Dr. Singh may be crazy and may have some or all of this story incorrect.
Still, it begs some thought provoking questions and that’s generally a mark of a good comic: Why didn’t these feral hybrids/avatars chase the Gus/Jeppard group as they chased Dr. Singh? Is it because Gus was among them and Gus is kinda the “leader” of the avatars? I’m also curious as to why these other avatars are “feral”. Did Gus’ “father” somehow perturb the plans of the animal gods by stealing Gus and raising him to be good and decent? Is Lemire kinda playing with a nature vs. nurture story here where Gus was supposed to be an anti-christ-like figure, but the decency of a good man has turned him into something else entirely? What have these other avatars been doing for the last ~15 years? Have they just been running the streets of Anchor Bay…..or were they raised in an institutional setting as was meant for Gus? And – lastly – if Gus is the chief source of the plague that is intended to ravage humanity, why are Jeppard and the others still alive? Was the plague supposed to be more like a Biblical flood that was merely meant to reduce humanity’s numbers? Is there a sort of judgement that is being passed? And if there is a judgement, why would the morally ambiguous Jeppard live when a good man like Gus’s “father” died?
2). How did they drive there? - Nit-pick alert…..How did they drive to Anchor Bay? I haven’t pulled out the official Sweet Tooth map, but wasn’t Anchor Bay on the north side of Alaska? Aren’t those cities inaccessible by road? If you go to Google Maps and try to get directions from Anchorage to Barrow, you get nothing – you don’t even get cheeky instructions as if you ask for Tokyo to San Diego (try it). And, even if it is connected by road, I have to call a small foul on the journey just “happening”. Lemire hasn’t avoided showing us the roving bandits that plague the wastelands before, so it isn’t that Sweet Tooth is a comic that just refuses to indulge those tired post-apocalyptic warlord tropes. Driving from the mid-western United States to Alaska is a LONG trip. You’d have to stop for gas along the way, forage for food, sleep, etc. Even though I know it isn’t the point of this final story cycle, it just feels a little abbreviated to have the whole gang arrive safe and sound in Alaska.
Nitpicking aside, traveling to Alaska should feel like a pilgrimage like Muslims walking to Mecca or the survivors making their way to Denver in The Stand. It should feel like a long, arduous journey and this doesn’t have that feel because the characters just ARRIVE.
Now, if I had to speculate (which is always dangerous)….. Between Lemire’s other creative duties and the sales of this series, someone thought it was a good idea to “wrap it up”. In a perfect world, we’d get a year-long saga of the gang making their way to Alaska, but commercial realities may have robbed us of that.
3). Great & haunting art. - It may sound obvious, but it is a huge benefit for a series to have quality art issue-after-issue. It’s like the giving the series a life-jacket. If the art is always good, it’s simply hard to produce an issue that is below a “B” in terms of overall quality. The writer would have to do something really offensively bad to cause such a dip. Thus, I can say again….the art in Sweet Tooth is great. I hate when people give the caveat that “Lemire’s art may not be for everyone” because that’s BS. Haunting art and smeary watercolors perfectly capture the gray sadness of this world. This is SAD story. It has brutal moments and it has happy moments (although not many), but Lemire’s art keeps that sadness front and center.
4). Poor ________ - Is Bobby ever going to catch a break? The only upside is that after everything bad that’s happened to the poor kid, it would seem kinda mean to kill him now.
5). Jeppard’s son? - Where did the little albino, deer-child go? Surely he will have a roll to play before the story ends, right? And we know he is with the bad man, right?
Conclusion: Even though it feels a little rushed, this series is still hitting a lot of solid notes. It’s also causing the reader to think and speculate in a way that few comics do.
- Dean Stell