Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: SWEET TOOTH #1

DC COMICS/VERTIGO – @DCComics and @vertigo_comics

COLORS: Jose Villarrubia
LETTERS: Pat Brosseau
32pp, Color, $1.00 (November 2009)

Sweet Tooth was a comic book series created, written, and drawn by cartoonist and graphic novelist, Jeff Lemire.  At that time of Sweet Tooth’s debut, Lemire was best known for his Essex County Trilogy:  Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories, and The Country Nurse, which were all published Top Shelf Productions.

Sweet Tooth was Lemire’s first ongoing series.  Published by Vertigo (the publisher of Lemire’s graphic novel, The Nobody), Sweet Tooth is a post-apocalyptic series that focuses on a human/animal hybrid child who pals around with a dangerous friend.  The series concluded with the publication of issue #40.

Sweet Tooth #1 opens ten years after a still mysterious pandemic ravaged America.  A boy named Gus is part of a rare new breed of human/animal hybrid that emerged from the devastation.  This breed is also apparently immune to the infection that still continues to kill.  Gus lives with his ailing father in a Nebraska state wilderness sanctuary.  Gus’ father is determined to keep his son living in isolation.  After his father dies, Gus is left to fend for himself, but not for long, as the hunters arrive.

In his “On the Ledge” essay, which appears in Sweet Tooth #1 (and all September 2009-dated Vertigo books), Jeff Lemire writes that “there are no tired, played-out stories – just tired and played-out ways of telling them.”  This is a frank admission from a distinctive voice in comic books that his latest work is – plot, characters, and setting – firmly rooted in the familiar subgenre of post-apocalyptic America.  Lemire, however, is correct about tired stories, and didn’t someone recently win a Pulitzer Prize for his post-Apocalyptic-set novel?

Lemire tells stories in a voice most comic book characters avoid.  His stories are both disquieting and alluring in the tranquil way in which Lemire weaves tales of a rural folk, a breed of people who are not often seen in comics, compared to other types.  There is beauty in the way Lemire depicts desperation; it is desperation that is as serene as the landscape of wide open farms, small towns, and woodland areas where much of the Essex County stories set.  Lemire’s stories aren’t so much forlorn or even melancholy as they are calm and settled.  No matter how sad the life of a particular Lemire character may be, the reader is drawn into the stillness of contemplation, introspection, and self-observation.

This is how Lemire will make Sweet Tooth such a unique take on the post-apocalyptic world.  Lemire’s unobtrusive way is not Mad Max, but he offers the reader the chance to find insight in every panel.  Each panel is a moment in time, not to be taken for granted.  In this way, perhaps, Lemire will show us the profound even in a hopeless world, where there just might be hope.


[This comic book also contained an 8-page preview of the hardcover prose novel, Peter & Max: A Fables Novel by Bill Willingham with illustrations by Steve Leiahola.]

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

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