For almost the entirety of the time I have been reading comics, I have meant to pick up Sweet Tooth. Jeff Lemire is one of those writers who always delivers for me, so I don’t even have a compelling explanation for why it took me so long. But one arc deep, it’s obvious that this is something special.
Sweet Tooth tells the story of a young boy named Gus. Gus lives alone with his father in a cabin in the woods. He has been raised to believe that their little world is the only shred land that isn’t an unimaginable hellscape following a cataclysmic outbreak of disease. But while Gus is immune to this disease, his father isn’t. When his father dies and the world closes in on Gus, he finds himself at the mercy of a rough-and-tumble killer named Jeppard. Gus has to choose between staying at the cabin as his father taught him or venturing out into the world.
This series would be a lot shorter if he stayed behind, so you get one guess about what Gus decides.
What ensues is a road trip story; in ways, it reminds me of Y: The Last Man and the Logan movie. Mysteries about the world itself and how it became the way it is provide color to a story about two people—one innocent and doe-eyed (literally, in fact—it’s worth knowing that Gus is a hybrid species, a human child with animal characteristics) and another gruff, violent, and worn-down. That relationship fuels the story: each makes decisions for and about the other, and both must deal with those repercussions. This seems to be the beginning of a story about forging familial bonds to survive. Although whether either of those things will happen is very much up for debate.
Lemire has a distinctive artistic style, and it fits Sweet Tooth perfectly. His pages seem dangerous, a little uncomfortable. That reinforces how foreboding the world outside of Gus’s woods can be. His haggard, gaunt figure-work does the same, driving home the poor shape anyone left alive is in. Even Gus, despite his youth, carries a sort of hollowness that makes his big-eyed, horned face seem haunting.
I get now why Sweet Tooth receives the praise that it does. If you’re a fan of Lemire’s other work or the aforementioned Y: The Last Man and Logan, then you should look into this book. The whole run is forty issues, and it has all been collected already.
- Sweet Tooth, Vol. 1: Out of the Woods (#1-5)
- Sweet Tooth: The Deluxe Edition, Book One (#1-12)
Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire | Colorist: Jose Villarrubia | Letterer: Pat Brousseau