Vertigo's latest keeps on going strong.
by Jesse Schedeen
November 4, 2009 - On a surface level, Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth seems to borrow from numerous sources. The basic concept of a young boy and his grizzled protector crossing a post-apocalyptic wasteland evokes images of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Comics like The Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man also deal with similar subject matter. But the difference lies all in the execution. No matter how many times we might have seen the post-apocalyptic tale in comics, Lemire makes it seem fresh again.
The story might have moved a little slowly in the first two issues, but now that Gus and Jepperd are out on the road the pace picks up a bit. Lemire devotes some time to building on Gus' character this month, proving again that he's more than a simple country hick with no practical knowledge of the world. One positive quality this series shares with The Road is the slowly building sense of tension. Gus and Jepperd spend most of the issue alone, but it's difficult not to feel a growing sense of foreboding with each passing page. Lemire has established this world as a dark, scary place, and the reader is now left to wait and wonder when tragedy will strike again for Gus. It's tough to know whether to even accept Jepperd as a companion for Gus or just one more threat to confront. A powerful and haunting dream sequence certainly casts doubt on Jepperd's motivations and Gus' safety.
More than anything, though, it's the fusion of Lemire's art and writing that make this series function so smoothly and elegantly. The best writers and artists may achieve that long-sought creative synergy, but it's hard to top a creator who can do both and do them well. Lemire knows his craft well. There's never a case where the storytelling falters or Lemire's intentions become cloudy. Lemire is skilled at building mood and tension in his scenes, be they set in a barren room or in the tortured landscape of Gus' dreams. It's not the most detailed book in the Vertigo lineup, but I'd go so far as to say that Sweet Tooth is the best-looking one.
Vertigo has launched numerous books in 2009. Their track record with these new releases is very impressive. But as much as I'm drawn in by complex, winding projects like The Unwritten, the captivating, elegantly sparse world of Sweet Tooth represents one of Vertigo's finest new books in years.