SWEET TOOTH #1 (DC Vertigo) story and art by Jeff Lemire
I nearly passed over this based on the dumb-appearing cover depiction of a backwoods Appalachian boy with deer ears and antlers and chocolate mess on his perplexed face. (It’s not so dumb after you read the story). Yet, at the introductory price of $1.00 it was worth a closer look and less of a monetary risk. I also was curious to read something for the first time by Jeff Lemire, whose indie reputation is growing. I was actually moved and saddened by this tender, apocalyptic tale (yes, yet another post-cataclysm story).
In spite of that put-off, I was moved by the simple nature of this book. Very quickly and easily Lemire immerses the reader into the story as we begin to realize the loneliness that the dying father and innocent son are experiencing . Gus, the son born post-apocalypse of a dying mother and mutated by the after-effects (of whatever it was), realizes near his tenth year that his father doesn’t have much time on the planet and he will soon be totally alone. It's the combination of Lemire handling both story and art that make them mesh so well together and convey so much in addition to what is seen and read on the page. The scenes of the father trying to prepare his son to carry on after his death are very touching. Simple folk. Big emotions.
The editorial in this issue by Jeff Lemire indicates the direction the book will be heading towards. I’m reminded very much of Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD and expect to see some similarities as well as major differences. Gus will partner up with a new father-figure and make a journey through a devastated land. But it’s not his real father, and I expect his motivations to be completely different than those of the loving father in THE ROAD. Described as a bounty hunter in some reviews, Lemire in the editorial hints that this new mentor (Jepperd) may have his own reasons for taking Gus to The Preserve (what irony in that name!), a safe haven for the new breed of children. Jepperd makes his introduction in very dramatic fashion at the end of this issue.
There are many mentions of God in the opening pages of this book, and we can see how God is threaded into Gus’ persona and influences his everyday life, giving him hope and higher expectations. After his father is taken away from him by God, the first people he meets put him in fear for his life. When he defends himself one of the first words he hears another person utter are “Goddammit”. And just before his rescue one of his assailants desperately moans “oh God” only to get a response from Jepperd of “God . . ? . . . Ain’t no God here.” I’m sure this is going to be just one of many human conflicts to challenge Gus in the issues to come.
SWEET TOOTH will not waste your time, or your hard-earned dollar.