Issues #1-5 of Sweet Tooth introduced us to an innocent young boy with antlers, who was thrust into a world he didn’t know to face a fate he didn’t ask for. It’s an Ugly Duckling story set in a world mixed between Children of Men and The Walking Dead. However, this story is anything but cliché post-apocalyptic tale. Jeff Lemire created something bold and unique when he mixed his expressively grizzled artwork with a suspenseful, page-turning story. Oh, and the dialogue is outstanding too.
Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity collects issues #6-11 of the Vertigo comic series. In Vol. 1, we were introduced to Gus, the boy with antlers who lost his loving father –the only person he ever knew. Shortly after breaking into the wild, he is discovered and rescued by a hardened man named Jepperd. He had a rifle and a fighter’s spirit. Gus knew Jepperd long enough for Jepperd to eventually betray him and turn him over to a militia camp in exchange for a duffle bag. The first five issues built up Jepperd into a savior, before turning him into a callous, uncaring individual. However, we were all left wondering what was in the duffle bag and what happened to the righteous man we thought we knew.
Issues #6-11 collect the story of Jepperd’s origin. We learn the truth about the righteous man and the betrayer. The story goes back to a younger Jepperd, before the H5-G9 virus killed off much of the population and left every baby born since an animal-human hybrid. Jepperd falls in love with a woman he’d do anything for. The ensuing tale is one of love and remorse. We see how a simple man fights for his wife once the viral-outbreak takes root and humanity shifts to a world of bandits and ex-military warring with one another for resources. After the build up of Jepperd’s character in Volume 1, you expect him to be reunited with Gus at some point. So, it’s nice to learn how Jepperd came to interact with the militia camp and why he eventually must go back. There are some grotesque panels and reveals that really express the darkness of this tale. Through Lemire’s dialogue and visuals, readers will start to take on Jepperd’s weathered and crestfallen life. The backstory is just that engrossing and mixed in well with Jepperd’s present day journey to a trading outpost called Factory Town. He’s a man ready to die, but needing a purpose.
Lemire also delves deeper into Gus’s origin. After being thrown into a cage with other animal-human hybrids, a scientist by the name of Doctor Singh is introduced. He has been experimenting on hybrids as well as pregnant women in an attempt to find the source of the H5-G9 virus and potentially a cure. Through hypnosis we get to see a broader backstory on Gus. This was a smart choice on the part of Lemire. Instead of showing both Gus and Jepperd through flashbacks, Lemire opted to have Gus live out his past through hypnotic suggestion. It’s a subtle move, but adds so much to the experience of reading Sweet Tooth. There are also hints of religious undertones that creep into the story. Are the hybrids the children of a damned race or the start of something more?
Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity continues a promising ongoing tale, with a dismal outlook on the future. This is a series that you have to read and a definite must for science fiction fans. If you haven’t read Volume 1 yet, it’s best to start at the beginning to have a full understanding of Jepperd’s character.