Sweet Tooth #1
By Jeff Lemire
Color art by Jose Villarrubia
Letters by Pat Brosseau
Published by Vertigo Comics
Review by Brendan McGuirk
Sweet Tooth brings to Vertigo its most original concept in years.
That’s not meant a dig at Vertigo, but in recent memory the brand has become a house for various forms of genre fiction. Genre fiction works, of course, as it fills many a needed niche in the comicbook market. But the all-time classic Vertigo tales have been those that supersede genre, and create something wholly new.
Sweet Tooth does just that.
It starts with that look. Gus is a pretty normal little boy. He’s nervous, vaguely scared of his father, and, oh yeah, has mesmerizingly weird deer antlers and features. It is just such stark imagery, such original imagery, that one can’t help but crave to know more. Then, when we learn that his dad doesn’t share the qualities, lo, a mystery is afoot. Gus and his father live in seclusion in a cabin in the woods, apart from the looming threat of greater civilization. It’s a happy enough existence, but when his father dies, Gus finds himself all alone in a big, scary world. He’s powerless, like a deer in headlights.
And from there, the action starts.
Jeff Lemire cut his teeth on the recently re-released Essex County Trilogy from Top Shelf. There, he honed a quiet, nuanced, haunting storytelling style that he brings in full to this project. He’s a master of the unsaid. In Essex, every thread, every seemingly rash story choice proved to be vital in the greater scheme. There’s every reason the same will bear out here. Further, his line art has grown with each project, from Essex, to Vertigo's own The Nobody, and now to Sweet Tooth, progressively getting a little tighter with time. The color art, provided by Jose Villarrubia, adds an extra kick of flavor to his art that enhances that which was already strong.
Lemire’s true strength is his cartoonist’s instincts; his art is writing, and vice versa. He knows how to create an impression with words and pictures, and it’s that mysterious impression that makes Sweet Tooth so damn compelling.
Again, this book’s genre is near impossible to pinpoint. Dystopian, science fiction, coming-of-age, fantasy; it’s all here, working in perfect cohesion. The art creates a language that defines the genre. There’s no way to guess where this story is going, because we haven’t seen it before. That is how you keep readers on the edge.
Sweet Tooth may give you a cavity, but trust me, it’s worth it.