Review: Vertigo's Sweet Tooth

Sweet Tooth is one of those strange enigmas of the comic world.  Not unlike the exotic, yet creepy creatures that exist within the book itself, Sweet Tooth defies a nice, concise explanation.  If “David Lynchian” was an actual word, it would be the perfect adjective to describe this comic.

Gus, nicknamed "Sweet Tooth", is a young teenage boy, raised by his father in a tiny cabin on a remote wildlife sanctuary in the Midwest.  He has no memories of his mother, aside from a few photographs, and has never met another living human being in his life.  His father warns him that the outside world is dangerous and that he should never venture beyond the safety of the conservation.  When his father dies, Gus is forced to embark on a journey into the literal unknown where he discovers that most of mankind is dead as a result of some horrifying plague known only as "The Accident".  Oh, and Gus just happens to be a half-human, half-deer hybrid creature.  That's just the first issue.  It only gets weirder from there.

To tell you more would be ruining it for you.  A little bit "The Road", plus a dash of "Children of Men", mixed with foreboding drama akin to a classic Coen Brothers movie, writer and artist Jeff Lemire has crafted a truly original tale the likes of which the comic world rarely sees.  At a glance, the book would seem very minimalistic; it takes at most maybe 7 or 8 minutes to read an issue, some of which don't have a word of dialogue for pages at a time.  And while one could argue that the story is slowly paced, you would never call it 'boring'.

Lemire's art matches the story and writing perfectly, but he's got a very polarizing style and it may take some time to grow on you if you are not familiar with it.  Some have criticized that Lemire's work has a very rushed feel to it, almost as if he works in quick sketches, or that he's left portions unfinished.  Regardless of how you feel, one can't deny the eerie look his simple brush strokes are able to convey.  Which, again, only accentuates the moody and disturbing feel of this series.

It's still a bit too early to know where Lemire's going with Sweet Tooth.  This being his first foray on an ongoing book, it seems we're just going to have to sit back and see where his story takes us.  For now, the haunting ride is an absolute pleasure.

Sweet Tooth is published monthly by DC's Vertigo comics and is easily the most engaging, thought provoking, post-apocalyptic, animal-human hybrid story you'll read this year.  And that is most certainly a compliment.   The trade "Sweet Tooth Vol. 1: Out of the Woods" compiles the first five issues of the series and is available now.  The second volume, "In Captivity" is available December 14th.