There are a lot of great comics out there, but let’s face it, not everything is for everybody. Finding a comic series you like can be a difficult and, unfortunately, expensive process. In this feature we spotlight suitable jumping on points from a range of publishers and genres to try to help you find new stories that are worth your time and money.
Last time we looked at the Sixth Gun from Oni Press, a western road trip with a Tolkien feel to it. This time we’re on the road again with Sweet Tooth, a post apocalyptic survival tale without a zombie in sight.
Sweet Tooth – Vol. 1 (Out of the Woods) – Vertigo (DC Comics)
Sweet Tooth is set in the not too distant future where the world we know is all but gone. Our world has been ravaged by a virus that has decimated the population. The fraction of the population still standing have no society to speak of, and survival of the fittest is law. Every child born since the outbreak has been born with some random animal feature. While these hybrids are hated by humanity, they are also immune to the virus that is slowly killing the remaining populace.
One such hybrid child, a 10-year-old named Gus, is living alone in the woods. He has deer antlers and a sweet tooth. Gus’ world is destroyed when a pair of hunters come into his wood, looking to claim a reward for killing hybrids. Fortunately for Gus he is recused by a brooding stranger. This man, Jepperd, convinces Gus to leave his home and travel with him to “the Preserve”, a place where hybrid children are safe from the outside world. In this first volume Gus and Jepperd travel towards the Preserve and a tear-jerking cliffhanger.
Sweet Tooth is the work of Jeff Lemire. Lemire works as both writer and artist for the series, which helps deliver the book’s strong vision. Over the course of the series Lemire tells the coming of age story of Gus, and how he goes from being a scared boy to a heroic man. Both Gus and Jepperd are engaging characters, whose development is really the heart of the series. They grow both as individuals and have an almost father and son like relationship at times. In Out of the Woods, the first volume in the Sweet Tooth series they each play a part in saving the other’s life, and that sets the tone for the remainder of the series. Though there are times when their bond is tested as they let each other down as often as they come through. Their relationship feels very real, despite one of them having antlers and dear ears.
Lemire’s art is not as smooth as the art you find in most superhero comics. These characters are not pillars of humanity, they’ve lived hard lives, and every day of that can be seen on their faces. The characters are rough, and often the line work escapes the panel border, which actually enhances the feeling of desperation these characters share. While his character designs are interesting, it’s Lemire’s page layouts that are the high point of the series. Both Gus and Jepperd’s motivations are explored through their dreams and Lemire uses these setups to experiment with his style and mixes up his use of panels and presentation. No two pages in Sweet Tooth look the same as Lemire is constantly developing how he tells this story. This keeps the series visually stunning throughout the run, and helps the reader to continue to be invested in Gus’ journey.
The series introduces many fun characters, and puts Gus and Jepperd in many unique and dangerous situations. At times the narrative will pause Gus’ story and take the reader to some very unusually, often historical settings. These diversions feel out-of-place at first, but eventually the loose threads do come together and these chapters are pivotal to understanding the finale. This volume is a perfect introduction to the series, and leaves you with an ending that will leave you speechless, and desperate to order volume two.
The entire story of Gus is told over six collected editions available from online retailers, or 40 single chapters available through Comixology. If you’ve read Sweet Tooth and want to share your thoughts below please do so. If this article had encouraged you to pick up the series please let us know how you like it. If this series doesn’t sound like the right fit for you come back next time and we’ll find another jumping on point…maybe the next one won’t be a road trip story.