Writer & Artist: Jeff Lemire
Reviewer: Rob Patey (aka Optimous Douche – Ain’t It Cool News)
Just finished reading @JeffLemire’s SWEET TOOTH – Prophetic, Poignant, Beautiful Saturday, January 5, 2013 via Twitter
The first thing you learn in corporate communications is that the simplest messages are often the best. I’m glad for my gag order from DC, because to discuss a book before the embargo date I must use the simplest of phrases for my adoration to avoid spoilers. My generic Tweet perfectly summarizes the entire SWEET TOOTH series (all right maybe “prophetic” had to wait until this issue).
I will spoil a great deal in this review; you will know the exact secrets and mysteries about Gus, the eponymous SWEET TOOTH. How the plague was created, what it took to uncover the mystery of the animal/human hybrids that appeared with the plague, the final fate of Gus’ savior Jepperd, and last but certainly not least, the future of Gus and all life on earth. At no time though should you think you know SWEET TOOTH, simply because you know the final outcome. SWEET TOOTH is an experience, not a destination.
I‘m sad the journey is over, but elated by the fact more and more writers are realizing endings are essential to an impactful story. I write this review a few hours after learning one of my dearest friends took his life last night. Sadly, my appreciation for him today is a thousand fold over what it was yesterday. But that’s the tragic irony of life; we only truly appreciate things when they have completely slipped from our grasp. SWEET TOOTH is finite, but the memory and detail of each precious page will live infinitely longer than even the most grandiose of storylines in the ever eternal spandex set.
You could get everything you need to know about SWEET TOOTH from this final issue. I wouldn’t recommend it, but you can. I honestly haven’t seen this expertise in concise plot consolidation since the opening pages of ALL STAR SUPERMAN. Even though this story starts many years ahead from where we left off in issue 39, introducing us to the sons of Gus, Lemire masterfully ties the two time periods together to whisk us back to the small cabin in the woods where we first learned of the plague, met the literally doe eyed and antlered Gus, and his stalwart protector Jepperd.
Seemingly as quickly as the book progressed over the past four years of its existence, Lemire brings us to the now, where we meet a grown Gus, the monosyllabic Beaver-Boy (now man) Bobby, and Gus’ two sons, one of which foreshadows Gus’ life mate with his piggy little nose. When the group is attacked by a band of normal looking humans, Lemire leads us to believe that the Hybrids are still on the run even so many years later.
But in a twist of irony…fate…whatever you want to call it, we learn that humanity’s time on earth is truly over, all that’s left are the last few elderly who were born before, or survived the plague. Lemire’s elude to the hybrids being the next dominant sentient species on earth has come to full fruition. As we discovered a few issues ago though, deep in the bowls of the science station in Alaska where Gus was “born,” this isn’t the first time hybrids have roamed the land, nor will they be the last. Yet this time they have knowledge of past society’s mistakes and can now rectify them.
Step one in this correction is shunning all technology. Again, bringing the series full-circle we end up back in the woods where Gus’ once lone cabin is now a thriving city that’s more akin to an Ewok village than an urban blight. Here stands the new Garden of Eden and the parallel of this biblical beginning is played to the fullest extent by Lemire without ever being heavy handed. The only human amongst them is the once quasi prophetic Dr. Singh who finally accepted few things are divine. He is now the healer to the first society. However, another human still fondly remembered is Jepperd. Each year his life and untimely death are honored by the inhabitants of this new society in a hybrid festival akin to Christmas meeting Thanksgiving, or as shopping malls call it – October.
All is not, peace, love and American Indian principles though. There are factions of the hybrid community who find Gus’ pacifist ways and empathy towards the remaining humans unsettling and we learn in a heart breaking moment that their leader is Jepperd’s son, Buddy.
I’m not going to say how this conflict is resolved because ultimately it doesn’t matter. This is not the story of a future society. This was the story of a little boy who looked like a deer, but had more humanity than the race he was sent to replace. This issue was about his days as a young man, a Father, a wise elder and lastly and ever so endearingly a friend.
Years ago I was ready to shun SWEET TOOTH. The name seemed ludicrous, the descriptions about a deer-boy from my fellow reviewers never hit the mark on what the story was truly about, and honestly I didn’t know anyone whose opinion I trusted who was reading the book. In a fortuitous turn of events, we were given an interview opportunity with Mr. Lemire and I was the only guy available in the Ain’t It Cool News @$$hole clubhouse to get the job done. Sometimes happenstance is a much better guide in life than our conscious decisions. If I followed my gut I would have missed one of the most emotionally impactful series…make that stories…ever.